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the urban baker

the urban baker: April 2009

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Perfect Strawberry Tart

This past Sunday, we took Levi to Fillmore, CA., to spend the afternoon with "A Day out with Thomas". Wasn't really what I had in mind for a leisurely Sunday afternoon, however with Levi being the third, he gets dragged to everyone's ball game, violin concert, gymnastics meet, etc!  It was time we did something just for Levi.  He talked about this event for weeks and actually, hasn't stopped talking about it since.  He loved his day.

Along the way, I noticed lots and lots of fresh fruit stands.  After all, the road to Fillmore is "farm country".  I have lived here my whole life, I had never been to Fillmore.  Just goes to show you how much there is to see and how simple little day trips, such as this one, brought our little family a little closer.

When our day was over and we were headed back to the highway, I knew I wanted to stop at a few of these little produce stands.  I knew better than to prep the boys of my intentions.  After spending several hours surrounded by lots of screaming 2-5 year old boys, I wasn't interested in hearing my three boys complain and whine.  So, I kept my plan to myself. 

Although I was only entitled to stop at one produce stand, I stocked up on lots of goodies;  the boys begged for beef jerky and BBQ almonds and I grabbed lots of strawberries and other assorted fruits.

With the amount of strawberries that I picked up, we were almost guaranteed that they would spoil before we ate them all.  I took out a few of my books and searched for an old fashioned strawberry pie.  With my vast library of cookbooks, I could not find a decent strawberry pie recipe.  I defaulted to the Internet.  Saveur - nothing!  Epicurious - nothing!  However, good old "Martha" had just what I was looking for.  A

I wanted something fairly simple as this was kind of an afterthought.  It was 2:15 p.m. when I decided I wanted to to this and I had to pick up the kids from school at 2:45.  I quickly, made the crust and then washed and cut all the strawberries (I had just the right amount).  I was out the door by 2:40 and my crust was chilling in the fridge and my strawberries were soaking and coated in sugar.

My timing could not have been more perfect.  After feeding the kids and cleaning out their lunch boxes, I was ready to assemble the pie.  I don't do a lot of pies. I guess I have never been interested.  Well, today, I became a convert.  Be on the look out for lots and lots of pies!

There wasn't a morsel left on anyones plate!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers "Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake"

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes.  She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

For this month's challenge we were asked to make Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake.  My whole family loves cheesecake so this challenge was not a challenge at all. At Halloween we have made pumpkin cheese cake brownies, I often make a white chocolate cheese cake with creme de cocoa and a chocolate cookie crumb crust.  Thus, my kids favorites are these little bite size cheesecakes (the size of a muffin cup) with a raspberry puree swirl.  

We were given the basic recipe to follow, however we were able to "accessorize" our cheesecake with our own creative spin.  Since my kids love the mini raspberry bites of heaven (as Eli so adoringly calls them) I decided to make the raspberry puree as my garnish.

Here is the recipe:

•2 cups graham cracker crumbs
•1 stick of butter, melted
•2 tbsp. sugar
•1 tsp. vanilla (I substituted Framboise liqueur)

•3 sticks of cream cheese (8oz. each), room temp.
•1 cup sugar
•3 large eggs
•1 cup heavy cream
•1 tbsp. lemon juice (I omitted this)
•1 tbsp. vanilla
•1 tbsp. liqueur (I used the Framboise)


1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan.  You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too, baker's choice.  Set crust to cool (?).

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer and cream together until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.  Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg.  Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

3b. Here is where I added the raspberry puree.  Take one cup of raspberry's and put in mini chopper. Puree.
Put mixture in a strainer set over a bowl.  Strain mixture until all but the seeds are left in the strainer. Discard seeds.  Add 2-3 tbsp. of sugar to pureed mixture and combine.  Once cheesecake is assembled, take a 1/4 tsp. of puree mixture and dot the top of the cake.  I use a long, wooden skewer to make my "swirls".  How you make your pattern, is your own creation.  Sometimes I let my kids get involved and they create their own "art".

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all the bubbles to the surface.  Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan(9" springform pan).  If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45-55 minutes, until it is almost done.  You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage.  Close the oven door, turn off the heat and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour.  This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack the top.  Take out of oven and water bath and let cool on a wire rack.  When cool, cover and put in fridge to chill, overnight.

Enjoy with family and friends!

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Saturday, April 25, 2009


I know I committed to baking everything in Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (see 2/18/09 posting), but I have gotten a little side tracked. I have been on a cookbook buying rampage. And in doing so, I have strayed.  However, strayed in a good way!  

I have been wanting to make donuts.  All kinds of donuts.  Yet, feeling a little intimidated.  Nancy has a few recipes in her book that seem easy enough.  I decided to start with the "fritters".  This is a really easy batter to assemble (not requiring one to take out their heavy mixer) and it can be made in advance and refrigerated.  The batter consists of the usual suspects yet has a few surprises; clover honey and ricotta.  It was the perfect recipe to help me overcome my fear of making donuts. Next time I will tackle the real deal!

I had made some chocolate sauce from Sherry Yard's The Secret of Baking  for some profiteroles that I had recently made (will post soon). If you do not know this book, it is really one of the better books I own.

She has such a great way of telling her stories and sharing her recipes. This is one recipe I will keep on hand at all times.  It is so versatile and can be used for so many different things.

Unfortunately, you can't eat just one!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mini Sour Cherry Pound Cake

I was at my son's book fair at school today and I marvel at the women who put this whole fair on.  They clean out the library, they unpack the numerous boxes of books, they set the whole thing up and they do this all on their own precious time.  We have a book fair two times within the school year and both my boys love it.  They actually look forward to it.  They start saving their allowance weeks in advance and plot out what they are going to buy.  I love supporting our school!

I decided today, aside from the obnoxious heat, that I was going to bring them breakfast in the morning.  As I am wanting to bake most of the recipes in Carole Blooms bite-size desserts, I choose a "mini pound cake".  I choose it for two reasons; 1)  I had all the ingredients in the house and 2) it looked yummy.

As I was making the batter, the boys got involved. One wanted to lick the spatula, one wanted to lick the paddle attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer and the other  was content with the mini ice cream scooper I use to make uniform little cakes.  

What gives these little cakes their unique taste is the nutmeg.  Now, that is just my unprofessional opionion, you be the judge.

This is a fun book.  I am really glad I have added it to my collection!

Monday, April 20, 2009


I wanted to bake today (aside from the near 100 degree weather) for my friend.  She has gotten some really lousy news lately and chocolate has the ability to lift ones spirits.

I just got a new book, bite-size desserts by Carole Bloom.  I was tempted to try many of the worthy delectables in the book, however the heat got the best of me.  I decided to try the "wicked brownie bites". Very easy, simple, pantry ingredients.   If you decide to get the book, which I highly recommend, and decide to make these chocolaty treats, check these prior to the suggested time.   She suggests you bake them for 20-25 mins.  However, I would cook them for 18 minutes and keep checking after each minute. They came out a little too hard on the outside.  Don't get they were still really good, moist on the inside, crispy on the outside.  If it were up to my kids, they would have devoured all 36 of them!

Levi got the first one!


Friday, April 17, 2009


These are Isaac's favorite all time cookies.  When ever I ask him what he wants me to bake, I can always count on him responding with "flatsos" as he so adoringly calls them.

I have been making these cookies since I first got the recipe back in 2001.  I found them in a Martha Stewart Holiday  Cookies Magazine.  I have two copies of this magazine and both copies are sticky and covered in remnants of cookie doughs and glazes.  The pages are worn and torn and marked up with notes and comments.  I am very attached to this particular issue as it was one of the first holiday issues they had published in this type of format.  The real name for this cookie is Lexi's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have come to learn that these are Alexis' (Martha's daughter) favorites and bakes them often and posts them on her website.  If you are not familiar with her blog or her show on Sirius, then you must check it out. Alexis and her partner, Jennifer, have had a huge influence on me in the way that I bake and package my goodies.  We have become friends over the past two years and I just wish I lived closer to both of them. They are the perfect duo!

We are responsible for snack tomorrow for Isaac's baseball game and as always, I let my kids choose the snack for their team.  Isaac's request are as follows:
• pixie tangerines
• pretzels
• Bazooka bubble gum
• Flatsos
• Gatorade

His wish is my command.  Today I whipped up the batter and baked off a few for some neighbors.  Tomorrow a.m. I will wake up and bake the rest of the batter.  These cookies are really best eaten the day that they are baked.  They are super thin and tend to get limp within 24 hours.  Even if you store them in a tin or glass cookie jar (as I do), they just don't really hold up.

Also, in the past, I have experienced inconsistent results.  However, this past year, I found a solution.  I add an additional 3 tablespoons of flour to the original recipe. It seems to make all the difference in the world.  

Here is the recipe:

3 1/2 C.  all purpose flour
(I add 3 additional tablespoons)
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp.  baking soda
1 lb unsalted butter, room temp.
3 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. semisweet chips (I use bittersweet)

•Preheat oven to 375*. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

•Sift flour, salt and baking soda and set aside

•In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter.  Add the sugars and beat until combined and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at at time.  Add vanilla.

•Add flour mixture and beat on low.  Add chips and beat until combined.

•I use a 2 tablespoon ice cream scoop and put about 6 on each baking sheet.  Leave lots of room as they spread, ALOT!  

•Bake until golden brown, 8 minutes.  Rotate sheets 1/2 way through.  Remove cookies and cool on racks. DON'T  take cookies off until cool.  They will fall apart and "melt".  

I have lots and lots of baking pans and cooling racks.  I give these cookies lots of time to "rest" on the baking sheet that they were baked on.

These are not a cakey cookie.  They are a buttery, chocolaty, chewy cookie.  If you like to bake, you should give them a try.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Polka Dot Cheesecake

I have made plenty of cheesecakes in my day, but when I found this one on the Saveur website I filed it away and knew that one day I would get around to making it.

My friend, Kate's birthday, was yesterday and I woke up and knew that this cake would be the ultimate birthday treat.  

When Eli gets home from school, one of the first things he asks me is "make any treats today?".  Well, today I had to confess that I had made one of his favorites, cheesecake.  Yet, when I told him it wasn't for him he threw a tizzy fit.  We agreed that Kate would get a really big piece of cake rather than the whole thing and we would keep the rest for us.

The Polka Dot Cheesecake recipe is one of the better cheesecakes I have made.  It is the perfect consistency, not too sweet and ironically, super light.   I had a little bit of trouble piping the dots (they were not perfect). Next time I would use a smaller tip to pipe the chocolate dots, yet other than that, it was a very simple recipe.  


2 oz.  unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 lbs. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 C. sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 C. graham cracker crumbs

1.  Adjust a rack to the lowest position in the oven and preheat oven to 350*.  Butter an 8" x 3" spring form pan all the way up to the rim.   You will also need a larger pan (for hot water) to place the cake pan in while baking.  The larger pan must not be deeper than the cheesecake pan.  Set aside.

2. In the top of a small double boiler over hot water on low heat, melt the chocolate and set it aside.

3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cheese until it is completely smooth.  During the beating, frequently scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  When the cheese is smooth, beat in the vanilla and almond extracts and the sugar.  Beat well and then add the eggs one at at time.  After adding the eggs, do not beat any more than necessary to mix.  

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Place one-third of the batter (2 cups) in the small bowl of mixer.  Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

5. Spray the buttered cake pan with nonstick spray, then pour in the light-colored mixture. 

6. Fit a large (about 16") pastry bag with a plain #6 ( 1/2") tube.  Fold down a deep cuff on the outside of the bag and twist the tube end of the bag to prevent the mixture from running out.  Place the chocolate mixture in the bag.

7. Work at table height.  Place the cake pan on the table.  Twist the tube end of the bag.  Place the tip of the tube in the center of the top of the cake, inserting it 1/4" to 1/2" into the cake.  Squeeze out enough of the chocolate mixture to form a perfectly round ball, about 2".  There will be a dark polka dot in the center of the cake.

8. Then, using the same procedure, squeeze out 6 smaller balls around the rim.  In order to space the 6 balls evenly, place the first one at twelve o'clock (straight up), the next at six o'clock (straight down).  Then two on each side.  Doing it this way, the chances are that the spacing will be quite even.  The balls around the rim should be smaller.  If there is extra chocolate mixture, add to the center ball and then the perimeter balls.

9. The top of the cake will not be smooth and level now, but it will level itself during baking.  When baked, the polka dot in the center will be about 2 1/2" wide, the dots around the rim will be about 1 1/2" wide.

10. Place the cake into the larger pan.  Place it in the oven and pour hot water into the larger pan, about 1 1/2" deep.

11. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.  The top of the cake will become golden brown and it will feel dry to the touch.  But the cake will still be soft inside (it will become firm when it has cooled and been refrigerated).

12. Lift the cake pan out of the water and place it on a cake rack.  Cool the cake in the pan for 2 1/2 hours.  Do not cool in fridge.

13. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.   Place a flat plate or small board upside down over the pan and turn the pan and the plate or board upside down.  Carefully remove the pan.

14. Carefully and evenly sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the bottom of the cake.  gently place another flat plate or small board upside down over the cake and carefully invert again (w/out squashing the cake), leaving the cake right side up.  Remove the plastic wrap.

15. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

16. To serve, dip a sharp knife in very hot water before making each cut (shake off the water but do not dry the blade).  Make the first cut through the middle of one of the smaller dots and the second cut (the one that will release the first portion) between two of the smaller dots.

This is a must make cake.   So deliciously good!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Macaroon Mania

I lied.  I said in my last entry that I wasn't going to bake anything else for Passover.  Well, I did.  I made these Raspberry Chocolate French Macaroons.  

I have been wanting to make these little pillows of heaven for sometime now, but have been somewhat intimidated.  I decided to go for it.  I read several blogs and websites which were a wealth of information and each had lots and lots of very good advice.  One of the best tidbits of info was to pre-draw the 1" circles directly onto the parchment.  I did just that.  I made an 11" template and traced the circles and then flipped over the parchment before piping my batter into little mounds.

However, I did have some difficulty with this process. First of all I used too big of a tip.  Too much batter oozed out, enabling me from making perfect "type A" mounds.  I had to let it go and just hope for the best.
Secondly, only one of the three cookie sheets that I had baked came out perfectly.  This particular tray of cookies didn't crack.  The other trays cracked and caved in, they were a disaster (sort of).

Also, I couldn't find raspberry extract.  I substituted orange flavoring and instead of making the cookies "pinkish" I made them more of a light orange.  Lastly, I really didn't like the ganache filling.  It was way too heavy and wasn't what I had imagined in my head.

All in all, I was not crazy about this recipe.  I am going to peruse other blogs as well as the Internet and see what turns up.  I am going to attempt these again.  They are way more easy than they appear and the upside to this whole experience is that  all three kids got involved.  

Both Eli and Isaac wanted to pipe their own designs and they had lots of fun with the not so perfect macaroons as well as the left over ganache.

Eli made a big crepe like shape and Isaac made "Sponge Bob" as he so adoringly called him.  Eli got super creative with his masterpiece and ate every last morsel.  Isaac, on the other hand, went for the simplest of treats, a chocolate covered strawberry.  It was a fun evening shared with two of my favorite people. 


Monday, April 13, 2009

Passover Desserts

The first night of Passover, we got together with my husband's side of the family (9 grandchildren, all 12 and under).  My kids always look forward to seeing their cousins.  They all get along so well and happen to really like one another.

I volunteered to bake a few desserts and an appetizer. I made a double batch of coconut macaroons (see blog entry 4/3/09). After baking a few dozen macaroons, I wanted to try and make an ice cream pie using the macaroon batter as the crust.  I baked the crust a little too long.  I should have baked it for around 30 mins and I just wasn't confident to take it out at 28-30 minutes as I didn't know what to expect. 
After letting the crust cool,  I covered the crust with the same chocolate glaze that I made on the 4/3 blog. I then took some Haagen-daz coffee ice cream and let it get soft.  Once soft I creamed it a little and added a little Kahlua (don't tell the kids) and put the soft ice cream back in the crust.  I froze it for about 1 hour and then put some candied pecans (Nona Carols Candied Pecans)  around the rim of the pie.  This wasn't one of the prettiest desserts I have made, but my kids really liked it.  

I also made a flourless chocolate torte.  I have made this before (blog entry 3/17/09) and it got such rave reviews that I thought it would be the perfect dessert for a "flourless" holiday.  This time I dusted the cake with unsweetened cocoa.  The last time I made it, I made a raspberry sauce to go with it.  Eli was really missing the raspberry sauce this time.  And quite frankly, so was I.  I recommend the sauce, otherwise it can be a little dry.

I think I am done baking for Passover.  Can't wait to experiment with some of my new cookbooks!

Nona Carol's Candied Pecans

1 egg white
1 tbls. water
1 C. sugar
1 tsp.  cinnamon
•whisk all

1 lb. whole pecans 
•add to the above

Line a jelly roll pan with heavy duty foil.  Cover foil with cooking spray.  Spread mixture on foil in single layer.

Bake 300* for one hour.  Turn every 15 mins.

Store in airtight container.  Lasts for weeks.



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chocolate Covered Matzahs

My kids are craving something sweet.  Normally, we always have fresh, baked goodies in the house.  With Passover, we eliminate from our diet,  anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt).  Some traditional Jews avoid rice, corn, peanuts and legumes.  All of these items have been used to make bread.  I am not super strict (I have let the kids have chips and a family member gave them some gummy bears which have corn syrup ) and I don't clean out my house of all grains nor do I change out my dishes.  Personally, I want me children to have an understanding of what the holiday means and have some sort of discipline. 

With that said, they are missing the baked treats that normally adorn our home.  I haven't made this particular recipe in a few years and felt that this was the perfect solution to their sweet craving.  Sometimes I toast some pecans or almonds and sprinkle them on the top, but this time I opted to chop up some of the homemde candied orange peels I had in the freezer.  The scent and the taste of the orange made all the difference in the world.  

Here is the recipe:

4 pieces of  matzah
1 C. butter-melted
1 C. brown sugar, packed
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

pre heat oven to 450*

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray

Lay matzahs in an even layer on foil

Melt butter in pan.  When melted add brown sugar and bring to a boil.  Once boiled, pour mixture over matzahs.  Use an off set spatula to spread an even layer.  Bake for 4 minutes

Take tray out of oven and and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Put back in the oven for 1 minute.  Remove from the oven and use an off set spatula to spread and even layer.  Sprinkle with whatever topping you desire or just leave plain.  Put in freezer until set.  Once set, break apart as if it were brittle.  Store in a cool, dry place.

Since I have started tempering my chocolate, I do prefer chocolate that way.  I was making these not only for the kids but for some friends as well.  Had I had more time, I would have tempered the chocolate.  

Wrapped up and ready to deliver!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Matzah, Matzah and more Matzah

My kids are frustrated.  They are not digging the whole Passover traditions and they want their "bread". They like their breakfast's which means they like their pancakes, waffles, turkey bacon sandwiches and their bagels.  It is hard to tell a 3 year old that he cannot have Cheerios-the most basic of all foods.  He just doesn't get it.  So when he throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the kitchen, I just go with it.  I totally understand.  I get it.  I don't like being told that I can't eat what I want.   

With that said, I am forced to be creative.  Today I made blueberry smoothies and matzah brei pancakes. My hubby loves my matzah brei, has for the past 31 years.  Actually, he savors this time of year.  He can eat his matzoh and not feel totally guilty.  Matzah brei is similar to french toast.  Yet, instead of using bread one uses matzoh.  

The kids on the other hand will have nothing to do with it.  They will eat matzah and jelly or matzoh and butter, but the matzah brei thing, I can't get them to try it.  It really is so good.   I usually make it in a big pan and make it "pancake style".  However I make it the size of the pan and then break it apart.  I tried something new.  I made them small little silver dollar pancakes.  Put them on a plate and gave them a side of syrup.  Yum, yum, right?  They didn't buy it.

I ended up eating the whole plate.  Needed a 4 mile walk and a colonic when I was done eating them.   It is delicious but you need to eat 4 bowls of fruit with it, just to keep you balanced.

Anyway, my husband and I continue to love my Grandma Rose's matzah brei.  I even use her grater to grate my onions.  I don't use this tool for anything but matzah brei

I don't measure anything, but here is how easy it is:

2 eggs beaten
2 - 1/2 egg shells filled with water(about 4 tbls.)
1/4 onion -grated
4-6 matzahs broken up into pieces
2 tablespoons matzah meal
salt to taste

Put all in a bowl and mix up.  Let sit for a few minutes so the matzahs absorb the liquid.  

Heat a fry pan and add butter.  Put mixture in the pan and let get golden on one side.  Once golden, flip, add some butter and let 2nd side get golden.  

I like mine with raspberry preserves.  Mitch likes his plain.  Some people like it with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top and some like it with apple sauce.  You decide.  



Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Happy Banana Cake

I had just the right amount of almost rotten bananas to make  some sort of banana dessert.  I have been reading my Tartine cookbook and came across her Banana Date Tea Loaf.  

I love Tartine (see blog entry 11/08 Roadtrip).  I make special trips to San Fran just to eat there.  If I were ever to open a bakery (which I don't plan on doing), I would emulate Tartine.  It is the perfect spot.

The recipe called for dates, walnuts and lots of other goodies that I had in the house.    This recipe also called for cornstarch in the batter.  I have never used cornstarch in a cake batter.  Gave me the inspiration and the desire to want to make it.

The best part about this cake is that both my kids loved it!  Usually when there is dried fruit in anything that I make they complain and get all weird.  However this time, they didn't even notice the dates and they were chunky dates.  I felt as though they were eating something somewhat "healthy".

If you are at all a lover of cookbooks, this one should be at the top of your list.  Not only are the recipes divine, but the photographs are amazing and the paper is a thick, lustre matte finish.  The best part about the book is the piece of satin ribbon that is attached to the spine of the book.  It is to be used as a bookmark, just like some of my old, 1st edition, literature books.  


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Black Bottom Goodness

I had some cream cheese in my fridge that I definitely needed to find a use for.  I have been really into my Joy of Cooking cookbook and have been reading it extensively.  

I happened to be snack mom for Isaac's baseball team, so this seemed like the perfect after game snack.  This is a really easy recipe to assemble.  I love cakes and brownie recipes that don't always require using the big heavy mixer.  And this is one of those recipes (used my hand held mixer to cream the cream cheese, sugar and the egg).  Don't get me wrong, if (god forbid) we were required to evacuate our home, my mixer would be one of the three items I would grab and throw in the car.  

The cupcakes were out of the oven about 15 minutes before the boys got home from school.  They were gobbled up by the boys and their friends and never made it to the baseball game!

I really didn't want the balance of the cupcakes in the house, so I packed some up for the "moms" on the team.  Another mom brought guacamole and chips and some other goodies.  Now all we need is for someone to bring the margaritas and we can have our very own happy hour at the park!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Pecan Bars

I love Pecan Bars.  I have tried several recipes from cookbooks, magazines and the Internet.  This recipe is one of my favorites.  

I have been a loyal subscriber to Cooks Illustrated Magazine since 1981 when I stumbled upon it at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.  I was a junior at Cal Berkeley and my brother was attending Law School in S.F.  We would meet on the weekends and go to dinner and explore one of the most fabulous cities in the world!

One night, after a delicious dinner at the U.S. Restaurant we took a long walk.  It was there that we found the ultimate bookstore.  As I have always been into cooking I immediately perused the cookbook isles and the magazine section.  In the early days, the cover of the Cooks Magazine were all hand illustrated.  They were beautiful and immediately caught my eye.  Not only were the recipes inviting, but it was a magazine without advertisements.  

I have been subscribing to the magazine since 1982 and have a lot of the original magazines.  Most of my best meals have been created by my inspiration from Cooks.

I usually double this recipe (when I bake, I almost always double the recipe) and use a larger pan.  I like the pans from Surfas.  Surfas is a local restaurant supply store that is paradise in an industrial space.

Here is the recipe:

1      C. unbleached flour
1/3  C. packed light brown sugar
1/4  C. toasted pecans, chopped
1       t. table salt
1/4   t. baking powder
6      T. cold unsalted butter

Pecan Filling
1/2  C. packed light brown sugar
1/3  C. light corn syrup
4      T. unsalted butter, melted
1       T. Bourbon or dark rum
2       t. vanilla extract
1/2    t. table salt
1        large egg, beaten
2       C. toasted pecans, chopped

For the crust
•adjust oven rack to middle position, heat to 350*.
•spray 9" square baking pan.  Line with parchment or foil.  Then spray sheets with non stick spray

Place flour, brown sugar, pecans, salt & baking powder in food processor.  Process mixture until it resembles course cornmeal.  Add butter and pulse until it resembles sand.  Pat mixture into prepared pan and bake until crust is light brown and springs back when touched, about 20 mins.

For the filling
Whisk brown sugar, melted butter, corn syrup, bourbon, vanilla and salt in medium bowl.   Add egg and whisk.

Pour filling on top of the crust and sprinkle with pecans.  Bake until top is brown and cracks start to form across the surface, 22-25 mins.  

Cool on wire rack for 1 hour.  Remove bars from pan using foil or parchment and cut into desired size squares. 

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream for an extra added treat.  Sometimes I make some homemade caramel sauce and serve the pecan bars topped with ice cream and then a dab of caramel sauce.  Oh so good!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Meyer Lemon Tart

Meyer Lemon Tart

There are so many things I love about Spring.  I love how fresh the air feels, I love that I am motivated to exercise a little bit more, I love all the flowers that bloom and I love watching my children playing with the hose, barefoot and happy.  

However, there is one thing that makes me super, super sad.  My Meyer lemon tree is looking bald.  The tree starts to bloom in November and usually by mid December I have fabulous tasting lemons.  By the end of March, our tree is looking very sad.  At this time of year, I pick as many lemons as I can reach and start zesting and squeezing.  I don't let one single lemon go to waste.  I freeze the zest in 1 tablespoon increments and flash freeze.  Once they are frozen in their shape, I throw in a container or zip lock bag, label and date.  I freeze the lemon juice in ice cube trays, also in 1 tablespoon increments.  I then bag up the same way.

Eli and I woke up one morning to a gloomy, rainy day and he was in the mood to bake.  He wanted to make a pie.  He wanted to make a lemon meringue pie for his friend, Aidan, which happens to be his favorite dessert, ever.  Since I am a lover of all things lemon, I was up for the opportunity to hang together in the kitchen. After surfing through a few of my cookbooks, we settled on Ina's Lemon Meringue Tart

We made a large one for Aidan's family and a small one for us to sample.  My only suggestion is to cook the curd a little longer than she suggests in her recipe. I cooked it until I found the consistency that I desired. We also baked the meringue in the oven a bit longer than she suggests and then torched it a bit in the end.
If you like lemon, this is a must have dessert!


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chocolate Fudge Souffle Bars

My library book was due within the week (after renewing it for my 3rd and final time) and I just had to get baking and make some of the treats from 125 Cookies.  I liked this recipe because I need little preparation to finish the task.  The recipe called for cold butter, which always helps when baking on a whim.

The shortbread crust is so light and flaky.  Yet it has a little crunch when you bite into it.  I made the fudgy topping while the crust was baking.  The recipe suggested semi sweet chocolate, however I always prefer bittersweet.  Somehow makes it a little more interesting.  I toyed with the idea of putting a layer of toasted coconut or toasted pecans between the shortbread layer and the chocolate topping, but decided to keep it authentic.  However, next time, I will add some sort of treat between the layers.

A few friends received these tasty treats.  Yet, Eli was dead set on keeping the majority of the bars in the house!  He won his argument.


Friday, April 3, 2009


Each year, for Passover, I make macaroons.  For the past few years I have been making the same 
macaroon ( Martha Stewart Living Magazine) recipe, but this year I wanted to try something different.  Not that I don't like the old favorite,  I wanted to experiment.

I was reading some food blogs on Tastespotting and I read this fabulous blog ( I didn't bookmark and now can't find it-sorry)  that inspired me to take out my very, very old Joy of Cooking cookbook.  After I found the recipe that I was hunting for, I starting recipe surfing.  I stumbled upon some coconut macaroons that were oh so easy.  I whipped up a batch.  

They were DELICIOUS on their own, however I wanted to mix it up a bit.  I made a simple chocolate glaze with some bittersweet chocolate, diluted espresso and some butter.  

I made such a big batch of glaze that the remainder was used to make vanilla bean ice cream sundaes for the kids that evening.  They didn't complain!