Posts tagged with pastry:

French Pear Tart


This French Pear Tart which I served at my recent brunch is simply an adaptation of Ina Garten,The Barefoot Contessa’s French Apple Tart which I have made numerous times.

I had bought a large bag of Forelle Pears when I spotted them at Costco on a recent visit.  I first tasted them several years ago, and was hooked. 

Forelle pears are not as well known as your Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou, but they are more beautiful, every bit as delicious, and when ripe, they are as sweet as they come and yet still crunchy and juicy at the same time.

Their small size makes them perfect for snacking, adding to a salad, or serving with an assortment of cheeses.

They are actually perfect for a tart because their firmness keeps them from getting too mushy when baked.

I had enough left after snacking on them all week to use them in place of the apples in Ina’s recipe for the French Apple Tart.

This is the dessert to try whether using apples or pears, because even the most baking phobic among us will find success.

By using store bought puff pastry which you will find in the freezer section of most good grocery stores, and a few other simple ingredients you can create  this fantastic tart that your guests will think you purchased at a French bakery.

French Pear Tart (adapted from Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart, Back to Basics)

-one sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted according to manufacturer’s directions 
(I prefer Dufour’s, which can be found in better grocery stores, but Pepperidge Farm or Trader Joe’s will also do)
Note: Dufour’s is larger so you can roll it out to a 10” by 14 “rectangle.  If using the others they are usually packaged 2 smaller ones to a package so you will just use one and roll it out to a 10 and1/2” by 10 and 1/2” square.

8 -10 Forelle pears
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges if necessary. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the pears.

Peel the pears and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler.

Slice the pears crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of pears diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with pear slices. (I tend not to use the end slices in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.


Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the pears start to brown.

Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!
When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly or jam together with the  water and brush the pears and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.
Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.


And pat yourself on the back!

Sour Cherry Pie


If you have been following my blog you will remember that before our home was completed we had lived in a hotel for one month, then a lovely rental with a small kitchen (finally I could cook again), where we stayed for 6 weeks.

Due to a previous booking at that time, and our home still not ready, we found ourselves looking for yet another rental. 

Every cloud has a silver lining and ours came in the form of an amazing studio apartment above a garage that I found in the rental listings I had been scouring for availability.

I immediately emailed the owner who immediately called me back.  He responded to our plight of needing a place to live for an indeterminate amount of time by saying he would love to help us out, and we should come by and take a look at the apartment.

It was a really great space with a state of the art kitchen you would rarely find in a studio above a garage! 

The owner generously offered to allow us to stay there for as long as we needed to which freed us from the burden of possibly having to find a 3rd rental at some point. 

So he agreed to not accept any other renters until we let him know our actual moving date!  I know I mentioned it before, but the nicest people  really do live here in San Luis Obispo!

He and his two children came for dinner last night.

After showing them our home we sat down to a dinner of Caesar salad,  grilled pork loin with herbs and garlic, sauteed apples, roasted carrots with onions and twice baked potatoes.


His son who will be going into sixth grade, and his daughter, who will be going into fifth, were a pleasure to have at our table. 

Their social skills, and sophisticated palates surprised both my husband and me.  They can dine with us any day.  I would be happy to cook for them!

Dessert was this Sour Cherry Pie. 

The cover of the June issue of Bon Appetit magazine featured a fresh sour cherry pie. 

I had hoped to try that recipe, but was unable to find fresh sour cherries.  I know there is a small window for finding them and I had apparently just missed it.

But the photo of the pastry crust was calling my name. I decided to make that crust and fill it with a delicious tart cherry filling I’ve made before that  uses canned sour cherries. 

These canned tart cherries sometimes known as “pie cherries” are  not to be mistaken for that awful bright red artificial goopy pie filling you see on the grocery shelves!

The consensus at dessert last night was they make a really delicious cherry pie with just the right amount of tartness!  And the buttery crust was the perfect vehicle for them. And a scoop of good vanilla ice cream will put it over the top.   Here’s how to make it…

Sour Cherry Pie

Crust (Sour Cherry Pie,Bon Appetit, June 2014)

1/3 cup almond flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 and1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 large egg yolks


Pulse almond flour, granulated sugar, salt and 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup ice water in a small bowl and drizzle over the flour mixture.  Pulse, drizzling in more ice water as needed, until dough just comes together(a few dry spots are okay).


Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until no dry spots remain, about 1 minute.



Divide dough in half, and pat each piece into a disk; wrap in plastic.  Chill at least 2 hours.  (Dough can be made 3 days ahead.  Keep chilled).


Filling and Assembly

Filling (adapted from a source unknown)

Note: the following is for 1 and 1/2 x the original recipe because I like lots of cherries

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

4 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

generous pinch of kosher salt

3 - 14.5 ounce cans pitted tart red cherries in water, and 1/4 juice reserved

1 and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt and stir til well blended.  Add the drained cherries, reserved juice and lemon juice and stir til thoroughly combined.  Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 5 minutes.

Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch round.  Transfer to a parchment- lined baking sheet and chill.  Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Carefully transfer 1 crust to a 9 inch pie dish.  Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish.  Trim edges to even out crust if needed.  Scrape in cherry filling.

Using a 3/4” diameter pastry tip or cookie cutter, punch out holes in remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of the pie dish. 

Place over filling.  Fold edge of top crust underneath edge of bottom crust and press together to seal.  Crimp as desired.  (Alternatively, assemble pie, then cut X’s or slits into crust.)

Brush crust with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Chill pie until crust is firm, 20-30 minutes.

Place pie on a parchment-or foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake, tenting with foil if crust is browning too quickly, until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, 50-60 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…


Do Ahead:  Pie can be baked 1 day ahead.  Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Coconut Cream Pie


My sister came to visit this past weekend so we could all celebrate her birthday.

  Our best friends who have become good friends to her as well joined us for  a terrific dinner Saturday evening in DC at a wonderful restaurant called District Commons. Check it out.

Our cocktails, appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts were all great and it was a really fun evening. 

After dinner we cruised our beautiful nation’s capital which is particularly  amazing all lit up at night. 

We passed by The White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, numerous beautifully designed government buildings and more before heading for home. 

Having lived here for the past 25 years with these treasures practically in our backyard, and knowing that by this summer they will be almost an entire country away, my appreciation of them and all they represent has grown even deeper.

We plan to go into DC more often over the next four months to savor all that is here before moving to the west coast this summer.  It is one more thing to add to our growing list of things/people that will be hard to leave.

After our scenic tour we all came back to our house for coffee and yes, a second dessert.  I had made a Coconut Cream Pie for the birthday girl knowing this is one of her favorite desserts.

I have always adhered to the belief that it is not a birthday unless there is a birthday cake, or in this case, pie!  That’s just the way it has to be.

After scouring the internet for all forms of coconut cream pie, I landed on this version which comes from a fellow food blogger, and it is amazing.  It is Lorie’s Coconut Cream Pie from her blog Mississippi Kitchen.  I won’t be looking for another version after having made this one. 

Here it is…

Lorie’s Coconut Cream Pie (from Mississippi Kitchen Blog)


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

1 teaspoon white vinegar

2-3 tablespoons ice cold water



1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
1 envelope (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 (13.5-ounce) can pure coconut milk

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut

2 1/2 cups shredded, flaked coconut, divided



1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening and 1/4 cup cold cubed butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water, until mixture forms a ball, adding more water if necessary. Pat into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Roll dough out to fit a 9 1/2-10 inch glass pie plate. Place crust in pie plate and trim and crimp edges.  Place the dish on a baking sheet for easier handling.  Prick the bottom and sides of the crust well with a fork.  Line the inside of the crust with a piece of foil, allowing edges to extend several inches beyond the perimeter.  Place 2 cups of dried beans in the crust to weight it down during baking and prevent shrinkage. 

(Note :  I used parchment paper to line the pan and filled it with  uncooked rice instead of beans)


Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is no longer raw on bottom.  Remove the foil and beans by carefully lifting the foil out by the overhang.  Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely. 

Place 1/2 cup cold milk in a mixing bowl (preferably with a pouring spout) and sprinkle with the gelatin. Set aside to soften for about 5 minutes.

Bring the remaining milk and coconut milk to nearly a boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

When the gelatin is soft, add the sugar, cornstarch, egg and egg yolks and whisk until very well blended. Gradually whisk about a 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the gelatin mixture; repeat this process once or twice using about 3/4 cup of the hot milk mixture. Pour the warmed gelatin mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 2 minutes or until mixture is very thick.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine wire strainer into a large clean bowl; whisk in the butter, coconut extract, and cream of coconut until smooth. Stir in 2 cups shredded coconut.

Pour into the cooled the pie shell and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

To make the topping, beat the heavy cream in a large bowl on high speed until foamy.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until soft to medium stiff peaks form.  Spread over the pie.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.   Keep refrigerated.



Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister!

Meyer Lemon Curd Tartlets


One of the things I love to do most in the kitchen is to take left-overs and re-purpose them.  In other words, use it in a different way than originally intended.

Case in point:  the Meyer Lemon Curd Tartlets pictured above.

I love making Meyer Lemon Curd whenever I find Meyer lemons available.  A small jar  makes a great house gift at the holidays.

It is also delicious on scones or toast for breakfast or brunch or served with berries as a light dessert.  Or serve it with gingersnaps for dipping and a bowl of berries on the side like my sister did.

Yesterday I decided to make these tartlets with what remained of the Meyer Lemon Curd in my fridge.  I had a vision of these mini lemon meringue pies in my mind, and since it is my husband’s favorite dessert, decided to give it a try.

The most time consuming part was already done, making the filling , which in this case was the Meyer Lemon Curd.  So with a simple cookie crust and a meringue topping  in no time at all my remaining Meyer Lemon Curd reinvented itself as these wonderful  mini tarts.

Fortunately I had the mini tart pans. You could use a number of sizes, but mine are 3 and 1/2 inches. I only made 5 because that’s how far I stretched the cookie crust recipe designed for one 8 or 9 -inch tart pan, and there was enough lemon curd for 5 small tarts.

They were the perfect ending to our dinner of salmon and couscous last night and if i don’t get to them before there will still be one for each of us tonight!

Meyer Lemon Curd Tartlets

Meyer Lemon Curd

Cookie Crust  (from recipe follows)

Meringue (recipe follows)

Cookie Crust Recipe  (makes 1 8 or 9-inch tart, or 5 - 3and 1/2 -inch tartlets)

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In your food processor place the flour, sugar, and salt and process to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and form clumps.



Place the pastry in the (lightly buttered or sprayed) tart pan (with removable bottom) and, using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (Can use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the pastry.) 

Pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. (This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.)

Cover and place the pastry in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. (This will help prevent the crust from shrinking while it bakes.)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place rack in center of oven.

When the pastry is completely chilled, place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

When cool, fill the tarts with the Meyer Lemon Curd, leaving some room for the meringue topping.



Make the meringue

Perfect Meringue For Topping Pies (Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook)

Here is the basic recipe for an 8, 9, or 10-inch pie or tart

For 8 ” Pie

2 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

For 9” Pie

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons sugar

For 10” Pie

4 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

Have egg whites at room temperature to obtain greatest volume.  Place them in a medium bowl with cream of tartar, salt and vanilla.

Beat with electric or hand beater, at medium speed, until entire mixture is frothy.  Do not beat until eggs stiffen.

Add sugar, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  Do not under-beat.  Beat until sugar dissolves to help prevent beading (those brown syrup drops on top).

To test, rub some of the meringue between your fingers to see if it’s still grainy. (The grains are undissolved sugar.)

Continue to beat until stiff, and pointed peaks form when you life the beater slowly.

Place spoonfuls (or pipe them on with a pastry bag) of meringue around edge of pie or tart filling, spreading it so it touches inner edge of crust to seal all around.  This prevents shrinkage.

Pile the remainder of meringue in center of pie and spread to meet meringue around edge.  If the filling is not covered completely, the oven heat may cause it to weep.  Lift up meringue over pie in points with the back of a teaspoon.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until meringue peaks are golden brown.  Too long baking may cause weeping.  Cool gradually away from drafts.

Note:  You can substitute 1 teaspoon lemon juice for cream of tartar when making meringues for lemon, lime, and orange pies.  The acid in the juice gives the same result-a wonderful meringue!


Sufganiyot (Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts)


It is traditional during the eight days of Hanukkah to eat foods fried in oil commemorating the miracle of the oil.  The story goes…

After Antiochus’s forces had been defeated and driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that most of the ritual oil had been destroyed.  A single container was still sealed by the High Priest, but it was only enough to light the Temple’s menorah for a single day. They used this and miraculously it burned for eight days, the time it took for new oil to be pressed and made ready.

While latkes have become the most popular food eaten during the holiday, a close second has become jelly doughnuts, or Sufganiyot, the Hebrew word for these Hanukkah treats which have originally been most popular in Israel, and are now gaining great popularity here in the states.

Although I have made my share of latkes over the years, if we ate jelly doughnuts at Hanukkah it was because I bought them at the bakery.  Until this year.

I decided to try my hand at these, and I think they came out pretty darn good for a first attempt.  It’s the kind of thing of course that is best eaten as soon after making them as possible.

My husband and I were only too happy to oblige as we gorged on them as soon as they were done, while still a bit warm.

I will be making them again, and as I always say, since practice makes perfect, I  expect them to be even better.

Sufganiyot (adapted from a recipe by Irene Fong and the Test Kitchen, Canadian Living)

(makes 18)


1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 and 1/4 cups warm water

2 pkg active dry yeast, (or 4 and 1/2 teaspoon)  I used rapid rise yeast

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour (approx)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Vegetable or canola oil, for deep-frying

1 cup raspberry jam

1/2 cup (or more) powdered sugar


In large bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of the sugar in warm water.  Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.



Beat in egg yolks, butter, vanilla and remaining sugar.  With wooden spoon, beat in flour and salt, adding more flour if necessary to make a soft sticky dough.


Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes.



Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over.


Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface; roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. 


Using a round 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out 18 circles.


Transfer to a large lightly floured baking sheet.  Cover loosely and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk and rounded, about an hour.

In deep-fryer, wok or deep saucepan, heat about 2 inches oil until deep-fryer thermometer register 350 degrees.  Deep-fry doughnuts, 3 at a time, turning once until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  With slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.


Cut small slit in side of each doughnut.  Using pastry bag fitted with small plain tip, pipe about 2 teaspoons of jam into the center of each.

(This is a bit of guesswork, I found, but it will be much easier if you have the proper tip, and a large enough pastry bag to keep the jam from spilling over the top of the bag.)


Blueberry Streusel Pie

Our best friends were bringing pizza over for dinner last night.  I promised not to fuss since we are leaving in 2 days for the west coast.  Those who know me know that me not fussing is an oxymoron , but I tried.

The challenge was to see if I could avoid going to the store (or should I say sending my husband) since we’ll be gone for a week.  As it is, I’ve been trying to empty out the fridge and pantry this week anyway.

I made a huge salad with all the veggies left in the crisper to serve with the pizza.

To go along with drinks  I served store bought hummus, Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic, and Trader Joe’s Green Olive Tapenade, with assorted crackers and chips.  All things I had on hand, and if you haven’t tried them, you should.

Realizing I had a lot of eggs still in the fridge I made deviled eggs to serve as appetizers as well.  Still no trips to the store needed, and the eggs were a big hit!

What to serve for dessert?  I had home made pastry for one crust in the freezer so I defrosted it.  In the fridge were 4 to 5 cups of blueberries that if left for the week would spoil, but were just ripe enough for a blueberry pie filling.

Since I didn’t have a second disc for a top crust I decided to make a streusel topping with oats, sugar, and butter.

This pie was really delicious, and was the result of checking about 3 different recipes and picking and choosing from each.  I’m hoping I can remember exactly what I did because this is a blueberry pie worth passing on to you, and I will definitely be making it again.

Oh, and my husband only had to make one trip to the store for the vanilla ice cream to top the pie!

Blueberry Streusel Pie

(adapted from Plum-Blackberry Streusel Pie, Gourmet, July, 2009 and Summer Berry Pies, Martha Stewart Living, July 2010, and Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook)

Dough for one single crust pie

5 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, stems removed

1 and 1/3 cups sugar (more or less depending on sweetness of the berries)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Streusel Topping

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/2 teaspoon salt

9 and 1/2 to 10 inch pie plate

1. Place a foil-lined baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.  I used the convection bake feature of my oven, but regular bake is okay. 

note: If you do have a convection feature you will find it results in an especially flaky pie crust.  If yours does not automatically reduce the temp you will need to reduce the temp by 25 degrees, and most likely cut back a bit on the baking time.

2.  Toss the blueberries with the sugar, tapioca, cornstarch lemon juice and salt in a large bowl.

3.   Roll out dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.  Fit into a pie plate.  Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.  Fold overhang under and press against the rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively.  Chill while making the streusel.

Note:  An easy way to fit the dough into the pie plate is to roll it up on the pin and then unroll it over the pie plate, gently fitting it into place. 

4.    For streusel, stir together oats, flour, and 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Blend in butter with your fingertips or pastry blender until mixture forms small clumps. 

Mound filling in shell.

Crumble streusel evenly over filling.

Bake pie at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Then reduce oven temp to 400 degrees and bake another 15 minutes or until streusel is golden and juices are bubbling.   If the top begins to brown too much cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil.   Cool completely, 3 to 4 hours.

Easy Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns!  They’re not something you can eat every day, but occasionally you have to find a justifiable reason to bake them.  Having invited some guests for brunch on the patio last Sunday seemed reason enough for me.

Growing up in the Pennsylvania Dutch area I was first introduced to sticky buns at an early age.  This seems to be a staple pastry among the regional food there.

You will find them at all the bakeries, farmer’s markets, on the grocery store shelves, and in the display case in the front end of most diners and many restaurants.

Who doesn’t love brown sugar and butter, nuts and raisins, all delightfully entangled in a cinnamon laden dough? They’re best eaten warmed a bit making it nearly impossible  not to lick that ooey, gooey stickiness off of every finger.

Years ago in Chicago I found a fabulous recipe out of the Tribune for sticky buns made with a yeast dough which is traditional.  I made them many times, and they are sensational, large, and time consuming.

This time I was looking to make something quicker than a yeast dough, and smaller, if possible.  I remembered seeing a recipe for these Easy Sticky Buns in The Barefoot Contessa’s Back To Basics Cookbook

The secret to these is they are made with store bought puff pastry, eliminating the need to make a time consuming yeast dough.  The dough is light and flaky and filled with brown sugar, toasted pecans, cinnamon  and sweet raisins.  Delicious and so easy! 

Here you go…

Easy Sticky Buns ( Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics Cookbook)

12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

For The Filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar.

Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups.  Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface.  Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right.  Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter.  Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. 

Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard.  Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 and 1/2 inches wide. 

Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups.  Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Don’t worry if the butter and brown sugar spill over onto the top of the pan.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes only.

Invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely.

Cinnamon Buns

I haven’t made cinnamon buns in a very long time.    

When I was first married I will admit to thinking Pillsbury’s Poppin’ Fresh Cinnamon Rolls  in that little tube sold from the freezer case at the grocery store were pretty darn good.

After some years had gone by, and my baking skills advanced to a point at which I had become comfortable with trying what would be considered challenging to some, I tackled cinnamon rolls from scratch.

I have made various recipes for these rolls over the years, and some came out better than others.  But, as I’ve said before it’s that whole practice makes perfect thing that tames the fear of the unknown. And this is especially true when delving into the mysterious world of working with a yeast dough.

In the act of doing, we can learn so much… until eventually for example, we know why the dough didn’t rise or the rolls came out tough…so I guess what I’m trying to say is in baking, as in life, if you persevere through what you may view as a failure eventually your success will be that much sweeter!

When looking for a recipe for cinnamon buns for an upcoming brunch I settled on this one from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts.

As I read through the recipe which took up 3 good sized pages in the book I was intrigued by what she had to say about these cinnamon buns…

"These are the largest, lightest, old-fashioned, country-style, sweet yeast rolls.  Yeast loves potatoes.  When yeast dough is made with potatoes, as this is, it becomes especially alive and fat and happy."

I  wholeheartedly agree with her assessment.  These cinnamon buns were “fat and happy” to say the least, and since the recipe makes 12 very large buns I had to force myself to freeze the ones remaining for another time to keep us from becoming “fat and unhappy”.

Here’s the recipe… (Don’t let the length of this recipe scare you…they’re well worth the time).

Cinnamon Buns (from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts)

(makes 12 very large buns)

1 cup mashed potatoes (see Notes)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut up

1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees-see Notes)

1 envelop active dry yeast

1 egg graded “large” or “extra-large”

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 4 and1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour or bread flour

Additional flour

Generously butter a 4- to 6-quart bowl for the dough to rise in;  set it aside. 

Place the mashed potatoes (which may be warm or cool) in a saucepan and, stirring constantly, add the milk very gradually.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar), and the salt and butter.  Place over low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture is warm (105 to 115 degrees).  It is not necessary for the butter to have melted completely.

Meanwhile, in a 1-cup glass measuring cup, stir the warm water with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, sprinkle on the yeast, stir briefly with a knife, and set aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture rises to about the 3/4 cup line.

In a small bowl beat the egg to mix and add the vanilla.

When the potato and milk mixture is warm enough, transfer it to the large bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in the yeast mixture and the egg.  On low speed gradually add about 3 cups of the flour.  Beat on low speed for a minute or two.  Remove the bowl from the mixture.  the dough will be wet and sticky now.  with a heavy wooden spatula gradually stir in the remaining 1 and 1/4 cups of flour.

Flour a large work surface.  Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  The dough will probably be too sticky to knead.  If it is, add a bit of additional flour and, with a dough scraper or a wide metal spatula, turn the dough over and over with the additional flour -adding still a bit more if necessary- until you can handle the dough. 

Then knead it for 5 minutes, again adding additional flour if necessary.  (You might have to add a total of 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional flour.  But potato dough has a tendency to remain a bit sticky even when it has enough flour so do not use more than you must.)  After about 5 minutes of active kneading the dough should be smooth and alive.

Place the dough in the buttered bowl, turn it around in the bowl to butter all sides, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, ( see additional notes on Rising) until the dough is at least double in volume.

Then make a fist, punch down the middle of the dough, and fold in and press down the sides of the dough to deflate it all. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, butter a -15 and 1/2 by -10 and 1/2 by- 1-inch jelly roll pan.

With a along, heavy floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into about an 18-inch square.  The dough will be rubbery and will resist you.  Just let it stand occasionally for a few minutes and then roll it again.  After a few tries it will do what you want.


2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 ounce (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

5 ounces (1 cup) dark raisins, steamed (see Notes)

In a small bowl mix the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  With a wide pastry brush, or with the palm of your hand, spread the butter all over the surface of the rolled-out dough.  With a large spoon, sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar on the dough, then sprinkle on the raisins.

With your hands roll the dough up like a jelly roll.  The roll of dough should be the same thickness all over; shape it as necessary.

Place the pieces cut side down (and up) in the prepared pan, making 3 rows with 4 buns in each row.

Cover loosely with a lightweight towel and set to rise again for about 1 hour.  During rising the buns will grow into each other.

(If the dough is rising in the oven, remove it about 20 minutes before the baking time and let stand, covered, at room temperature in a draft-free spot.)

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once after about 12 minutes of baking, until the buns are nicely but lightly browned.  (Do not overbake or the buns will dry out.)

Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.


1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 to 1 cup confectioners sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

A few drops almond extract

About 2 tablespoons light cream

In the small bowl of an electric mixer beat all of the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.  It should be thick, barely thin enough to pour-adjust the cream and/or sugar as necessary.

Drip the glaze in a rather narrow stream every which way all over the warm buns.

Let stand until completely cool.  (I think they are even better a few hours later.)

Just before serving, cut the rolls apart with a small, sharp knife and with a wide metal spatula remove them from the pan.

NOTES:  1.  The mashed potatoes can be made with instant dry mashed potatoes or fresh potatoes.  It takes about 3/4 pound fresh potatoes to make 1 cup mashed potatoes.  Peel, cut into chucks, place in a small saucepan with water, boil, partially covered, until tender, drain, and then mash the potatoes.  If you are using fresh potatoes save the water they boiled in and use some of it for dissolving the yeast
(first heat it as necessary);  since yeast loves potatoes so much, this will make it extra happy.

              2. To steam the raisins, place them in a vegetable steamer or a strainer over shallow water in a saucepan. Cover, place over moderate heat, and let the water boil for about 5 minutes until the raisins are soft and moist.  Then uncover and set the raisins aside until you are ready for them.

Most of all, when they are cool try one before serving to others to be sure they are perfect!


Cherry Pie

With the 4th of July just around the corner you might want to try this cherry pie from the July, 2007 issue of Bon Appetit.  As the intro to the recipe states…

Too tart to eat raw, sour cherries were born to be baked into a pie-this all-American version gets added sophistication from a gorgeously flaky crust and a filling, enhanced with an unexpected hint of cinnamon, that is not overly sweet.

Sour cherries are available at many farmer’s markets now.  In fact, as I was making my way into a market last Sunday, a customer was leaving carrying 6 quart boxes of sour cherries.  I immediately made my way to them, and grabbed a couple of quarts for myself…and went home to make Cherry Pie.

Cherry Pie (Bon Appetit, July, 2007)

For Pastry

2 and 1/2 cups all-ourpose flour

1 and 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon sugar

For Filling

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1 vanilla bean or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/4 cups sugar

6 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries (2 lb)

Whole milk for brushing

Make Dough:  Blend together flour, butter, shortening,and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps.

Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.  Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide into 8 equal portions.  With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.  Gather all dough together with a pastry scraper. 

Divide dough with one half slightly larger, then form each piece into a ball and flatten each into a disk.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Make Filling And Bake Pie:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with rack in middle and put a large baking sheet on rack.

Finely grind tapioca in grinder.

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a large bowl with a small knife.  (If using extract, add with fruit).

Whisk in ground tapioca, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and sugar, then add cherries and toss well.  Let stand 30 minutes.

Roll out larger piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round.  Fit into a 9-inch pie plate.  Trim any excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang.

Chill shell while rolling out top crust.  Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round.

Toss cherries well again, then add to shell and cover with top crust.  Press edges of crust together, then trim, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. 

Fold overhang underneath,then crimp decoratively and brush top crust with milk.  Cut out 5 (1-by1/2-inch) teardrop-shaped steam vents 1 inch from center and sprinkle with sugar (1 tablespoon).

Bake pie on preheated baking sheet 30 minutes, then cover edge with a pie shield or foil and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Continue to bake until crust is deep golden and filling is bubbling in center, 50 minutes to 1 hour more.  Transfer pie to rack to cool completely.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Note:  although I believe many kitchen gadgets on the market today are unnecessary I have to say I am a big fan of the cherry/olive pitter.  I purchased mine many years ago at one of the specialty shops where I worked, and am always glad to have it when I am making cherry pies…it works like a charm!

Blackberry Cobbler


This Blackberry Cobbler which I made for dessert on Mother’s Day comes from the Food & Wine  website.  It  originates from  a housekeeper and southern cook who liked to refer to herself as a “butter cook”  to signify her fondness for classic, old-style Southern recipes.

The pastry is quickly made in a food processor, and chilled for at least a half hour before rolling.   The blackberries are the star of the show and are bursting with flavor enhanced by the sugar, lemon juice, nutmeg and melted butter.

Served warm or at room temperature a generous helping of this Blackberry Cobbler  with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream is the perfect ending to a southern dinner.

Blackberry Cobbler  (Food & Wine Website)

serves 8

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 and 1/4 cups plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening

4 tablespoons cold unssalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup ice water

Six 1/2-pint baskets of large blackberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1.  In a food processor, pulse the flour with the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and the salt until combined.  Add the vegetable shortening and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture resembles small peas.  Add the cold butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the pastry is evenly moistened.

2.  Transfer the pastry to a lightly floured surface and knead just until it comes together.  Flatten the pastry into a 6-inch disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

3.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the remaining 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar, the lemon juice, nutmeg,  and 1/3 cup of flour.  Let stand at room temperature, stirring gently once or twice, until slightly juicy, about 15 minutes.  Fold in the melted butter.  Transfer the fruit to a round 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.  (I used an oval dish).

4.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to a 1/4-inch thickness that is slightly larger than the baking dish.  Drape the pastry over the berries.  Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch and fold it under itself, pressing the pastry onto the rim of the dish.  Crimp the edge decoratively and make 3 slashes in the center of the pastry.

5.  Bake the cobbler for 1 hour, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden.  Cover the edges with foil if the crust browns too quickly.  Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

The pastry can be frozen for up to 1 month.  The cobbler can be made early in the day and kept at room temperature.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.