Category Archives: Dessert

Hermit Bar Cookies on NewlyWife

Hi friends! Just popping in to say I’ve got another post up on the NewlyWife blog: Hermit Bar Cookies. Click on over and check out these autumn-inspired bar cookies filled with molasses, dates and walnuts.

On another note, I’ve been assigned the baked goods for our family’s early Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday. I’ll be making rolls and two desserts, and since I’ll need to do most of the prep and baking ahead of time, I’m thinking of making these Martha Stewart dinner rolls. After making the dough, you can shape and freeze it. Then you defrost it for two hours and bake them. Does anyone have any experience with freezing uncooked bread dough?

As for desserts, I’m going to make a pumpkin pie and this French Apple Tart from Baking with Julia. I’ve had a little trouble lately with my pie dough shrinking while baking, so I’ve been reading lots about pie dough technique and watching videos in hopes of getting it right. Do you have any tips or techniques for achieving a perfect pie crust?


Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs

cream puffs in lineCream Puffs definitely make the cut into my Top Five Favorite Desserts of All Time. You might recall that last year I blogged about classic Cream Puffs and Gougeres, which are both made with the same type of dough— pâte à choux. Ever since I blogged about those classic whipped cream-filled cream puffs, I’ve been dreaming of another variation: Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs.

cream puff overheadFor the toasted coconut version I decided to fill the cream puffs with a combination of coconut-infused pastry cream and whipped cream. For a complex yet mellow coconut flavor, I toasted the coconut in the oven before infusing it in the milk and cream for the pastry cream. Additional toasted coconut made its way into the cream puff dough, and a final dusting of toasted coconut on top of the cream puffs ensured these cream puffs were undeniably coconutty. Drizzles of chocolate and caramel broadened the flavor spectrum while adding a bit of elegance.

cream puffs and plateThere’s another reason I had the urge to blog about cream puffs again: I’ve been scouring David Lebovitz’s impressive Paris Pastry app in preparation for Sam’s and my grand adventure to Paris and Cologne this week. The app’s gorgeous photos of eclairs and religeuses have me salivating and dreaming of pastries. I thought it would be fun to have one last baking hurrah before my trip, so I made these as a nod to Paris pastries.

cream puff single

Au revoir, friends! See you in a few weeks with plenty of pictures of Paris pastries!

cream puffs diptychMake the Toasted Coconut Pastry Cream

Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s crème pâtissière recipe (Ratiop 215).

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
1½ cups heavy cream, divided
¼ vanilla bean, spit lengthwise
¼ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter

  1. Toast the coconut. Preheat oven to 325°F. Toast the coconut for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside ¼ cup of the toasted coconut to use in the cream puff batter and as a garnish.
  2. Infuse the milk. Combine the remaining ½ cup coconut, ½ cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to steep for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare other ingredients. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Stir vigorously to begin dissolving sugar. Prepare an ice bath of ice water in a container large enough to accommodate the saucepan. Stir together the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons milk in a small bowl.
  4. Make the pastry cream. Once the cream has steeped for 15 minutes, remove and discard the vanilla bean. Bring the cream to a simmer once again and then gradually whisk it into the yolks and sugar. (Even though the cream will be gloppy from the coconut flakes, it is important to add the cream to the yolks gradually and to stir quickly so the hot cream does not cook the egg yolks.) Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Continue stirring over medium heat until the custard becomes very thick and is just about to boil. (Don’t worry if the custard seems overly thick; it will be thinned out with whipped cream later.) Remove the pan from the heat and submerge the base in the ice bath, stirring constantly. Add the butter and stir to thorougly incorporate it. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and refrigerate until cool, two to three hours.
  5. Whip cream. When you are ready to fill the cream puffs, whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream with an electric mixer to hard peaks using a chilled bowl and chilled beaters.
  6. Combine pastry cream and whipped cream. Gently mix together the chilled pastry cream and whipped cream. Chill until ready to use.

Make the Cream Puffs

Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s pâte à choux recipe (Ratio, p 45).

1 cup water (8 oz.)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 oz.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 scant cup flour (4 oz.)
4 large eggs (8 oz.)
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see pastry cream recipe)

  1. Prepare. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mis en place: measure all ingredients and line them up so they’re within reach and ready when you need them.
  2. Make the Dough. Heat the water, butter and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and bring the mixture to a boil. As soon as it boils and the butter has melted, add the flour. Stir like mad to incorporate the flour into the liquid. The dough will move from gelatinous goop to a shiny, cohesive ball that forms around the spoon as you stir. Continue stirring for 60 more seconds. This will cook the flour and remove its raw taste.
  3. Stir in the eggs. Spoon the dough ball into a clean bowl and let cool for two minutes. While the dough is still warm, heartily stir the eggs in one at a time. The dough will not accept the egg at first and look curdled, like spätzle. Continue stirring and eventually the egg will incorporate thoroughly into the dough. Add the other eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Then stir in the toasted coconut. Alternatively, you can use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment to beat in the eggs one at a time. Use a low speed to avoid beating extra air into the batter.
  4. Shape or pipe. Using two teaspoons or a small ice-cream scoop, place small mounds of dough about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. My small ice cream scoop (7/8 oz. capacity) yielded 20 puffs. Alternatively, you can pipe with dough onto the baking sheet. Just make sure you pipe a mound and not a flat disk.
  5.  Bake. Bake the puffs at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 10-20 more minutes, until puffs have risen and are golden brown.

Assemble the Toasted Coconut Cream Puffs

Toasted Coconut Pastry Cream, above
Cream Puffs, above
2 tablespoons toasted coconut (reserved from pastry cream above)
caramel sauce (optional)
melted chocolate (optional)

  1. Slice the top of the cream puffs off with a sharp knife and fill with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut pastry cream. Replace top. Alternatively, place the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Poke a hole in the bottom of each cream puff with the pastry tip and fill with pastry cream.
  2. Drizzle the cream puffs with caramel sauce or melted chocolate and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Serve.


Petite Breton Buckwheat Gâteaux

breton buckwheat gateauFor many people, 2012 is The Year of the Dragon. For me, 2012 has been The Year of All Things French. This comes as a pleasant surprise for me because until recently I had very little interest in France (gasp!). I have a suspicion this may be due to my German and British roots—two countries that weren’t always on the friendliest of terms with France. Take a look at what’s been keeping me busy these past six months, however, and there’s no denying that 2012 is for me The Year of All Things French: Sam and I took a conversational French class; we’ve watched French movies, such as Pocket Money, Blame it on Fidel (my favorite one so far) and Rue Paradis 588; we’ve scouted out the French restaurants in SF; and I’ve read books about France and French culture, including an excellent book of essays about Paris and Parisians, Paris, Paris, a Rick Steeve’s guide to Paris and David Lebovitz’s memoir of his life as a San Franciscan in Paris, The Sweet Life in Paris.

eggs and book pageIt was The Sweet Life in Paris that held the recipe for these Petite Breton Buckwheat Gâteaux. (Strictly speaking, I made them petite with my little tart pans; the recipe calls for making one large cake.) Ever since I first baked with buckwheat flour when I made Poppyseed Buckwheat Wafers last year, I have been enamored of its nutty flavor. When I found this recipe, I thought it would be a great way to try another buckwheat flour recipe and that the cake would travel well on the always-crowded bus to my French class potluck. It was a success on both accounts. The cake is dense, slightly sweet and has a lovely pop from the sea salt flakes on top. One of the things that sets the cake apart as truly European is the egg yolk glaze, which gives the cake a glossy appearance when cooked. Don’t wait for a special occasion to make this cake; it would be delicious any afternoon of the week with a cup of tea or coffee.

buckwheat flour and unbaked tartsIn case the name of the recipe is bit inscrutable, don’t worry, your resident French scholar is here to translate: Breton is the French word for the Brittany region in northern France, which is known for its buckwheat crepes, and Gâteau is the French word for cake. As for the recipe itself, I decided not to include it here because (1) I don’t have permission to reprint it and (2) the original recipe was so good that I thought adapting it or “making it my own” would detract from it. David Lebovitz did a great job with this cake, and he deserves full credit. But don’t worry—I won’t leave you hanging high and dry. The recipe is also available on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, where she had permission to reprint the recipe.

If you click over to 101 Cookbooks and read the ingredient list for the cake, you may notice that it does not call for a leavening agent, such as baking soda or powder. The second time I made this cake, I realized what causes the cake to rise: beating lots of air into the butter, sugar, and eggs.  When the recipe says to beat the butter, sugar and eggs until really airy, beat them longer than you think you should. And of course, using an electric mixer will save your arms (and your sanity).

buckwheat gateauAnd yes, we are planning to culminate The Year of All Things French with a trip to the City of Light this autumn. Suggestions and recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Merci!



espresso cupsThis week the only meal item more consistent than the lattes we’ve been drinking with breakfast are the homemade affogatos we’ve been making for dessert.  These grown-up ice cream floats are easy-peasy: scoop vanilla ice cream into a bowl, pull a shot of espresso and drown the ice cream in the hot espresso. Affogato means “drowned” in Italian, and once you pour the hot espresso over the ice cream, it’s easy to see how the dessert got its name. As the espresso crema melds with the sweetened cream of the ice cream, it creates a velvety and luxurious indulgence.

ice creamWe like to use Three Twins Madagascar Vanilla ice cream in our affogatos because it’s a creamy rather than icy ice cream. As for espresso, well, I’ll reveal the real reason we’ve been splurging on affogatos nearly every night: we bought a Nespresso machine last weekend. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this line of espresso machines, it uses a capsule system to brew espresso quickly and easily. I can hear the coffee purists (and romantics) groaning at the thought of a capsule system—and until last weekend, I did too. At first I felt guilty for using such an automated system. I use an electric toothbrush, read books on my iPad and now use an espresso machine that is as automated as it gets? Was this machine bringing me one step closer to the utterly unromantic food capsule system of The Jetsons?

affogato espresso poured over ice cream The more I thought about it, the more I began to feel a kinship with the characters in the Industrial Revolution-era mini series Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford, who shudder at how the imminent railway will change their quiet, close-knit communities. Today we’re already well into the technological revolution of the digital age, but how do we balance the new with the old? What do we hold on to and what do we let go?

History is the great teacher that helps us make sense of our current times, and if I look back to reactions to the Industrial Revolution, I think of the art nouveau movement. In reaction to the monotony of the mass produced art created by machines, the art nouveau artists sought inspiration in nature and infused their work with sinuous curves they saw in nature. If I look around me today, I can see people making concerted efforts to unplug from technology and relearn the forgotten arts of previous generations: handmade goods are popular, canning classes are popping up and the DIY movement is as strong as ever. I know I don’t want to live in the past—Midnight in Paris showed me the folly of that mindset—but I also don’t want to forget where I came from, so to speak. Perhaps the answer lies not in rejecting this or embracing that but in observing how the changes affect us and living intentionally in light of that. One thing’s for sure: this isn’t something I can solve in one blog post and package neatly with a bow. In the meantime, I’m going to say I can live with the more frequent affogato ritual.

affogato finishedAs far as I’m concerned, there’s no wrong or right way to make an affogato. Experiment with different flavors of ice cream (Sam likes cardamom ice cream) or adding a spoonful of amaretto or hazelnut liqueur. If you don’t have espresso readily available, use a strong, dark coffee.


1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
1 shot of hot espresso

Make the Affogato

Scoop the ice cream into a bowl, pour the espresso over the top and eat immediately.

Chocolate Beet Cake


cake stand

When I received Nigel Slater’s vegetable cookbook Tender for Christmas, I wasn’t expecting to discover dessert recipes within its pages. True, the carrot cake recipe didn’t strike me as unusual, but chocolate beet cake? That sounded a little odd—but also intriguing.

For those wary of introducing beets to the dessert hour, breathe easy. The beet flavor is barely discernible, and you could probably fool an unsuspecting eater into thinking there are no veggies here. The beets are an understated yet powerful ingredient, lending both moisture and a subtle depth of flavor to the cake. Make no mistake: though this cake contains vegetables, it does not purport to be healthy. After all, it’s got all the ingredients any decadent cake would have: two bars of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso, eggs, sugar, a bit of flour.

utensils and cake

I should also add that besides being an indulgence, this cake is also rather large. When I scooped the batter into the pan, I was a bit stunned by how it reached towards the brim, nearly filling the entire 9″ spring form pan. And when I took it out of the oven and it was still as big, though a tad sunken in center, I knew we had several days of cake eating ahead of us. I didn’t make this cake for any special occasion; I made it just to see how beets and chocolate fared together. I am pleased to report that beets are chocolate get along remarkably well. When you think about it, the earthiness of the beets complements the earthiness of the chocolate and espresso quite well. The cake has a slight red hue, and the deep chocolate flavor and fudge-like texture remind me of flourless chocolate cake and chocolate truffles but without being as sweet or dense.

Nigel Slater recommends serving the cake with crème fraîche, but since I had whipping cream on hand, that’s what we used. I followed his advice, though, for garnishing the cake with poppy seeds, and I’m so glad I did because the poppy seeds create a festive finish. The poppy seeds, whipped cream and honest flavors of the cake strike me as so European. In fact, I find myself wanting to take a four o’clock Kaffee und Kuchen break every day, like Caroline and I did when we visited Germany. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing; after all, there are vegetables in this cake.

chocolate beet cake slice

You can find the recipe for the cake here, where Nigel Slater first wrote about it for the UK newspaper The Telegraph. I decided not to repost the recipe because I want to abide by copyright laws, and to reprint a recipe I either have to adapt it or get permission. I couldn’t imagine altering this cake at all, so I trust you won’t mind clicking over to the recipe source if it has piqued your interest.  



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