Thursday, December 23, 2010

Julie's Amazing Tosca Bars (Toscabitar)

My good friend, Julie gave me this recipe over a year ago, but procrastinator-me waited this long to actually try it.  Oh what a mistake!  I saw the recipe and thought this was going to be a granola-type bar, but it is anything but granola.  It has a super light pastry crust, an amaretto scented cake center (although there's no Amaretto in the's the almond paste), and an almond toffee topping!  Amazingly good a definite must try, and a new regular on my dessert roster.  Thanks, Julie!

Speaking of amazing, Julie is also a talented designer of handbags, totes, and baby items.  Check out her etsy store =)

Julie's Tosca Bars (Toscabitar)

Crust: (Basic Pastry Dough)
1 stick butter
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/3 c. sifted all-purpose flour

1 stick butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 can (8 oz) almond paste
3 eggs
1/3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

1 stick butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. sliced almonds
2 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the pastry dough.
Pastry Dough: Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the egg yolk. Add the flour and work the dough with your hands until well blended and smooth. Press it out on the bottom of a buttered cake pan, 9 x 13 inches.

Prepare Filling. Beat together the butter, sugar and almond paste. When smooth and creamy, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Blend in the flour mixed w/ baking powder. Spread the filling on top of the pastry. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Prepare Topping
To make the topping, melt the butter in small saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer constantly stirring. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat.

When the cake is done, spread it with the warm topping. Switch from "bake" to "broil" and return the cake to the oven. Broil until golden brown. Let the cake cool in the pan. Cut in bars 1 1/2" x 2 1/2".

If you like, paint the bottom and the sides of each bar with melted chocolate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

It's that time of year again; when the flavors of pumpkin, ginger, and cinnamon reign.  I LOVE it and as soon as I see the jumbo pumpkin puree packs at Costco, I load up:)

Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teasponn baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  Line two standard cupcake tins with liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, melted butter, sugars, and eggs.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly whisk in the pumkin mixture.  Whisk until smooth.
Divide evenly into the cupcake liners (I use an ice cream scoop.)
Bake between 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted it the center comes out clean.

Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting 

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1/2 cup of Superfine sugar
16 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Blend butter and sugar until smooth in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add cream cheese and maple syrup, blend until smooth and creamy.

dry ingredients
all mixed together

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Plum Galette

I have a wonderful friend with whom I get together as often as possible.  We have been cooking together for well over a decade (almost two...GAH!) and I cherish our times together.  I packed up the kids on Friday night and we had a sleepover at her house and spent all of Saturday cooking our little hearts out.  Here's one of the many things we made.  Uh-ma-zing!

Plum Galette


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks cold butter
ice water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Whisk together in a food processor until it resembles sand.  Drizzle in approximately 1/2 cup of ice cold water or just enough so if you squeeze the dough in your hands, it will keep it's shape.  Form into a ball, flatten in into a disc, and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for an hour. 


1/4 cup toasted almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour

In food processor, pulse all of the ingredients until it resembles sand.


Approximately 5 firm but ripe plums, halved and sliced. 
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Roll out dough into a circle about 1/4 inch on a lightly floured surface (we rolled it out on parchment paper)
Sprinkle almond filling around the dough leaving about 2 inches around the edge.
Gently place plums around the dough and fan out into a pretty pattern, leaving 2 inches around the edge.
Gently fold in the edges. 
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350
Brush the edges with cream and sprinkle sugar over the plums and the edges of the dough.  Bake for 70 minutes.
Serve while it is warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (this part is optional, but recommended).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ginger-Cinnamon Tea (Sujungwa or Sujeongwa)

This is the Korean equivalent to Sweet Tea.  Not only is it refreshing and delicious, but it is quite healthy.  Ginger has many health benefits as does cinnamon and honey.  Many Koreans think of this drink as a health tonic.  I just remember drinking this when I was young and always loving this sweet, spicy and fragrant treat. 
This is quite sweet, but it should be served over lots of ice, which tends to dilute it.  You can always add less honey if you prefer. 

Ginger Cinnamon Tea with Dried Persimmons

1 cup peeled and thinly sliced ginger
10-12 cinnamon sticks
2 cups honey or honey powder
5 dried persimmons
4 quarts water (16 cups)
Toasted pine nuts

Peel a large knob of ginger (this is easily done with a spoon) and slice thinly.  You should have about 1 cup.
Bring ginger, cinnamon sticks and water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
Turn off heat and let it steep for about 10 minutes.
Add honey or honey powder.
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain into a large bowl or container.
Cool to room temperature
Clean persimmons and remove the hard stem
Put dried persimmons in the bottom of a glass pitcher or container and pour the tea over it. 
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  This will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 3 to 4 days.
To serve, pour over lots of ice and sprinkle toasted pine nuts over it.

Peel ginger with a spoon
Slice thin

Strain into a bowl
Dried persimmons can be found at Korean grocery stores

Sprinkle with pine nuts

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spam Musubi

A lunchbox favorite with my children, this easy dish is delicious, inexpensive to make, and quick to disappear.  A Spam musubi mold makes life easier, but it's not absolutely necessary.  I have seen this made with a Spam can that has been cut on both ends, and it can also be done with a simple sushi rolling mat.  The molds are inexpensive and can be ordered through Amazon. 

Spam Musubi:

2 cups of short-grain rice, cooked according to your rice cooker's instructions (brown rice can be used)
1 can of Spam (I use low sodium)
4 sheets of nori, cut in half lengthwise
Soy sauce

Get your workstation ready by laying out a stack of nori, a bowl of cooked rice, a small bowl of water (to dip the top of the musubi mold into so the rice doesn't stick)
Slice Spam in approximate 1/4-inch slices, this should give you about 8 equal pieces
Brown in skillet
Sprinkle one side with a little sugar (approximately 1/4 teaspoon, but I just eyeball it)
Drizzle each piece with a little soy sauce
Place the pan of cooked Spam near your workstation
Lay out one piece of nori, place the tube portion of your musubi mold in the center
Put approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice into the mold
Wet the top of the mold and then press down on the rice, to make it flat and even inside the mold
Place a slice of Spam in the mold on top of the first rice layer
Put another 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice in mold, and flatten again with the top which has been dipped in water again.
With the top still pushing down on the top layer of rice, lift up the tube portion
Starting at the bottom of the nori, fold it up over the rice and Spam
Roll until it is completely covered and then seal the end by rubbing a cooked grain of rice along the edge to act as the "glue"
When all of the Spam musubi have been assembled, slice into four even pieces

Sheets of nori

Cut in half (easiest to use a sharp pair of scissors)

Slice your Spam

Fry it up

Sprinkle with sugar

Drizzle with soy sauce

Get everything ready in your workstation


Then you can fill up a cute little bento box and send it off, or better yet, just eat them right then and there:)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cinnamon-Sugar Muffins

I saw a show on Food Network last night called, The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  The owner of Sprinkles said she had these muffins somewhere that were coated in cinnamon-sugar and it was the best thing she has ever eaten.  It even inspired her to make a cupcake version at her bakery.  Well, it sounded pretty darn good to me too, so I decided to give it a shot.  I used a basic muffin recipe and threw in a little cinnamon and buttermilk, and here is the very tasty result.  I always keep a jar of cinnamon-sugar in my pantry because I love cinnamon-sugar toast and my family loves to put this mixture on top of their French toast instead of syrup.  So I figured this would be a hit.  And it was!
The muffins are dipped in melted butter and then rolled into the cinnamon-sugar mixture, so you have that awesome salty (from the butter) and sweet combination. These muffins are very moist and tender to begin with, but with the addition of that crunchy little coating, they are taken to a whole other level.  Love!

Cinnamon-Sugar Muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups cinnamon sugar mixture

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
In a second bowl, whisk together, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla
Add the wet mixture to the dry and with a spoon, gently mix until it all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix as this will make the muffins tough.
Divide the muffins among the muffin cups (I made 12 muffins with this)
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the larger muffins comes out clean.
Let it cool for 2-3 minutes and remove them to a wire rack to cool further.
When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dip them into the butter, and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and set on a plate.  Cover the entire muffin.  Repeat until all of your muffins are coated.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fresh Apricot Coffee Cake

Our tree is loaded right now with ripe apricots.  This is our first Summer in this house and really, my first experience with fresh apricots.  Sure I've had them before, but never in huge amounts like this and my feelings for them were, for lack of a better word, meh.  I didn't love them or hate them. They were one of the fruits that I never really gave a second thought to.  Apricots look like mini peaches.  They even have a lightly fuzzy skin.  But their flavor is milder, sweeter, less tangy.   They are also similar to plums but the flavor is not as pronounced and strong.    They are growing on me as well as our tree, but this sudden abundance has me scrambling to find recipes.  I came across this one on All Recipes and made some adjustments according to the reviews.  The consensus seemed to be that cooked apricots became rather tart.  When eaten raw, these apricots don't have the faintest bit of sourness.   But cooked?  Holy moly!  When I took my first bite, it was a bit of a shock, but crazy as it sounds, the tartness of the fruit with the sweetness of the cake becomes unusually addictive.  I will be making this again...  probably today, because the first cake is already gone.
The recipe below is with my adjustments, which have to do with additional sugar and milk,  but the original can be found on the link above. 

Fresh Apricot Coffee Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter
1 scant cup milk (not quite a full cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pitted, diced apricots
1/4 cup sugar to toss with the apricots

2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder
In a separate bowl, cream 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and egg until light and fluffy
Mix in milk and vanilla until blended
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and beat just until smooth
Spread batter evenly into a greased, 8-inch square baking pan
Toss the diced apricots with 1/4 cup of sugar
Sprinkle the apricots over the batter
Dust the whole thing with the cinnamon sugar topping

Bake approximately 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bacon and Artichoke Heart Pizza with Pineapple

A Hawaiian friend (who happens to be a chef) once informed me that putting pineapple on pizza is an abomination. Chef or no chef, he doesn't know what he's missing.  Pineapple on pizza is fabulous!  The sweetness cuts the saltiness of the rest of the toppings and the flavor is unbeatable. 
I use apple wood smoked bacon and non-marinated artichoke hearts (the canned ones packed in water) on this pizza.  I top it all off with a clipping of fresh chives and try to eat it secretly in the kitchen so I don't have to share.  But the smell always tips off the rest of the family and I have to either share and make another one, or get my hands bitten off.  It's a good thing it only takes a few minutes to make.
For the crust, I use the recipe for Pizza Napoletana  and sometimes I use mushrooms instead of artichoke hearts (My kids prefer the mushroom version).
I normally use a baking stone to make pizza, but when I use heavy toppings, I prefer to just use a baking sheet lined with a Silpat liner (you can use parchment paper).  Let me take a minute to give a shout out to my Silpat liners: You guys rock my world!  I don't know how I survived all of those years without you.  You make life easier by reducing my clean up and by ensuring that everything I cook with you is perfectly brown and crispy.  You are browned and stained, but you are still beautiful to me.  I love you.

Bacon and Artichoke Pizza with Pineapple: or Bacon and Mushroom Pizza with Pineapple:

1 portion of Pizza Napoletana dough
Mozzarella cheese
Marinara sauce (preferably homemade, but a good quality jarred will work)
3 slices of thick cut apple wood-smoked bacon, lightly cooked and crumbled into bite-sized pieces
8-10 canned, water-packed  whole artichoke hearts, cut in half  (or fresh mushrooms, sliced OR 4 oz can of mushroom pieces)
1/2 cup golden pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
Chives, snipped over the top

Preheat oven to 475 degrees
Drain and dry on paper towels, artichoke heart and pineapple (this is important for non-soggy pizza)
Form the pizza dough to the thickness and size desired right on top of the baking sheet
Layer as follows:
Marinara sauce
Artichoke hearts or mushrooms

Cook until golden brown (approx 10 to 15 minutes)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Philadelphia Style Strawberry Ice Cream

There are two basic styles of ice cream: French and American (Philadelphia).  The difference is eggs.  French-style ice cream uses egg yolks to make a custard first and is creamier and smoother.  It is also quite richer.  Philadelphia-style just uses cream and milk and is therefore lighter, but freezes harder and is a bit firmer.  I love both, but chose the Philadelphia style here because I was in the mood for a lighter ice cream.  Next time, I'll make it French-style and will love it just as much, I am sure. 
I strained my strawberry puree because my family doesn't care for seeds.  Because of this, I increased my strawberries by 1 cup. It's personal preference though and if it were just me, I would have left them in.
Because this recipe does not have the richness of the custard base, you want to make sure the fruit you use is perfect because that is what is showcased here. Taste the puree and if you find it too tart, you may want to add some superfine sugar to sweeten it up to your liking. 

Strawberry Ice Cream, Philadelphia Style
from the cookbook, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
by Bruce Weinstein

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups fresh strawberries
1/4 cup milk

Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edge. Do not let the cream boil.  Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.  Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut the berries into quarters and place in a blender with the milk.  Blend until the berries are pureed.  Add the puree to the cooled cream.  Refrigerate until cold or overnight.  Freeze in 1 or 2 batches according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Fresh strawberries
Ready to be pureed

Cream and sugar

Straining out the seeds

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