Category Archives: Desserts

Apple Pie Bars


My favorite season in the entire universe has been treating us well here in Texas.  Though the weather is still a tad warmer than I would like it, Fall is here and I’m ready to party.  The leaves are changing (sloooowly), the nights are becoming cooler and I’ve pulled out every pair of boots and sweaters and jackets I own, because here in Texas you only get to wear them 2 months out of the year.  Time is of the essence people!  

Fall also brings around some of my favorite fruits — Oranges, lemons, and grapefruits! (Oh my!) But my favorite would have to be the endless varietals of apples — Honey Crisp (my favorite), Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji — I try to make everything apple during the Fall.  So let’s start this season off right with these DELICIOUS Apple Pie Bars, the tartness from the Granny Smith Apples gives this dessert a wonderful flavor.  Not to mention the nutty streusel topping and the buttery shortbread crust that will put a smile on anyone’s face!

(From Food and Wine Magazine)

Ingredients for Apple Pie Bars: (makes 4 dozen bars)

Crust

  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 12 granny smith apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup water, as necessary

Topping

  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a 15 by 17″ rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms.  Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the sides in an even layer.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden and set.  Let cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the filing: In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar.  Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet.  Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaoprated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to eac pan to prevent scorching.  Let cool.

Make the topping: Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden a fragrant, 8 minutes.  Let cool; coarsely chop.  In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the walnut sand press the mixture into clumps .

Spread the apple filing over the crust.  Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer.  Bake in the cente rof the oven for 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking.  let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

** The bars can be store in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month. 

You can also make a smaller batch (2 dozen) by dividing the amount of the ingredients in half. 

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Since we’re on the subject of Apples, I wanted to share with you guys a shoot I did for my friends Heather and Trevor.  Photography is always fun when your subjects are as photogenic as Heather and Trevor and their love for each other is inevitable through these photos. 

Heather first fell in love with Trevor when they were tiny tots back in elementary school. Several years later in High School, they were reunited at a party — Heather spotted Trevor across the room and rushed up to him — “HEY! I had a HUGE crush on you in elementary school!”  And the rest is history.  Long story short, he fell in love with her beautiful blue eyes and heart of gold she fell in love with his brawn and robust personality. 

Could these two be any more adorable?  I love the fact that Heather is the beautiful southern belle and Trevor is the rugged Texan cowboy — I love the contrast of not only of their apperances but of their personalities. 

They’ve been happily married and will be celebrating their 3 year anniversary soon — kudos to you Heather and Trevor!  To one of the most beautiful couples I know — thank you for letting me photograph you guys 🙂

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Honey


 

My first panna cotta experience was actually with my first job working as an Assistant Pastry Chef at Bailey’s Prime.  I was too embarassed to admit to the Chef that I had no CLUE as to what the heck panna cotta was except that it sounded fancy as hell.

Luckily, it was one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made and actually turned out to be one of my favorites.  I loved the creamy yet firm texture, the lovely dressings on top and the way it looked so smooth and elegant — plus, who wouldn’t be impressed with a dessert called PANNA COTTA!  I say it exactly like that too when I serve it, with gumption, excitement and my best Italian accent.   

I found this recipe from an old issue of Food & Wine Magazine, I loved the simplicity of flavors with the yogurt and honey — did I also mention this was a healthy dessert?  *GASP* You’re welcome 🙂

Ingredients for Yogurt Panna Cottas with Honey:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • black grapes, for serving

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.  In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.



In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the yogurt.  Whisk in the warm milk until smooth.  Pour the panna cotta mixture into six 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.



To serve, drizzle the panna cottas with the honey and garnish with the grapes.  Make Ahead: The yogurt panna cottas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving. 

100th Post:Lindemans Framboise Float


 

Because this is my 100th post, I will share a confession.

I can’t drink.  I mean I can but 90% of the time I choose not to.  Not because I’m not down to party but this girl unfortunately has a severe case of alcohol intolerance.  It’s embarrassing really and I am sure I will look back on this post and regret ever admitting this to the world.  I’m that one-beer drunk and usually you’ll know within 20 minutes; my face begins to turn red, you’ll suddenly notice my flaring nostrils due to my labored breathing and within the hour my head will either end up against your shoulder or against the nearest stationary object.  Trust me, it’s bad – my entire demeanor goes from perfectly composed to disheveled in 30 minutes flat.

So the only place you’ll usually ever find me drinking is at home.  Because at home, I can have the reddest face in the world (and biggest nostrils) in the comfort of my wonderful couch and blanket.  I can have my glass of wine and melt into the pillows while watching Legends of the Fall for the 26th time.  And on top of that, I get to drink in my jammies and not worry about maintaining my balance while wearing stiletto heels.  It’s awesome, everyone needs to try it sometime — the drinking in the jammies part, not the stiletto heels.

When Collin was out of town for a week in Tucson, I decided to cope with his absence through ice cream.   So on my way to the ice cream aisle this beautiful bottle of Lindemans Framboise caught my eye, and it even whispered buy me, mix me with that vanilla bean ice cream, you know you want to.  I mean how could I have said no to a talking bottle of Lindemans, of course I had to buy it!  Safe to say, it was pretty much the best decision of my entire week — hands down, best combination EVER.

Lindemans Framboise is one of my favorite Lambic beers — the delicate tartness of the framboise spreads throughout your palette filling your nose with the intoxicating smell of raspberries with each sip.  Magical to say the least. BUT THEN adding creamy vanilla bean ice cream into the mix?  Decadence at its finest people, I could honestly have it everyday (if only alcohol and ice cream were fat and calorie free..).  I even threw in a few fresh raspberries ontop of the float which made the entire drink even more awesome — didn’t think it was possible but it did. 

Ingredients for Lindemans Framboise Float: (serves 2)

  • 12 oz bottle of Lindeman’s Framboise
  • 4 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream

Place 2 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream in each glass — preferably a tall glass.  Slowly pour the framboise until the foam reaches the top.  Serve and drink immediately!

You can thank me later for this recipe — I accept gratitude in forms of cash, check, food and some hugs (careful, I’m picky).  Bookmark this for when you have a bad day at work, or if your spouse is being an ass, or just because you’re awesome and you want to freaking treat yourself.  Whatever the reason, just remember: Life is always sweeter with dessert! Cheers 🙂

Creme Brulee with Citrus, Cardamom and Star Anise


I apologize for the lack of entries lately — I’ve been completely invested in spending most of my time with my mom, because she’s my favorite.  It’s hard to believe that her visit is soon coming to an end, a week to be exact.  The entire situation still seems surreal to me.  I’m hoping that the day of, I don’t have a complete mental meltdown and cling to my mother’s leg screaming “NO DON’T LEAVE DONT DO IT!” as she’s trying to get out of the car to catch her plane, but I’m not making any promises.  ^_^

It’s been a blast though — we’ve been sharing recipes, she’ll cook her Chinese dishes and I’ll cook her some French American dishes — one of her favorites discoveries has been the creme brulee.  She kept Ooooing and AAAaaahing over this recipe so I figure I’d share it with yall, it’s pretty epic not gonna lie.  Aside from that she’s been feeding me traditional Chinese medicines that make my stomach churn but I take it anyways because apparently it’s good for me (or so she claims). It’s just unfortunate that most of the concoctions she makes taste like feet…   just kidding mom, you’re the best! But seriously, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out her secret of staying forever young.  I’ll share pictures soon, you’ll see what I mean…

One of the first desserts I learned working in at a French restaurant was the Creme Brulee and Souffle.  Souffle is definitely the more temperamental dessert and the failure rate is much higher than creme brulee — so we’ll warm up to that recipe later.  I love this creme brulee recipe because of its soft delicate texture and of course everyone’s favorite part: the crunchy burnt sugar on top, hence it’s latter name — burnt cream.   Plus it always adds a dash of sophistication and excitement to any dinner party when you bust out the torch!  I mean seriously guys, who doesn’t like a little fire show?

Ingredients for Citrus Cardamom Creme Brulee:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line the bottom of a large baking pan with water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, cardamom, citrus zest and 1/4 cup sugar and salt stirring occasionally 4 to 5 minutes, until steam rises. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla until smooth. Pour hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all cream is incorporated. Pour mixture into four 6 oz. ramekins.

Place ramekins in the baking dish with water and cover the whole pan loosely with foil.  , and place dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover whole pan loosely with foil. Bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until custard is just set. Chill ramekins in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of raw sugar over each custard. Use a kitchen torch or oven broiler to brown top, 2 to 3 minutes.

Fundraising Project #1 – “The Man Who Never Cried”


A few weeks back I wrote a post about The Importance of Giving where President Clinton discusses ways we can contribute our time and skills to help others.  Since then, my mind hasn’t stopped thinking about ways I can help and the differences I am able to make with the resources that are readily available to me.

My friend Andrew Lee has been busily working on a short film titled “The Man Who Never Cried” and together with his team, they’ve been  hard to raise money for the project.  Thus far he has raised a whopping $12,000 for the film but still has another $9,000 to go before reaching the budget needed.  Unfortunately I’m not a millionaire, or I’d throw a fat check his way BUT I do like to bake and photograph the things I make so I came up with a fun idea — organizing a fundraiser by selling cupcakes to my friends and family!

This week I’ve written an article at Appetite for Good, a website geared towards promoting philanthropic organizations and events through food.  Be sure to read more about my first fundraising event and most importantly, don’t forget to support!

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Ingredients for Lemon Cake: (makes 30 cupcakes)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 (8-ounce) cartons dairy sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

Recipe from Diana’s Desserts.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C). Line thirty 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and vanilla; beat until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. (The batter will be thick.) Stir in lemon peel.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of the batter into each prepared muffin cup *(See Tip Below). Bake in preheated oven about 18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frsoting and topping cupcakes with lemon or orange zest (optional).

Ingredients for Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (Makes 24 cupcakes):
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 12 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c + 2 T sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 c sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, hulled & coarsely chopped
  • 1 package of graham crackers, smashed into crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare 6 – 8 muffin tins.  Sprinkle about 1 t of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy and then add the vanilla & beat on a low-speed.  Then add half the flour mixture until incorporated then mix in the sour cream or yogurt.  Add remaining flour & mix until just blended.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peak appear, about 2 minutes. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg and fold in the chopped strawberries.  Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes depending on your oven.   You can test the doneness by sticking a toothpick through the center, if it comes out clean it is ready to take out!

Ingredients for Carrot cupcakes (Makes 1 dozen):

  • 8 carrots (1 1/4 pounds), peeled and coarsely shredded (4 cups)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the raisins and pecans. Onto a large sheet of wax paper, sift the flour with the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the canola oil with the sugar at medium-high speed until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the carrot mixture.
Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them three-fourths full. Bake the cupcakes for about 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ingredients for Moist Chocolate Cupcakes: (Makes 12-18 cupcakes)
  • 1 3/4 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup coffee
For the chocolate cake, mix all of the dry ingredients together so they are evenly distributed.  Add the wet ingredients one at a time as listed, until fully incorporated.  This ensures the batter comes out nice and smooth. Line the muffin pans with cupcake liners and pour the batter about 3/4 of the way, leaving room for the cake to rise when baking.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes, you can check the doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean it is ready (Because oven temperatures differ, if the batter is still wet leave for 5 minutes longer, repeat until done.)  Set aside and cool.
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For the toppings of the cupcakes — you can find the recipe for caramel here and the cream cheese frosting here and the candied carrots here.  The rest is pretty self explanatory and use your creativity to see what you can come up with!