Category Archives: Desserts

Valentine’s Day Deep and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Heath Bar Crunch

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Did I make it in time for Valentine’s Day?! I know that I missed posting a Super Bowl recipe (I made this recipe for stuffed shells on Super Bowl Sunday… you should make it too, it was a hit in my house).  I also made a Caesar salad using a new ingredient—silken tofu.

Caesar salad and chocolate mousse made with tofu?!! [GASP] I know, it’s so anti-dairy of me. I’m actually embarrassed to admit it. I think that I made up for it though by eating my weight in cheese last Saturday at a French Cheese & Wine class at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center (highly recommend).  I’m still salivating over the fondue and the Fleur de Marquis, a soft sheep’s milk cheese that is encrusted with rosemary, fennel seeds and juniper berries. Our instructor assured us that eating cheese, especially sheep’s milk cheeses, will flatten our bellies. Needless to say, I’m planning to eat a lot more of it within the next few weeks and probably for the rest of my life until I reach my goal weight.

Where were we? Oh, silken tofu. My husband adores chocolate pudding and chocolate mousse but it took me awhile to warm up to it, I never liked it as a child. I think it might have been a texture thing, but I never got excited when other kids would bring in mud pots for their birthdays (you know, the kind with the chocolate pudding, worms and Oreo crumbles). I know, I’m weird…

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Thankfully, I now like chocolate pudding, although I still don’t like anything with the work JELL-O in it. I don’t typically make a lot of mousse, but I’ve made quite a few variations of chocolate pudding in the past, typically using a combination of milk (2%), cocoa powder, chocolate, cornstarch, and sometimes eggs.

Now this recipe is great because it doesn’t take the typical 3 to 4 hours to cool in the refrigerator before you can eat it. I don’t know about you, but I am impatient and I also have an intense aversion to ice baths (I’m so over it after culinary school where we filled entire sinks to cool down stocks, day after day). Unlike traditional chocolate pudding, this chocolate mousse is ready to be eaten immediately!!! It will firm up considerably after a brief refrigeration period, but it’s not necessary. It’s also incredibly simple and quick to prepare, and relatively nutritious. It’s ready in less than 15 minutes, I promise.

So, if you are like me and haven’t planned an elaborate dessert in advance for your pudding-loving, chocolate-adoring Valentine this year, you can fall back on this recipe. It’s intensely chocolaty and sure to please (I mean really rich, I almost couldn’t finish my serving.. and this is coming from someone who has no problem polishing off 3 large slices of pizza followed by ice cream on occasion). It’s difficult to believe, but I may never go back to the dairy version.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Chocolate Tofu Mousse

Valentine’s Day Deep and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Heath Bar Crunch
Serves 2
Approx. cooking time: 15 minutes, start to finish

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (I used 63% semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat milk (or soy milk if you don’t use dairy milk)
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • tiny pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum (optional, could be replaced with Grand Marnier (orange liqueur), vanilla or almond extract)
  • 8.5 ounces silken tofu, drained (make sure to by the silken variety, firm or extra firm tofu will not work here)
  • 2 tablespoons HEATH English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits (optional, but definitely great if you like texture)
  1. Fill a small to medium sized saucepan half way up with water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low.
  2. Break chocolate into small pieces and place the chocolate in a glass or metal mixing bowl that can fit over the saucepan without touching the water.
  3. Place the bowl over the saucepan. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula.  Note: The water should never come to a boil, use very low heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly.
  4. When the chocolate has melted, add the cocoa powder, milk, granulated sugar and a very small pinch of sea salt and stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture looks shiny and smooth (at first the mixture will look pasty, but be patient because it will get to the correct consistency after a few minutes over the heat).
  5. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the dark rum with a spatula.
  6. Place the drained tofu in a food processor. Add the melted chocolate mixture and process until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
  7. Transfer the pudding to a mixing bowl or individual serving bowls. Serve immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a refrigerator until ready to serve, or up to 3 days.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

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Do you like crunchy and thick cookies? Whenever I think of a chunky cookie, I remember the Pepperidge Farm Nantucket Chocolate Chip Cookies that my grandmother used to buy (I would surreptitiously take one or 2 from the package every time we visited her house). If you do like that, this recipe is definitely for you. And if not, well, it still may be worth a try. Let me explain.

I am actually a member of the chewy cookie fan club. In an ideal world, every cookie that I eat would be a warm, just-baked soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie. BUT, these cookies may be the exception to my chewy cookie rule.

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This recipe is from Macrina Bakery’s newest cookbook, More from Macrina: New Favorites from Seattle’s Popular Neighborhood Bakery. I adapted the recipe slightly by using melted butter, and by ever-so-slightly reducing the sugar and butter content. I’ve seen a number of recipes that recommend using melted butter and resting cookie dough overnight before baking, so that’s what I tried here.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies in Oven

The result? Initially, I was slightly disappointed. I had not expected a crispy cookie (see above. I ♥ chewy cookies). But, as I kept nibbling away at my cookie, my disappointment quickly faded. The peanut butter, oat, and chocolate combination kept enticing me back for bite after bite. It was slightly salty, but also sweet, and sufficiently chocolatey (I increased the amount of chocolate chips in the recipe…what can I say, I love chocolate). I even grew to like the crispy texture, it was somehow more satisfying than its chewy counterpart, allowing me to indulge in one or two cookies without feeling the need to gobble up the entire tin of cookies in one or two sittings (you know what that means….more cookies for later in the week!).

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Cookies with Clementine

Question of the Day? Do you prefer chewy or crispy cookies? What is your favorite type of cookie, homemade or store bought?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 30, 2-inch wide cookies

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking type, although those would probably work if that is all that you have on-hand)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies (I used Trader Joe’s brand, they are my favorite).
  • 2/3 cup natural chunky peanut butter (I used Whole Foods 365 brand peanut butter)
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted (the original recipe called for 1 ¾ sticks)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (the original recipe called for light brown sugar)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar (the original recipe called for 1 cup)
  • 1 large egg (brought to room temperature)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl and using a fork, quickly mix the dry ingredients (I do this instead of sifting the flour and other dry ingredients because I am often too lazy, and it’s always worked with cookies).
  2. Add the oats and chocolate chips to the flour and mix with fork until combined.
  3. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat the sugars and melted butter on medium speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter and beat for an additional minute or two, or until the peanut butter is fully incorporated.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat on very low speed, until just combined (using high speed or overmixing will activate the gluten in the flour and make your cookies tough).
  7. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (I refrigerated my dough overnight). You can also freeze the cookie dough at this point.
  8. Take the dough out of the refrigerator 30-40 minutes before you are ready to bake your cookies.
  9. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Form the cookies using your hands into 1-inch wide balls. Flatten the cookie dough on the baking sheet with your palm and place cookies about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until cookies are just barely beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
  12. Store cookies are room temperature in an air-tight container for one week (you can also freeze the baked cookies in a zip-lock bag if you are worried about them going stale).

Gina de Palma’s Almond Olive Cake

I actually never meant to blog about this cake. It came about in part because of boredom, in part because I hadn’t baked anything in quite a long time, and in part because Brian has developed quite the predilection for almond cakes ever since he sampled a piece (actually probably more like 4 or 5 pieces) of buttery almond cake at our neighborhood Italian grocery store a year ago.

As I perused my cookbooks, old magazines, the Internet, and various other sources of inspiration this weekend, I came across Gina de Palma’s recipe for an almond cake that is made with olive oil instead of butter. Gina de Palma is the pastry chef at Babbo, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in New York City (just thinking about it makes me salivate, especially the thought of their mint love letter ravioli…).  The desserts at Babbo are also worth ordering and definitely worth the extra calories (and that is on top of the thousands of calories that you already consumed eating the beef cheek ravioli, which arrive at the table plump and oozing with rich meat, squab liver and the essence of black truffles. These are also worth getting by the way.) Oh, and I probably should have mentioned that Babbo isn’t your typical red-sauce Italian restaurant—it’s a rare treat that can only be enjoyed after painstakingly hitting the redial button on your phone for 45 minutes (exactly 30 days prior to the day that you want to reserve a table) in hopes that you will eventually get through to the reservationist, who will most likely offer you two equally dismal times of 5:30pm or 10:30pm (take the 5:30pm table, just trust me).

Enough about Babbo, let’s move on to this cake, which is truly one of the best cakes that I have ever made, and that is saying a lot. It’s everything that a cake should be—moist, sweet but not too sweet, tender, and most importantly, delicious.  In fact, I am warning you, once you start eating this cake you may not be able to stop. It took a massive effort for me to restrain myself from taking a second slice.

This cake would be great even without the glaze, but I implore you to make it. The brown butter adds wonderful depth and nuttiness to the glaze, and it compliments the citrusy cake beautifully. The slivers of almond also contribute great textural contrast.

I barely adapted this recipe, so all of the credit should go to Gina de Palma. However, I did make a few minor modifications, which you may or may not want to follow. To begin with, I increased the amount of vanilla extract to a half-teaspoon and the amount of almond extract to a scant full teaspoon. I also ran out of fresh orange juice (I only had one orange), so I add the juice of half a lemon and some skim milk until I reached the full half-cup of liquid that the recipe called for.

Now, on to the recipe because you should really make this immediately, or at least in the near future and I don’t want to delay you any longer.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Almond Olive Oil Cake
Serves 6 to 8
Adapted slightly from pastry chef Gina de Palma of Babbo via Serious Eats

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup orange juice (or juice of 1 medium orange, juice of ½ a lemon, and ¼ cup milk—or enough liquid to equal ½ cup)
  • Zest of ½ medium orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon

For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • ½ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan or a springform pan and reserve for later.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk lightly until the yolks are broken up completely. Add the sugar and whisk briskly for approximately 30 seconds. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until all of the ingredients are combined and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. Whisk in the orange juice (and lemon juice and milk if using), zest, and extracts.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and whisk lightly until the batter is smooth and homogenous.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake taster inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow cake to cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then carefully invert the cake out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.
  8. While the cake is cooling, heat a small saucepan (not non-stick if possible) over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl the butter around in the pan, carefully, until the solids begin to turn a light tan/golden color (do not overcook). Remove the pan from the heat. The solids will continue to darken slightly as the butter cools.
  9. While the butter is cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and milk in a medium sized bowl. Add the cooled butter slowly, whisking continuously until the glaze is smooth.
  10. Add a few drops of lemon juice, taste, and add more as necessary to balance the sweetness of the glaze. Stir in the toasted and cooled slivered almonds.
  11. When the cake has cooled, place it on a large serving plate and spread the glaze on the top and sides of the cake. (The glaze may be a touch liquidy, which is fine, just allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides of the cake). Allow the glaze to cool and harden.
  12. Serve the cake either on its own, or with slightly sweetened whipped cream or berries.

Something like Banana Cream Pie

“What is that?”, you may be asking yourself. To be honest, I’m not sure quite what to call this sweet and creamy concoction.  It all started when I was brainstorming ideas for this Sunday’s dinner, which happened to be a dinner for three, instead of the usual two. I knew that I wanted to make a desert (after all, cooking for others is my go-to excuse for baking), but I wasn’t sure quite what it should be. My first thought was a peach dessert, which I knew would please our guest, but which would not please Brian (he as an aversion to stone fruits). My second thought was to make some sort of layered dessert, which somehow morphed into the desire to make a banana pudding parfait. In the end, I didn’t even make a parfait, but did incorporate some of the components that are typically included in a traditional banana cream pie.

It starts out with a basic vanilla pudding recipe, which includes milk (I used 2% but the recipe called for whole), cornstarch, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and a dash of dark rum. While I waited for the pudding to cool, I worked on a shortbread-like base, which I made my beating together softened butter and sugar, to which I added all-purpose flour, a touch of salt, a splash of cream, and crush pecans. The crust was baked for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked and golden in color. Here comes the best part–after the shortbread cooled, I spread a thin layer of dulce de leche on top. Dulce de leche is a caramel-like, milk-based sauce. It is sweet and creamy, and to my taste buds, less cloying than caramel. For this recipe, I happened to purchase a jar of dulce de leche from a specialty grocery store, but you can also make it yourself (see David Leibovitz’s recipe here).  After spreading dulce de leche over the shortbread, I arranged thin slices of banana on top. Then, I spread an even layer of barely sweetened whipped cream on top. After that, I put the almost-finished dessert into the fridge and waited until dessert time. Just before serving dessert, I sliced a few bananas and arranged the slices on top of the whipped cream (the banana slices will brown if you try to do this earlier).

Now, let me warn you that there is almost no way to artfully present this dish. It is one of those tastes-better-than-it-looks desserts. To me, the presentation of this dessert doesn’t matter, and I assure you that if you serve this to your guests, they won’t mind either, it’s that good.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Something Like Banana-Cream Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients:

 For the pudding layer (adapted from Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book):

  • 4 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum

For the shortbread layer:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the whipped cream topping:

  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For assembly:

  • 5 ripe bananas
  • 1/4-1/2 cup purchased dulce de leche (I used Terre Pampa Dulce de Leche)

Instructions for the pudding:

  1. Combine 3 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar and the salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. While the milk is coming to a boil, place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk in a bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  3. When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 1 cup of the hot milk to the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly to ensure that the egg yolks don’t curdle. Once tempered (meaning the yolks have been brought closer to the temperature of the hot milk), add the yolk and milk mixture to the saucepan. Turn the heat to low, and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to boil for 1 minute, or until the mixture is thickened.
  4. Immediately pour the contents of the saucepan into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and rum, and then cover the top of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the pudding to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Instructions for the shortbread crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, using an electric mixer, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and cream and mix on low until fully incorporated. Add the chopped pecans and beat on low until just mixed through (don’t overbeat!).
  4. Butter an 8-inch glass Pyrex dish and press the dough into the base of the dish using your fingers.
  5. Place the baking dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly golden around the edges. Remove and place on a rack to cool completely.

Instructions for the whipped cream:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Use immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use.

Instructions for assembly:

  1. Spread a thin layer of dulce de leche directly on the shortbread base using a knife or cake spatula.
  2. Cut 3 bananas into thin slices and place the slices in a single layer on top of the shortbread base.
  3. Pour the pudding directly over the banana slices and smooth into a single layer using a cake spatula.
  4. Top with a layer of whipped cream, spreading the layer evenly over the pudding
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Just before serving, slice 2 bananas into thin slices and arrange the banana slices on top of the whipped cream.