twd: baking with julia: chocolate truffle tarts


this tart is truly decadent. chocolate crust. chocolate filling. it's bursting with chopped milk and white chocolate and biscotti.

naturally, i took it as dessert to a dinner party featuring about eight types of cheese.


at this point in meal planning, you just have to give up and embrace overindulgence as the theme of your evening.

as beautiful as the tarts came out, they were pretty simple to put together. instead of many individual tarts (which is too much tart for one person anyway) i made one regular sized tart and one smaller "for two" tart.

well, it should have been for two, but the somm was away, so i enjoyed it myself. in several sittings. so as not to go into sugar shock.

first, a note about crusts. my crust dough did not come together the way the recipe described.


i failed at the task of smearing it together with the heel of my hand. thus, when i went to attack it with the rolling pin, i mostly succeeded in scattering crumbs about my rollpat. slash all over my kitchen.

just pressing it into the tart pans worked out great. and i love any excuse to avoid the rolling pin. it stresses me out.

and i am NOT in the kitchen to get stressed out.

this is also the reason i prefer graham cracker crusts to traditional pie crusts. fruit crumbles to fruit pies. they taste better and there is less anxiety about your butter staying cold in order to flake appropriately.

maybe baking with julia will help me overcome my fear of rolling in desserts.


see how lovely and scalloped and only slightly "rustic" that edge is? my crust was a total winner. like a cookie. not too buttery.

the filling also set up firm. maybe it was those eight (eight!) egg yolks. the best way to separate eggs is to crack them into your hand and let the slipperly slimy egg whites fall through your fingers. it feels so wrong, but works perfectly. way better than shuffling the poor yolk back and forth between raggedly egg shell halves.

there are nearly equal parts chocolate filling and mix-ins. i thought the biscotti was a strange ingredient but it kept a nice crunch in contrast to the harder bite of the chocolate chunks and silky smooth filling.


check out those chunks in action.


despite my previous admonishment to simply embrace the excess of this tart just as it is, i will now caution you to back away from the thought of serving it a la mode.

i was tempted. i had visions of overly complicated homemade ice cream flavors.

but really?

all it needs is a scoop of light as air, soft whipped cream. maybe with a hint of almond extract to pick up the anise of the chopped biscotti.


so good. to seem more lovely tarts and find a link to the recipe, check out tuesdays with dorie.

pistachio honey ice cream with dark chocolate


this is the fancy-pants dessert i made to go with the lamb tagine from the other week.

the cake was pretty good.  it was an olive oil cake.


i spent at least fifteen minutes in the olive oil section at the whole foods, reading the back of olive oil bottles. trying to decide how crazy i really am.  am i $20 for a 10 ounce bottle crazy?  turns out, i'm $15 for a 16.9 ounce bottle crazy.  which is still pretty crazy. but the bottle promised "fresh herbal aroma and delicate fruity flavor."

i needed herbal. i needed fruity. it needed to go with my candied cara cara orange slices.


its a lot of cake for an ice cream post, of this i am aware. the cake just ended up being so much prettier than it was yummy.

the ice cream, though? out of this world.


salted, roasted pistachios. not actually moroccan. persian. close enough?

does it count if i know persia is iran? only a slight cultural competence fail.

and does it really matter where they came from when they are so tasty when roasted and slightly salted, so fantastically lime green?

i ended up having to buy unshelled pistachios because that was what target stocks and i'd hit my shopping limit for the day, but maybe we can just say it was because unshelled nuts are supposed to be fresher. it took awhile to get them out of their pacman shells, standing at the kitchen counter, but it had its rewards. by the end, my fingers were wrinkled from the salt, like after a day a the beach, only mostly because i couldn't stop a downward spiral of nut-cracking, finger-licking, and hand-washing. the container yielded the half cup needed for the ice cream and garnish, but just barely. snacking may have also occurred.

let me now impress you with my mad photography skills.


for this ice cream, the pistachios get pulverized. they add just a hint of texture to the ice cream. i subbed the sugar and corn syrup out of the ice cream for an orange blossom honey (see! fancy pants!) and not just because i forgot to buy corn syrup.

it worked out. the flavors were both nicely earthy. the honey added a deep sweetness. the pistachios were just a bit salty. kind of like a peanut butter honey sandwich.


another great ice cream tip from jeni's cookbook was employed – melting chocolate to add as a mix-in. you pour the chocolate into the ice cream maker near the end, when the ice cream is pretty well set up, but slowly, ever so slowly. it freezes on contact into tiny little shards – what jeni calls freckles – of chocolate that melt on your tongue.

if you are less patient, and ready to be done getting melted chocolate all over your ice cream making station (aka the bathroom counter because the door can be closed and that thing is LOUD), pour the chocolate fast and it will clump into larger bits that are fun too. and still less likely to break a tooth than chopped, frozen chocolate.

more amazing photography. isn't that ice cream just . . . totally devoid of focus? and the cake, so sparkling clear?


i really did think i was going to share the cake recipe. it was good – honest! light, with an interesting crumb from semolina flour. but it's drenched in orange cardamom syrup. turns out, i much prefer orange cardamom syrup in prosecco, not cake.

plus, then i tried the ice cream. wow. you should make this.

Pistachio Honey Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate

Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

  • 1/2 cup shelled, roasted lightly salted pistachios
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 1/2 oz (or 3 tbsp) softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 – 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped

If your pistachios aren't roasted, toast them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until fragrant and brown.  Let them cool for just a minute, then throw them in the food processor and pulse until they form a paste.

Mix 2 tbsp of milk with cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk cream cheese, pistachio paste, and salt in a medium bowl.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Bring the remaining milk, cream, sugar and honey to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Bring back to a boil and stir until the mixture slightly thickens.

Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour into a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge in ice bath until chilled, about half an hour.

Pour ice cream base into ice cream maker and start churning.

Melt dark chocolate in the microwave (carefully, in small time segments, stirring between) or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (poor woman's double boiler).

When the ice cream looks nearly done – maybe 20 minutes in, slowly, slowly pour chocolate into the mixture. It should freeze as it hits the ice cream.

When ice cream is done, try not to eat it all. Pack into a storage container and freeze until firm. 

pumpkin apple crumble cake

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in a fresh air interview once, jon stewart talked about how the regimented structure of his show gives him and the other comedians the "freedom to improvise."

i think that totally applies to cooking.

the somm recently asked me what i thought my biggest strength is in the kitchen. my answer? i'm great at picking recipes. i love just scrolling through epicurious, blogs or other recipe websites, seeing what is out there, reading reviews, and learning what worked or didn't for other home cooks. i especially love good food blogs, like pastry studio, that offer really explicit tips on what did and didn't work. add all this up, and when i start a recipe, i feel informed. i feel empowered to improvise and make the recipe my own.

to the extent that there are rules about food blogging, posting recipes you know will work is one of them. professionals, especially if they write their own recipes, try said recipe at least a few times so they know it'll work. last thing you want is to post a dud. or to hurt someone.

honestly, i just don't have that kind of attention span. there is usually some new interesting recipe on the horizon i'm dying to try. it has to be a pretty special dish to get a second try.

same rule generally applies to international travel. this has led to a slight misunderstanding with the somm about how we totally should go back to brazil . . . just maybe after we've seen turkey. and argentina. a girl needs priorities.

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after all that build up, i have a recipe for you that is, in fact, a tried and true standby in my winter kitchen. this recipe works. and it is easily tweakable. best of all, this cake is GOOD. it has the best of all dessert worlds with a dense, moist pumpkin cake, topped with tender, cinnamony apples, topped with spicy, crunchy streusel.

cake meets pie meets crumble meets heaven.

with none of the cherpumple nonsense.

i mean, check out those layers.

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here are my tips for this cake. use a good sturdy apple, like a granny smith or a honey crisp. you don't want to ruin it with soggy apples. which also means that you don't want to saute the apples too long – they'll continue to cook in the oven. you really just want to get a little carmelization from the sugar.

also, use a springform pan, it'll make it so much easier to get a pretty looking slice.

serve warm or room temperature. a scoop of vanilla ice cream is a nice addition, but not necessary.

also, this is GREAT for breakfast. i mean, it has two types of fruit. and oatmeal. done.

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Pumpkin Apple Streusel Cake

Adapted from Bon Apetit


  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 large Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples, peeled and chopped (Honeycrisps tend to run large, but more apple won't hurt you here)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Melt butter and brown sugar in a large skillet, add apples and cinnamon.  Saute for about 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool a little.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature and cut in pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if you like
  • 1/3 or more cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup oats

Preheat oven to 350, spray a 9 inch springform cake pan with baking or cooking spray.

Beat together flour, brown sugar, butter and salt until it looks like coarse meal. Set aside 2/3 cup as streusel base. Add walnuts, candied ginger and oats and stir. I tend to be fast and loose with my streusel, so if you want more oats, be my guest.

In a small bowl, combine pumpkin, sour cream, remaining sugar, spices and baking soda. Feel free to mix up the spices! Cardamom would be nice! Add to flour mixture, beating just until smooth.  Add eggs and combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with apple mixture. Top with streusel.

Bake about an hour or until a toothpick (a long one!) or knife comes out clean.  Let cool before removing springform.

Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

chewy ginger cookies


generally, i'm a soft and chewy kind of cookie girl.  i have no time for biscotti.  why?  why would you double bake a cookie?  it's wrong, i tell you, just wrong!

but, when it comes to ginger cookies, i'm a snap kind of girl.  something about the hard crunch of a ginger snap just seems to fit the hard spicy flavor.

but then, i got sucked in by the magazine photo.


so sparkly, so deep and warm looking.  that's a cookie that needed to enter my repertoire.

these cookies really are softer than they are chewy.  the mixture of butter and shortening makes them tender, and i think the molasses helps them down that path as well.


molasses cookies are totally acceptable as soft cookies. 

but do not mistake these for molasses cookies.  they have a serious one-two-three ginger punch: powdered, fresh, and crystallized.


crystallized ginger really is magical.  well, crystallized pretty much anything's pretty good.  foodie friends of my mother's from the big easy came to visit one summer and made crystallized citrus rind.  it totally blew my mind that you could MAKE that. like, from SCRATCH. 

they also kick started my obsession with squash blossoms, but that's a story for another time, and definitely another season.

but don't worry.  i didn't crystallize my own ginger, and really, neither should you.  it would ruin what is otherwise a super easy cookie recipe.

the ginger teams up here with some other nice holiday flavors.  nutmeg, cinnamon, obvious.


it is the black pepper, though, that i think adds a nice, unexpected layer of spice to the mix.  i think i'm going to keep that in mind for future recipes. 

if i can ever find any of my spices again.  my ocd spice organization system seems to be rebelling on me.


i guess i can't be that ocd since my kitchen counter's looked like that for a couple weeks now.  i just can't bring myself to address the situation.


back to the cookies.  i might be failing in spice organization, but i finally did my math-hating self a huge favor and got a new app for my iphone that automatically converts cup amounts to ounces or grams.

i mean, seriously.  why have i been multiplying fractions for so long? 

and i wonder why i can never get the flour right.


my iphone and ipad are seriously some of my most important kitchen tools.

they help save me from myself.  if only siri could see what i was actually doing, i'd really be rolling.

but, to be honest, these cookies came out great.  the turbinado sugar on the outside gives a great crunch, but the cookie is melt in your mouth soft, and the flavor is a wonderfully intense spice bomb. 


bake them.  you won't be sorry.


Chewy Ginger Cookies

Find the recipe at Bon Appetit

caramel pretzel brownies


i have a brownie confession.  i really, really, really prefer the kind from a box. 

i know, right?   the texture is just so much better.  chewier and gooey-er.  they get that amazing edge. 

from scratch brownies just always seem more like cake to me.  and my cake confession?  chocolate isn't my favorite type of cake.  chocolate frosting: yes.  chocolate cake: eh.

and then . . . america's test kitchen, the people who brought you cooks illustrated, sent me an email promising chewy, like from a box, brownies made from scratch.

these people know what they're talking about.  they're thorough.  scientific.  if you ever need advice about the best ingredients, the best techniques, the best cookware, they are going to have the answer.


i assembled my ingredients . . . iphone, callebaut, you know, the basics.  plus, cocoa powder. 

do you know the difference between dutch process cocoa and regular old cocoa?  dutched cocoa goes through extra processing, which apparently strips out some of the harsher flavors and let's more of the pure chocolaty flavor shine through, according to our cooks illustrated friends. 

i'd always heard that the dutch process also takes out all the acid from cocoa powder, so that it won't activate baking soda – and since baking soda needs to be activated by an acid in a batter, using dutched cocoa in a baking soda only recipe will keep your baked goods from rising.  following me?  baking powder is different from baking soda in that it includes the acidifying agent it needs to be activated as a leavener, so the thinking went that you can only use dutch process cocoa in recipes with baking powder.

whew.  that's a lot of science for a tuesday.

especially since cooks illustrated said it's basically a bunch of hooey.  and you can trust them because they baked at least eight cakes testing different leavener and cocoa combinations.  so much cake in the name of accuracy.  it must be rough maintaining one's figure over there.

i bet you're even more excited about this diversion considering that most brownie recipes don't even include baking soda or baking powder.  leavening is diametrically opposed to the whole POINT of brownies – dense, fudgey, chewy goodness.

also, i ended up using plain old hershey's – a natural, non-dutched cocoa – even though i know it isn't as deeply darkly chocolaty.  but that's what they sell at the local drug store, and you know how lazy lazy lazy i am.

the verdict on the brownies? 


still not chewy enough.  still not gooey enough. 

i mean, it's hard to critique a brownie . . . chocolate, butter, sugar . . . you really can't go too wrong.  i just don't know if it was a good use of my fancy pants callebaut chocolate.  i think i'd much rather put it in these if i'm making something from scratch.

luckily, i don't know when to leave good enough alone and topped this bad boy with lots of sea salt, crushed up pretzels and caramel bits.


i used the regular cubed caramels you can buy in your baking aisle.  they were soft and gooey when the brownies were warm out of the oven, but firmed up overnight – just as the pretzels softened up from their extended exposure to the moist brownie.

the result?  not bad, but not perfect.  the caramel led to some awkward moments at the office as people tried to find the least embarrassing way to pry it from their teeth.

don't you wish you worked with me?!

so, i'm going to tell you how i made the brownies, and how i'd do it next time.  either way, your coworkers are unlikely to turn them down.


Caramel Pretzel Brownies

  • Brownie batter: The from scratch recipe is here.  Otherwise, buy a box of Ghirardelli and spend the extra 10-15 minutes you saved yourself playing with your cat. 
  • About 20 caramels, like these
  • 1  cup crushed pretzels, I'd recommend NOT using the honey wheat kind I had on hand, but try something with a harder shell and more salt
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: 3 tbsp milk

Preheat your oven according to brownie instructions.

Assemble your brownie batter – pour into a 13×9 pan prepared according to your brownie instructions.

Chewy Caramel Version: Chop each caramel into 4 pieces.  Seriously, you don't want them any smaller.  Clean your knife frequently cause it's gonna get sticky.  Sprinkle caramel pieces over brownie batter.

Soft Caramel Version: Melt caramels with the milk in a double boiler (or sauce pan – just watch the heat), stirring.  Drizzle on your brownie batter, and maybe run through it with a Pam-greased knife to give it a little swirl pattern.

Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Top with crushed pretzels.

Bake according to brownie recipe.

trick or treat

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it got spooktastic in manchego’s kitchen this weekend.  we ate a lot of sugar.  we got into the spirit of halloween.

perhaps some of us got a bit too into the spirit.

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this is the danger of hosting the halloween party.  cobwebs and spooky creatures everywhere.

shrunken heads in the cider.

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also, eyeballs.


and swamp creatures.  adorable swamp creatures.


have you heard of cake pops?  i hesitate to send you to this site, because, well, bakerella’s look legit.  let’s all just remember mine were made with love, ok?  and with some able assistance, not just from Duncan and Betty, but from one very sexy pumpkin.


yes, that is a cake pop landscape i crafted out of tin foil.  yes, i do enjoy using my glue gun at halloween.

but, let’s get serious here for a second.  i have some snacks for you that aren’t wearing halloween costumes.  they’re yummy just as is.

both snacks play off of the salty-sweet combo that you know i’m obsessed with.

this snack mix i made with pretzels, malted milk powder and jazzed up for halloween with candy corn and chopped up snickers – peanut butter and regular.  it was insanely, amazingly good.  it was also ridiculously un-photogenic.  so please just trust me.  it is super easy to make.  just be sure you have friends coming over – maybe for a marathon viewing of seven and riggins? – so you don’t put yourself in a food coma.

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this peanut butter caramel popcorn is just as good – and slightly less likely to give you a toothache.

it has that chewy goodness of caramel corn, but the peanut butter softens it and makes it much less likely to stick in your teeth.  plus, it’s just plain addictive.


Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted if you’re feeling fancy
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter – I used chunky and liked it
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  If you have one with sides – like a jellyroll pan – that is better cause you’re going to be tossing the corn around.  But I made a batch on a flat sheet and I was careful and it was ok.

Pop your popcorn!  You can do it on the stove with oil, or you can air pop it 1/4 cup at a time in a brown paper lunch bag.  Just put the kernels in the bag, fold it over a few times and then microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Magic!

Toast your almonds if you feel like it.  Toss them with the popcorn in the biggest bowl you’ve got.

On the stove, mix your sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and stir for about 3 minutes.  It’ll get foamy and kind of look like you’re making toffee, but we aren’t getting that fancy here.  Add the peanut butter and vanilla and mix it in.

Here, I gave the super hot caramel mix a minute to cool down because I was afraid it would melt the popcorn.

Then, have your OCD self pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss/stir it so that all the kernels get some coating.

Spread out on your cookie sheet(s).  Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt.  Bake for an hour, and every 15-20 minutes, pull the sheet(s) out and mix up the popcorn so it toasts evenly and doesn’t just turn into a giant slab of caramel popcorn.

Crumble into a bowl, and try not to eat it all in one sitting.


goat cheese ice cream with drunken figs


fact: last weekend, the somm and i were eating grapes by the side of the road, looking out over vineyards and scrubby forest.  it smelled like the california of my childhood, like dust and sunshine and chaparral.  it was warm.  and it felt possible to be anyone or do anything we could imagine.

today: it's raining.  it's wednesday.  it's the last week of farmer's market for us deprived east coasters.

luckily, there isn't much that some homemade ice cream can't fix.

we're back to the ice cream book.  we're proving that ice cream is TOTALLY a fall food. 


especially when it comes marbled up with your momma's drunken fig jam. 

drunken figs . . . bright with citrus and just a hint of cognac to round out and deepen the flavor. 

but, i didn't want to use it all. 

did you know i'm a hoarder?  seriously.  especially in the refrigerator region of the house.  so many tiny tupperware containers with the last traces of something delish. 

the original recipe suggested using roasted red cherries.

cherries, sadly, are not a fall fruit.

luckily, my cupboards are another food hoarder's paradise, full of random jars of condiments i purchased, perhaps after a glass, perhaps two, of wine, perhaps in a certain little town in a certain state near and dear to my heart.  jars that, upon sober reflection, i have no idea what to do with.

thus i found: a jar of apricot-fig chutney.  it was spicy . . . like pumpkin pie spicy.  warm cinnamon and nutmeg and just a hint of heat from white pepper.

victory.  i split my batch in two . . . double the fun.


goat cheese ice cream might sound weird, but trust me, it works.  it's sweet and creamy, but has a great hit of that goat cheese tang.  kind of like cheesecake.  but lighter.  and colder.

just the thing to brighten up a gray fall day.

Jeni's Goat Cheese Ice Cream

Find the recipe here. Use whatever fruit spread catches your fall heart's fancy. 

momma’s kitchen


i’ve been traveling.  traveling places where other people do the dishes for you.

aren’t parents glorious?

we drank a lot of wine.  a lot.  (evidence above)

we went to a baby shower.  i tried to ignore my thumping womb and focus on the champagne and nibbles.

it was like the real martha stewart had catered.


out of control pretty.  want more?


oh, california. who lives like this?  this home is a funky, arty wonderland of found objects.

my momma’s garden is pretty rock star too, though.  they have fountains and roses and herbs.  the other week, she made ice cream using passion fruit and macadamia nuts from her front yard.

how do you have passion fruit growing in your FRONT YARD for, like, a decade and not know?

oh, yeah, because you’ve been too focused on the glorious bounty from your tangerine, lemon and avocado trees.

california.  some day, my friend, some day.

in the meantime, i visit.  and make messes.


i also make crostini.  toasty bread + ricotta + squash + lemon & herbs = winning.

just don’t over toast your bread (ahem, i mean burn it to a sad black crisp) unless you have the worlds best momma to run to the store to buy you more.

what?  me?  spoiled?  whatever do you mean.

back to the crostini and how i earn my keep.  i took some shortcuts.  it worked out.  you should make this.  it is pretty foolproof.

the irish pasta-maker?  he took no short cuts.


100 percent homemade, hand-cranked spaghetti.  who lives like this?  amazing.

he even has his own kitchen mascot.


don’t be fooled by how sweet she looks at rest.  this happy beast considers herself a lapdog.

mom kept up her own with some tasty french 75s.  neat trick i learned – with a spill-proof container, equal parts sugar and water and elbow grease, you can make simple syrup without adding yet another dirty saucepan to the growing pile in the sink.

see?  totes considerate of others.

anyway, that woman makes a mean cocktail.  luckily, i think it’s genetic.

we finished up with another winner of a simple, foolproof recipe.  banana tartes tatin.  (julia child rolls over in her grave.)


find a pan.  smear the bottom with butter.  sprinkle with brown sugar.  layer banana slices.  top with thawed puff pastry.  bake.


it’s great with vanilla ice cream.  better when eaten with your loving family.

Squash & Ricotta Crostini

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 cups butternut or acorn squash, in cubes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 lemon – zest & juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Herbs, chopped (recommended: basil, sage, thyme, tarragon or a mix)

Ghetto Hilary Version: Slice your squash in half.  Remove seeds.  Cover flesh end in plastic wrap.  Microwave until soft.  Start with 5 minutes in the microwave, then add time until done.  Let cool unless you are like me and just burn your finders all over the place.  Scoop flesh out into a saute pan – warmed with warm olive oil.  Mash it together.  Saute a couple of minutes with brown sugar and a dash of salt.

Normal Version: Peel and chop squash into 1/2 inch cubes.  Toss with oil, salt, and brown sugar and roast at 400 degrees until brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with lemon zest, just a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Slice the baguette.  Toast under broiler, both sides.  Takes just a few minutes per side.  Don’t ignore it, don’t be like me.

Ghetto Hilary Version:  If you have the mashed squash, spread some of that on the baguette, top with a dollop of ricotta, then chopped herbs.

Normal Version: If you have adorable cubed, roasted squash, start with a smear of cheese, then squash then herbs.

Why does the order matter?  I don’t know.  I’m OCD.  Do what you like.  🙂


Banana Tartes Tatin


  • 4 bananas
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice bananas on the diagonal.  Smear butter on the bottom of a 8×8 pan (or use 4 ramekins!).  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Add banana slices, slightly overlapping.  Top with puff pastry.  Bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly at the edges.

Note: The traditional tartes tatin is made with apples.  You caramelize them on the stove with butter and sugar, then top with pastry and finish in the oven.  I think the oven-only version works because bananas are already so soft and sweet.  But I bet some fruit would also work with this oven-only approach – raspberries, strawberries, mango – so explore!  It is SO SO SO easy.  If you’re ready for the skillet version, I’ve made one with tomatoes (admittedly in the middle of amazing tomato season) that was so good and different as a dessert – sweet but acidy and completely surprising and elegant.

honey bourbon peach brown bettys


so, i had some subpar peaches.

well, i'm sure they were fine peaches.  but i have become a total peach snob.  i like autumn glo peaches from kuhn orchards.  they're the essence of peach.  the flavor is perfectly sweet and round.  there is none of that undercurrent of acid you get with other peaches sometimes.

you can buy them saturdays at the u st farmers market in dc between 9 and 2 for the next two weeks.  i bet that is super convenient for you.  you're welcome.

luckily, i also have a recipe for how you should use the subpar peaches available in your own local grocery or farmer's market.  it even works if you have perhaps forgotten them in the crisper bin for a week or two. 

or, even if you haven't forgotten them, but it just takes you a week or so to get your hands on bourbon because you live on the east coast and they don't sell booze in your local CVS or even GROCERY STORE like civilized people.

because you're gonna need some bourbon.  i went jack daniels tennessee honey.  just seemed like the right thing to do.


you know what makes peaches awesome?  a good soaking in bourbon, with a little thyme.  and bourbon whipped cream, but we're getting to that soon.


this recipe is a riff on a smitten kitchen brown betty recipe. the appeal of other fruit desserts like crisps and cobblers is easy to understand: sugary, crunchy streusel topping!  light, flaky biscuits! 

but the brown betty elevates humble sandwich bread to yummy new heights.


you start with a layer of butter and a sprinkle of sugar in the muffin tin.  this is going to brown-up and get caramel-y like no one's businesses.  more butter, and then the peach-breadcrumb-bourbon-brown sugar goodness will seal the deal.


according to my friend wikipedia, brown bettys date to colonial times.  also, they were nancy reagan's favorite dessert.  who knew?

they – or at least the bourbon whipped cream – are even manchego approved.


baby betties!  ready to par-tay!



Honey Bourbon Peach Brown Bettys

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 cups peeled, chopped peaches
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey bourbon (I used Jack Daniel Tennessee Honey because the nice liquor store clerk said it was less sweet than other honey bourbons, and I figured the recipe would be otherwise sweet enough.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • Melted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • 6-8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • Whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together your chopped peaches, bourbon, and thyme leaves.  Let hang out in the fridge for a few hours macerating and getting yummy.  This mix also goes great in sangria with white wine.  Maybe with some thyme or mint simple syrup.  Mmmm.

Mix your macerated peaches with the panko, salt and sugar.  I bet some nutmeg would also be delightful in here if you're feeling fancy.

Flatten the bread slices with a rolling pin.  Or a clean wine bottle if that's what you've got. 

Brush some butter in your muffin tin, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Line the tins with the bread.  I used both full size muffin tins (full slice of bread) and my mini muffin tin.  For the mini muffins, I tore the bread into four pieces and two pieces for each tin.  Just play with it, it doesn't have to be perfect.  And, like with pie crust, you can use bits of bread to plug and holes.

Once you have your crust, brush with more butter.  Fill with peach filling, pressing slightly to pack it in.  This will help with the integrity of your bettys, especially if you've got a lot of hole filling that has gone on in the crust creation. 

You're going to bake these guys first with foil on top (10 min for regular muffins, 7ish for minis), then uncovered to get them brown (15-20 for big guys, 10-12 for minis).  I also then broiled the top of mine because I wanted the tops to brown more.  Cause I was taking them to a party and I thought looks mattered, and there there was no light on the rooftop deck.  But you're going to cover them in whipped cream, so maybe you don't have to be OCD like me.  Or maybe Smitten Kitchen is wrong and they should just be baked uncovered the whole time?  Maybe I'll have to make 5 more batches to see!!!!

While the bettys are baking, whip some cream with a little sugar and some bourbon.  Let the bettys cool just a smidge, top with cream and enjoy!

double batch of coworker charm cookies


so, i started a new job last week. same building, same agency, new boss, new office (windows!  a door!).  definitely a step in the right direction.

one challenge?  their IT seems to be stuck in 1995.  no youtube.  no flickr.  facebook?  you be dreaming.  taxpayers, your bureaucrats are resigned to focusing on their actual work. 

sort of.

anyway.  it might make things a little slower in my blogland, since i usually get home with just about enough energy to cook, but always enough to cook + blog.  me = lazy.  moving on.

anyone who bakes should be smart enough to bake for coworkers.  the old cookie charm offensive, that's what i like to call it.  make friends.  lull people into a false sense of security with chocolate chips.  be that girl, the one who's office is great for gossip because you never know when there'll be a banana bread.  

or, these: 


i decided, pick a tried-and-true recipe, and went with a double batch!  ha ha!  cleaned me out of: butter, eggs, vanilla, flour and nearly sugar.  whew.  it takes a lot of butter for these bad boys.


four sticks.  turning brown.  it takes a while to brown a pound of butter, let me tell you. 

i also needed some coconut.  toasty.


my kitchenaid was up to the task.  although it got a little dicey there.


thank goodness mom, er, i mean "santa" put that cute cookie scoop in my stocking last year!


don't they kind of look like cookie pac-men?  is that just me?  or are they pac-man ghosts? 


in any event, they turned out perfect.  thanks joy the baker!  and hey, new coworkers: i'm gonna be emailing you needing stuff.  like, needing stuff yesterday.  please remember the deliciousness of my baked goods and help me help you. 


Browned Butter, Toasted Coconut, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Visit Joy the Baker for her recipe and just double it.  Or not.  Double makes a lot of cookies!  Hope you have hungry coworkers!