I love things you can make that are visually stunning, tastes amazing and takes little or no effort to make. Like this Peach tart. It is gorgeous and people will rave about it and it takes just a few minutes to put together. I love it! All you need is a package of store bought puff pastry sheets (you can be a Martha Stewart and make your own, but why?) and some fresh ripe peaches and you’re golden. ANYBODY can make this. Literally the peach tart for dummies. Try it for your next get together and watch the rave reviews come in!
Peach Tart for Dummies
1 sheet puff pastry dough, defrosted
1/4 cup sugar
2 ripe peaches, thinly sliced
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 tsp water
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Defrost puff pastry dough in the refrigerator. Take out one sheet and place on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. No need to roll out. Pierce the puff pastry with a fork. Thinly slice two fresh large peaches and layer them in three rows on the puff pastry sheet leaving a half-inch clearance on all four sides. Sprinkle sugar on top of the peach slices. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. In a small microwave safe bowl heat apricot jam and water together for about 45 seconds. Brush over the peaches until shiny. Serve cooled.
I’m still on my blueberry kick. I already made some scones so I decided to try some crumble bars. I wanted them to have a nice crust on the bottom, sort of like a lemon bar but have the moisture of a coffee cake and the crunch of a streusel topping all rolled into one. There are a huge variety of crumb bar recipes out there. I decided to combine some of the things I liked about a few of the old stand by recipes I had for cherry crumb bars and lemon bars to come up with this one. It turned out very nicely. I didn’t even have to add nuts to the top to give it the satisfying “crumb” texture, the blueberries kept their integrity without turning into a gooey sauce and the bottom crust was fantastic, holding it all together. This thing can be eaten as a bar, but I’m telling you it’s unparalleled with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top! (Or at least that’s what everyone else who ate them up told me. Only 4 more days to go on this cleanse…)
Blueberry Crumble Bars
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (save to add to the mixture later)
4 cups fresh blueberries
juice of one lemon
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and baking powder. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter with the flour mixture until a crumbly mixture forms. Whisk egg and vanilla together and pour into the flour mixture and blend well. Mixture will be crumbly. Press half of the flour mixture into the bottom of the prepared 9 x 13 pan and bake for about 18 minutes.
In the meantime, add the rolled oats to the remaining flour mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the blueberries with lemon juice, corn starch and sugar, taking care not to smash any of the berries. Take the crust out of the oven, it should be a light brown color, spread the blueberry mixture evenly on top and sprinkle the flour/oat mixture on top of the blueberries. Return to the oven and bake an additional 40 minutes until golden brown on top and berries are nice and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cool completely and cut into bars.
I remember it clearly, even though it was 19 years ago, the immediate cessation of pain at 6:29 a.m. Suddenly someone else was crying with some gusto in the room besides me! I have been blessed to have two amazing kids. A boy AND a girl! Onjoli came along on Father’s day morning, June 20th, looking surprised and a little ticked off. She still has that look on any given 6:29 a.m.
Raising kids, especially a daughter has been an adventure. All through Kindergarten, Onjoli insisted on wearing a crown to school…EVERYDAY. The teacher would not let her bring the matching wand for safety reasons (who knows who could get whacked in the head?). That pink bejeweled plastic crown will always have a special place in my heart. After all, if you are a princess you should have the crown to go with it. Over the years, I’ve made my share of birthday cakes. The Barbie with the giant skirt cake, Pokemon, a myriad of Disney characters and unusual requests like the giant chocolate chip cookie pizza with candied toppings. Parties have changed from the chaos of a million kids running around to brunches at fancy restaurants. Each year the tastes and palates of both my kids have developed and become more sophisticated. This year, Onjoli wanted Carrot Cake cupcakes with “really good frosting”. I tried to deliver. After all, I don’t know how many more years I will have the privilege of making birthday cakes. I will always be a mom even as the quality of our relationship changes and becomes richer and deeper over the years. Even as I look back with nostalgia on the little girl I once had, I am ever so proud of the young woman I see before me. I am one blessed woman and mom!
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream & Goat Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrots
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
2 cups shredded carrots
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup pecans (optional)
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese, room temperature
4 oz fresh Chevre (goat cheese), room temperature
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
1 medium carrot, peeled into strips
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or if you’re using a hand held mixer, just use a big bowl) place all the ingredients of the cake except for the nuts and mix at low speed until blended. Increase speed and mix for 2 minutes until light and airy. Mix in the nuts by hand. I usually scoop out 6 cupcakes without nuts (due to some nut allergies in the family) and then add the nuts to the rest of the batter. Line cup cake pan with liners and fill 3/4 full using an ice cream scooper. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
To make the candied carrots:
Peel one carrot into long thin strips. In a small sauce pan heat sugar and water until boiling and add the carrots. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes. Take out the strips using a fork or a chopstick and place on some wax paper to cool. Separate them out as you take it out of the syrup so they will not dry out in a large candied clump. Set aside
To make the frosting:
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix all frosting ingredients together until smooth. Place in a piping bag with a star tip or in a plastic storage bag with the corner cut off and frost the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a piece or two of the candied carrots. Makes 24 cup cakes
At Christmas time I love to make a Bûche de Noël otherwise known as a Yule log. This last Christmas, I had a great time making Tiramisu flavored Bûche de Noël . Somehow those same flavors seem a bit heavy during the summer. Especially when so much fresh fruit is readily available. I decided to modify my recipe to slim it down for summer. This cake is light, flavorful and visually gorgeous. Splurging on this dessert is easy on the diet and on the budget! I hope you try it. You will love it!
Light and Lemony Cake Roll
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
8 oz neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat) or you can use regular cream cheese, softened to room temperature
8 oz light frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 cup plum or strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (for the outside of the cake)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. In a small bowl beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff but not dry. Set aside. In another bowl beat the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until it’s a light yellow color. Add in vanilla to the yolk mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sifted flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg white. Be careful not to over mix. Batter should be light and fluffy. Line a jelly roll pan or a half sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Pour cake batter onto the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown but not dry. Loosen edge of cake while it’s still warm. Dust cake with powdered sugar. Place dish towel on top of the cake and invert the whole pan onto the towel. Gently peel off the parchment paper. Beginning with the narrow side roll the cake and towel together into a roll. Let it sit on a cooling rack, seam side down for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime assemble the filling by combining the Neufchatel cheese with the lemon zest, 1 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix well and then fold in the thawed whipped topping until well blended. Take the jam and microwave it for 30 – 40 seconds until it’s a liquid. Gently unroll the cake and brush the jam all over the cake. Spread the lemony mixture on top of the jam layer, leaving 1/2 inch clearance from the edges. Gently re-roll the cake, using the towel to help roll. Dust with additional powdered sugar if needed and place seam side down on a serving platter. Slice into 1″ thick slices and serve with fresh strawberries or other fruit.
Ghee or clarified butter is a big part of South Asian cuisine. It has such amazing flavor that a little goes a long way. I’ve tried making ghee at home but it never seems to taste or smell like the amazing stuff we get back home (meaning the “homeland” of course). In Bangladesh, there is a famous brand called “Baghabari Ghee” with a picture of a Royal Bengal Tiger on the label. It’s famous flavor is renowned . Every time I went home for a visit I would try to sneak a few jars of the stuff back with me. I even tried to bribe my relatives who were going home to get me some ghee. They would look at me in disbelief. Really of all the things I could request someone bring back on a long journey and it’s ghee? That’s a foodie for you. I’m well-known for trying to schlep food in luggage. One time I had curried Hilsa fish in my carry-on luggage (this was before the TSA liquid restrictions) and it exploded all over everything. The WHOLE plane smelled like Bengali Hilsa Fish. I tried to look innocent and blend, which is hard to do on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho because I was the only brown person on the plane. Flight attendants were walking back and forth sniffing the air and saying things like, “do you smell that?” or “what is that smell?”
For years, my attempts at making ghee seemed a waste of time since I couldn’t tell the difference between the ghee or just regular butter. Why bother if the flavor is not improved? The whole idea behind a good ghee is to remove the milk protein from the butter leaving behind a nutty unclouded liquid. My problem was that I was not heating it long enough at a low enough temperature. The trick here is to use a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron dutch oven or something similar and heat the butter for 20-30 minutes and to add curry leaves halfway through the process. It’s also important NOT to stir the melted butter but to let it simmer unaided. This helps to separate the milk proteins properly. The curry leaves add a depth of flavor that I was missing all these years. I have to say that this ghee smells and tastes even better than the famous “Baghabari Ghee”. That’s one less thing that I have to hide in my luggage.
How to make Ghee
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 curry leaves
In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and let it simmer over very low heat. Do not stir but keep an eye on the butter, when small brown chunks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and the top part of the butter looks pretty clear (about 10-15 minutes) add curry leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the top layer of butter looks light brown and very clear, take out the curry leaves and strain ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Don’t throw away the brown protein bits. Save them to make Ghee Laddoos, a sweet treat made with the leftover protein (we don’t like to throw anything away).
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
In the same pan the ghee was made, heat the browned leftover milk protein with 1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan) and 1/4 cup of All-Purpose flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until everything is a nutty brown color and the sugar has incorporated well. Roll into small balls and enjoy.
There’s nothing more delicious and delectable than a good fresh fruit tart. Sometimes, I’d rather eat that over chocolate (gasp!). The key to a great tasting tart is the crust of course but also a great pastry creme. We had friends coming over for dinner, what better way to top of a great meal than with a wonderful, fruity dessert? The only real “tool” you need is a tart pan with a removable bottom. I have little ones and a couple of big ones (9 inch). They are under $10 at any baking store. They are great for making savory quiches and tarts as well sweet desserts. It also makes you look like you spend a lot of time and effort (my kind of food!).
The Pate Sucree or sweet pastry crust recipe is from here. But I shall re-write it for you, for your convenience.
Sweet Pastry Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Mix flour and salt together and set aside. Place butter in mixing bowl and beat until softened and smooth (use stand mixer or electric hand mixer). Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the beaten egg until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix until it just forms a ball. Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Lightly spray with cooking spray a 8-9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pat the chilled pastry dough into the pan going up too the sides of the pan evenly. Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 400°F and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of tart shell with a fork as this will keep it from puffing up. Place tart on a large cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 400° then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 mintes or until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. You can seal the crust with an egg white glaze or apricot glaze. Can be covered and stored for a few days.
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise or a tsp of vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tbsp grand marnier or Brandy
In a heat proof bowl mix sugar and egg yolks together until creamy. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and add it to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a sauce pan heat milk and vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from heat and add a little bit to the egg mixture and whisk (this tempers the egg so it doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs). Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking the whole time. Take out the vanilla bean and take a knife and scrape all the little seeds and add it to the milk/egg mixture. Return everything to the sauce pan and cook until mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to boil and it’s thickened remove from heat and immediately whisk in liquer. Stir in vanilla extract if using this instead of the bean. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed (keeps up to 3 days in fridge). Beat or whisk before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Do not discard the vanilla bean, wash it gently and pat it dry and place in some sugar to make wonderful “vanilla” sugar.
Fruit Tart Assembly:
Spread pastry cream evenly in pastry crust and top with fresh fruit. I like to work my way from the outside in so it looks pretty or you can just dump all your fruit in…it’s a personal choice. To give the fruit a nice shiny top, you can heat up a little apricot jam with a tsp of water in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so and brush it over the fruit.
One of the reasons that I don’t usually make Bengali or Indian desserts very often is that they take a lot of time standing in front of a stove. It’s not like baking something where you pop it in the oven and then go away for a while. South Asian desserts require your attention for the full prep time. There is no “down” time. On my recent quest to make Paneer at home, I made several batches of paneer with varying degrees of success. The batch I made with whole milk and heavy cream mixture (4 cups whole milk and 4 cups heavy cream) was soft and had a smooth and creamy texture. It failed as a paneer for savory cooking but was the perfect consistency for making a dessert that I’d enjoyed eating but have never made myself–Kalokand. It’s a delicious, creamy and rich dessert that has no other flavor but the richness of milk. It’s one of those desserts better saved for those special occasions.
I’m not sure I’d have ever tried making Kalokand had I not had the great paneer making experiment. I’m so glad that I did. I’m posting this so that my mom can see the pictures (if my sister will actually show her this post) and tell me what she thinks. I want to make sure I did it right. It sure tasted amazing and like I remembered it tasting. It’s not as intimidating as I thought and it’s worth making on purpose.
Here’s the recipe:
One batch of Paneer made with 4 cups whole milk and 4 cups of heavy cream
4 cups of 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped Pistachios
1 tablespoon chopped Pistachio for garnish
Make a batch of paneer using whole milk and heavy cream, don’t knead it. In a heavy bottom pan heat 4 cups of milk and bring it to a gentle boil. Stir often so it doesn’t burn. Reduce the milk volume in half to about 2 cups (takes about 12 minutes). Add the paneer into the reduced milk and continue cooking until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (about 4-5 minutes). Add the pistachios and the dark brown sugar and cook another 3-4 minutes until mixture begins to dry out some more and resembles a soft dough. Pour into a greased plate or small pan so that mixture is about 1/2 inch thick. Smooth out the top and sprinkle the remaining Pistachios. When cooled, cut into small squares. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
There are some things in life that make great pairs. They should just go together. Like cheese and crackers, peanut butter and jelly and hazelnuts and chocolate. Whoever came up with the deliciousness that is Nutella (it’s the same company that makes Ferraro Rocher!!) should get a culinary medal! I could eat that stuff by the spoonfuls…and at certain times of the month, I have been known to do just that. Not too long ago I tweaked another recipe and made chocolate dipped hazelnut tea cookies but I began thinking how delicious it would be to have hazelnut and nutella sandwich cookies. An Oreo to call my own!! The cookies had to be rolled so they were not too thick and have plenty of hazelnut flavor and have the wonderful nutella center. I found a Pillsbury recipe that I could modify and here’s what I came up with…
Hazelnut and Nutella Sandwich Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely ground and toasted
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Using a food processor finely chop the hazelnuts and toast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant and light brown in color. Set aside. In a mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar then add vanilla and eggs until nice and smooth. Slowly add in baking powder and flour mixture until well incorporated. Stir in hazelnuts by hand and wrap the dough in plastic wrap to refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.
Take out chilled dough and roll out to about 1/4″ or slightly thinner. Cut out circles using a 2 inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Bake for about 9 minutes and cool on a cooling rack.
Spread a generous amount (about 1 1/2 to 2 tsp) Nutella on the back of the cookie and place another cookie on top making a little sandwich. When all the cookies are paired up ~ yields about 30. Take about 1/2 cup of nutella and microwave for 25 seconds and place in a small ziplock bag. Cut a corner of the ziplock bag off to create a tip and drizzle warm nutella over each cookie in whatever pattern you choose. Cool in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes and serve. You can store the cookies in an airtight container, make sure to separate layers with wax or parchment paper.
I’m convinced that someone came up with the first Banana bread recipe because they felt sorry for the old, dark, sad-looking bananas sitting in their fruit bowl and being thrifty, couldn’t bear to throw them out. I had the same feelings when gazing upon three slightly shabby looking Bosc Pears sitting in my fruit bowl. I had plans to poach them or just eat them for breakfast but somehow they were forgotten. I had a bunch of people coming over (as usual) and I thought it would be great to use up the pears in a cake. Who doesn’t like cake?
Instead of a frosting, I decided to go for a coffee cake like streusel topping and I must say it was a great choice. The cake turned out light and moist with delightful bites of the pear pieces. You might notice that I seem to use Cashews a lot in sweet or savory dishes. That is because my husband is allergic to all nuts except for cashews. So whenever I am going for a crunch in any dish, if I can’t use stir fried lentils or pine nuts (he’s not allergic to those) I go for the cashews. If you try this recipe you can use any type of nut in the streusel topping. The cashews tasted wonderful though and was a great complement to the pear flavor.
Here’s the recipe:
Sour Cream Pear Cake with Streusel Topping
6 tablespoons of butter (not quite a whole stick), softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 Bosc pears peeled and cut into small chunks
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp softened butter
2/3 cup cashews (or any type of nuts you’d like to use)
In a medium bowl mix together all the ingredients for the streusel until well mixed, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.
Mix together flour, baking powder and soda. In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar and slowly add in eggs and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and the sour cream ending with the flour . Batter should be nice and smooth. Hand stir in the pears and spread batter evenly into the prepared cake pan. Top with streusel topping and bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Next to any busy marketplace, roadside or a village carnival in Bangladesh, Pakistan or India and you’ll see people in little stalls making fresh hot Jilebi. They are a little like funnel cakes but more delicate and crispy. There’s nothing like eating hot Jilebis. It’s better than hot Krispy Kremes! They melt in your mouth in a little explosion of sweetness and crunchiness. Of course, you can also buy them at fancier establishments, restaurants or sweet shoppes, but the road side ones are the best. I miss that here. Sometimes when the nostalgia gets to be too much, I just make my own. We were invited to dinner at a friend’s house. I offered to bring dessert just so I could have an excuse to make Jilebis. The problem was that I ate quite a few of them even as I was making them. I finally had to stop so I’d have enough to take to the dinner.
It took me a while to get all the proportions right and to figure out what tool to use to actually expel my batter into the oil to make the jilebi shapes. It also took a lot of trial and error to make them taste like the roadside Jilebis. I think I finally got it. You try it out and let me know.
Here’s the recipe:
1/2 cup all purpose flour (maida)
1-2 tsp of chick pea flour (Besan)
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 cup of warm water
oil for frying
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 crushed cardamom pods
3-4 strands of saffron (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice (to keep it from crystallizing)
Assemble the Jilebi:
In a small bowl add the water, sugar and yeast and let it sit for about 3-5 minutes until it’s all foamy and bubbly. In a separate bowl, mix the two flours and the oil. Slowly add in the proofed yeast while stirring the flour mixture until it’s smooth. Consistency should be like a pancake batter. Make sure there are no lumps. Let it sit covered for about 1 hour.
Make the syrup:
Before getting the batter ready for frying, assemble all the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a boil. Turn it to the lowest setting and let it simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat.
Making the Jilebi (this goes fast so have everything ready to go):
Preheat oil. Test readiness by putting a little of the jilebi mixture in the oil and if it floats to the top right away it’s ready. Make sure not to overheat the oil. Pour the jilebi mixture into a squeeze bottle or a ziplock bag with a tip cut out to make a small hole. The mixture will be slightly stringy and elastic. If using a squeeze bottle from a baking store, try the Wilton decorating tip number seven. It’s the perfect size hole plus the bottle and tip only cost about $2 and you can use the bottle for tons of different things. Using a circular motion and even pressure put batter into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and set it over some paper towels to absorb excess oil. While jilebi is still hot put it in the warm syrup to coat both sides and take it out immediately. Best served hot. But if you must have some later (if there is any left), please heat in the oven and not the microwave so it retains the crispy texture.