Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy

13 April 13

Well, yeah, if she follows this recipe she can.

1 pie Crust
1 pie Top (optional)
675 g cherries, fresh or frozen (1-1/2 lb.)
160 g sugar (2/3 cup)
110 g water
30 g lemon juice (2 Tbs)
36 g cornstarch (4 Tbs)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Slice of Cherry Pie

Slice of Cherry Pie

For the crust: Make (or buy) a single pie shell for an un-topped pie, or two shells for a covered pie. If you buy them they usually come 2 to a pack. That’s all a matter of what you like. I don’t care for covered pies, too much pastry. On the other side, herself does like them for some odd reason. So – follow what you like. If you make the crust do a quick pre-bake with a chain or some hard beans in the bottom shell. If using a store-bought crust this is not necessary.

For the filling: With fresh cherries be sure to wash, stem and pit. Take a taste and adjust the sugar if they are especially tart. This isn’t usually necessary if using the frozen jobbies, and they are already stemmed and pitted. Put the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch into a pot big enough to allow some stirring room. Apply a reasonable amount of heat and stir often. Things will probably come to a boil if using fresh cherries. Frozen seem to thicken up before there is a real boil. Don’t worry about things starting up looking a little shy on water. Just keep a close eye on things. As usual, when fruit and sugar are involved with a little heat the liquid increases. Stir and heat until things thicken up a good bit and the cherries soften. Add the extract if you like.

Let the filling cool a little bit and spoon into the shell. Allow for a little expansion as things get hot. Also be aware that there will be just a little shrinkage as things cool back down after cooking. If you are going to put a lid on the pie now is the time. Slash or cut out some pretty shapes for steam vents or you will have a mess. Crimp the top in place. Whether topped or not, cover the edge with foil. (Actually I use a neat silicon edge protector.) Used to be you could tell who made which topped pie by the design in the top. The crimp pattern around the edge was also a good identifier.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, then pull the foil or edge protector off and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes untill the whole crust is a nice golden brown.

If you want a really glossy finish for any topped pie just brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking.


Banana Bread

27 September 12
300 g bananas – large and ripe, mashed (1cup) – (about 2 large bananas)
450 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
5 g baking soda (1 tsp)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
1 stick unsalted butter
220 g sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
100 g milk (1/3 cup)
4 g lemon juice (1 tsp)
75 g chopped nuts (1/4 cup)

The simple way is to put the bananas in the mixer bowl first, then the rest except the nuts. Mix with a paddle on low speed until smooth. This only takes a minute or two with a good mixer.

Now the old (and harder) way is to cream the wet ingredients together, then sift and mix all the dry ingredients together, and add about a cup at a time to the wet mix, blending well, until all the dry stuff has been added and blended. You can use a mixer or go by hand for this method.


bananas (Photo credit: Fernando Stankuns)

Add the nuts and blend them in. Herself is a big fan of pecans, but suit yourself. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 standard pan.

Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour or until center springs back when pressed lightly.

I think everyone knows that this is what you can do with over-ripe (blackened) bananas. Fortunately, this is also pretty good dessert. Goes well heated with some butter, or room temp with whipped cream.

What’s in a Name?

19 November 11
Apple Cobbler.

Apple Cobbler Image via Wikipedia

Herself wanted to know what the difference was between a cobbler (which I make fairly often) and a grunt (I seldom do those).

Well – here are a few definitions:

Betty: A Betty is made with buttered bread crumbs. The one we’ve all heard about is the Apple Brown Betty, and this is the real way to make one:

4 slices white sandwich bread, tear into

large pieces or 2 cups coarse bread crumbs

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
6 apples peeled & cored & sectioned

into 8 pieces (Galas or Fujis do well)

2 Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream

Oven to 375°F.

Chop up the bread by pulsing in a food processor until you get coarse crumbs.  Spread out the crumbs on a jelly roll pan (you really want those rims). Bake until a nice light gold brown – maybe 10 minutes. Cool completely, put into a bowl, add butter and toss or mix until completely coated.

Put apples, lemon juice (which keeps the apples from browning), sugar, spices, and half the breadcrumbs. Put into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Cover with the other half of the breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until breadcrumbs are brown, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on things. Stage 1 is over when the apples are fork tender and stage 2 is complete when the top is golden brown.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon if you like.

Buckle: The buckle is a kinda layer cake of a sort. The bottom layer is a cake. The middle layer is some kind of fruit filling, the top layer is crumbly. Some combine a couple of the layers together. Here’s a genuine Pennsylvania Blueberry Buckle:

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter

Oven to 375°F.


Use a good mixer unless you are a manual nut. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg. Mix in the rest. Gently fold in the blueberries. (This is one of those that combine the first two layers.) Pour into a buttered square baking pan – about a 9 incher.


Do the topping by hand. Mix up the sugar, flour and cinnamon, then cut in the butter until you have a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the topping over the mixture. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Use the toothpick test near the center. Cool it on a wire rack before cutting.

Cobbler: The cobbler is filling and crust melded together into a single layer. Here’s a peach cobbler:

500 g peaches
210 g sugar (1 cup)
150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
4 g salt (1/2 tsp)
245 g milk (1 cup)
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
Cream, whipped cream or

ice cream, if desired

Over to 375°F

—– Fruit —–

Blanche peaches for 1 minute, ice bath for 1 minute, slip peeling off fruit. Pit and cube. In a saucepan simmer with sugar and 70g (1/3 cup) water for 10 minute, stir often.

—– Crust —–

Mix together everything except the melted butter. Mix in the butter last. Spread in an ungreased 2 quart shallow pan. Spoon crust batter into the pan, then spread the fruit mix over the crust.

Bake 375°F 45 minutes or until the dough rises above the fruit and is golden brown.

Whipped cream or ice cream and a little cinnamon are good.

Crumbles and Crisps are pretty much the same animal. The technique resembles the topping of the buckle. The crumble can be sweet or savory. The sweet is the more common. A layer of stewed fruit has a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar sprinkled over it. For the savory variety (not usually seen outside England) use a base of meat and a topping of butter, flour and shredded cheese. Crumbles are a very recent invention – as in WWII – because the flour needed to make pies and such was so heavily rationed. By putting a crumbly crust on the top the amount of flour needed is cut by about 70% or so. I’m not going to bother with a recipe. If you want to make one just stew some fruit until it develops a bit of syrup, about 10 minutes. Put it in a buttered dish and sprinkle a crumbly crust make from cutting cold butter into a little flour and sugar until it is mealy.

Grunts are another upside down variety. A biscuit crust is put over a stewed fruit base. Similar to any of the rest. {{Herself Sez: I did some Google searching myself. The thing that tickled my funny bone is the description of the Grunt: “thought to be a description of the sound the berries make as they stew!” There is also a “Slump” which was simply another name for the Grunt. Very confusing until you let your research sort of cook down in your fevered brain!}}

Pandowdy – another one of the crust on top variety. Standard pie type crust is placed on top. Winds up being kind of like a standard covered pie without the bottom crust.

You may get the feeling that I don’t fool much with the last few since I didn’t bother to give you a recipe. You would be correct. They are very easy to do and you can either figure them out with about 5 seconds thought or look up a recipe on the net.

Crème Brûlée and No BS

20 May 10

This is one of those dishes that snazzy restaurants like to serve and tony people like to order because of the mystique. But let us de-mystify this dish. First off – it is only a rich custard with a caramelized sugar topping. That’s all – folks. The bs came about with the using a torch to dramatically melt the topping. You don’t need a torch or anything else special – just an oven. The history of these is cloudy and fairly far back. At least the first cookbook reference seems to be 1691 or so. Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois by François Massialot to be reasonable accurate.


6 egg yolks
50 g white sugar (4 Tbs)
3 g vanilla extract (1/2 tsp)
575 g heavy cream (2-1/2 cups)


25 g brown sugar (2 Tbs)
25 g white sugar (2 Tbs)

—– Custard —–

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Start heating water in a double boiler.

Use a good mixer with a whisk beater and beat the egg yolks for a few seconds – they will thicken a bit. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk on a fairly high speed for enough time to thicken and become creamy (not long).

Warm the cream in a saucepan over low heat until it almost boils – but not quite. Slowly add the warm cream to the egg mixture stirring on low speed. Give it a few seconds more until all is well combined.

When the double boiler is ready pour the mixture into the top and stir gently over the simmering water until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will probably take between three and five minutes. Remove from heat and pour an even amount into 5 ramekins.

Bake for 30 minutes. It will not be fully set – but don’t go by appearance. Let it cool to room temp and then stick into the refrigerator overnight.

—– Topping —–

Blend the sugars together and evenly distribute over the custards. You can get good coverage by gently rubbing your fingers around the top of the custard getting a nice even coating. Don’t press heavily enough to mash the sugar into the custard.

Now for bs elimination round. Sure – you can make a big deal out of hitting the sugar topping with a torch. You can even get ridiculous and get a torch which is only used for this one purpose. You don’t need this touch of pretension and extra expense. Just preheat the broiler of your oven and run the custards in for a few minutes until the sugar bubbles and darkens a bit – caramelized, as it were. Don’t let it burn dark. Take it out and cool to room temp. You can refrigerate or not at this point. You don’t need to unless the custard got hot enough to liquefy and needs resetting.

This is actually pretty simple – enjoy with no bs factor.

Bananas Foster

9 March 10
Bananas Foster at Brennan's Restaurant, New Or...

Image via Wikipedia

In the 1950’s the famous New Orleans Brennen’s Restaurant chef Paul Blangé created this decadently tasty goody and named it after one of the New Orleans biggies: Richard Foster.

½ stick unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, quartered: in half crosswise , then lengthwise
¼ Cup dark rum
8 scoops vanilla ice cream

You will want a good non-stick skillet for this as it really makes a sticky mess. Get the butter melted but not overly hot and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Using low heat stir gently until the sugar dissolves. You may need to up the heat a bit if things are not working right, but don’t go much at a time. Stir in the banana liqueur and then place the bananas in the pan and scoop liquid up over them. Cook gently until the bananas soften. Remove from the fire and pour the rum carefully over everything. Place back on the heat and strike a stick lighter to flame the rum. If you are practiced and/or gutsy and/or just nuts then you can get the flame by just tilting the skillet over the burner. This is also likely to make a large mess – so I usually just use a stick lighter.

When the flames go out then scoop four pieces of banana and ¼ of the juice over each bowl of ice cream. Be sure to use a really good grade of French Vanilla the first time you try this. After that – just be guided by your own decadent taste buds.

This must be made and served immediately. It will not keep for any time at all. If you want to be really impressive get out your chafing dish and make it at the table (or get your butler to do it). {{Herself Sez: O Bunter, Where Art Thou?}}

This serves four. It is totally rich and delicious. It is not very difficult to make nor is it really all that expensive. Banana liqueur is not terribly expensive. Hercule Poirot drinks it before dinner in Hickory Dickory Dock, but that really is a bit much for me and I tend to reflect Chief Inspector Japp’s attitude about it.

Basic Cobblers –

24 September 09

Cobblers are mostly US and UK in usage. ‘Course the Brits don’t mean the same as we do by the word. What was that about two peoples separated by a common language? Methinks that G.B. Shaw had it right. Anyway – to the American a cobbler is a desert with the crust on the bottom and usually some kind of very sweet fruit mix through which the crust rises and mingles as it cooks. You wind up with a nice brownish crust on top and a kinda’ dumpling sort of consistency through the middle of the goodie.

The Brits mean a meat pie or casserole sort of thing with a Cobbler – or biscuit – scone-like kind of topping. The Brits are starting now to realize that fruit fillings are also a good thing – but they mostly still put the crust only on the top.

The American cobbler has had many variations over the past couple of centuries: Grunt, Sonker, Betty, Buckle, Slump – and so on. Mostly a New England sort of thing in the beginning – but it has spread all over the country.

There is some disagreement as to whether Yankee flour – such as King Arthur – or Southern flour – such as Martha White – does better. A matter of personal taste, in my opinion. Get a bit more rise out of the King Arthur, which I like. Suit yourself and just use whatever you have handy in the way of an all-purpose type. If it is the old-fashioned Self-Rising Southern type then leave out the baking powder.


340 g fruit (2-1/2 cups)
210 g sugar (1 cup)


150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
8 g baking powder (2 tsp)
4 g salt (1/2 tsp)
245 g milk (1 cup)
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
Cream, whipped cream or ice cream, if desired

—– Fruit —–

Most Berries: Stir together berries and sugar in a bowl big enough to hold them. Let stand about 20 minutes and then stir again gently. You should see a bit of syrup which has formed. Works fine for Blackberries, strawberries and the like. May not work for blueberries – I haven’t tested them yet.

Peaches: Blanche for 1 minute, then plunge in an ice bath for 1 minute. Peel, pit, cube or slice. Boil with sugar and 70g (1/3 cup) water, Simmer for 10 minutes. You can add a bit of cinnamon or whatever else tickles your taste.

Apples: Core, peel, slice. Use brown sugar. Can be boiled and simmered or mixed with crust. Cinnamon is pretty good with apples.


Mix flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Add the butter and stir just until blended. Pour into an ungreased pan big enough to hold everything with some room at the top. Spoon the fruit mixture over the batter.

Bake at 375°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until the dough rises through the fruit and is golden. I usually set the pan on top of a jelly-roll pan covered with aluminum foil. Otherwise a mess is had by all when the sugary fruit mix boils over the sides. An oven cleaning is then in order – NOT my favorite kitchen activity.

Serve warm with cream. Or with ice cream. Can be stored in the fridge and re-heated. Heat up in a 350°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

You can up to double the fruit filling if you want more fruit to crust ratio. You can adjust the sugar down if it is too much for you. Being a very traditional Southerner I like my peach or apple cobbler fairly sweet – but suit yourself.

Strawberry Shortcake

2 September 09

This is an old-fashioned kind of dessert. The cake is not a cake. It is shortbread or shortcake to Americans or scone to Brits. What that means is a basic biscuit that is leavened by baking powder. The ingredients are not really blended, they are cut together – an entirely different proposition.


300 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
12 g baking powder (1Tbs)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
38 g sugar (3 Tbs)
1 stick butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
150 g heavy cream (3/4 cup)


1 quart strawberries
72 g sugar (1/3 cup)


230 g heavy cream (1 cup)
50 g sugar (1/4 cup)
7 g vanilla (1 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set rack at mid-level.

—– Filling: —–

Rinse and drain the berries, hull and slice. To hull means to remove the green at the top of the berry. If you are worried about getting every last bit of strawberry goodie, then pick them off. I don’t usually bother, I just whack the top of the berry off, then turn and slice. A whole lot faster and you don’t really lose that much strawberry compared to the time and effort you save. When you have the berries sliced up sprinkle the sugar over them, cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Overnight is ok).

—– Biscuits: —–

Mix up all the dry ingredients in a fairly large bowl. All you really need to do is swirl everything around with your fingers thoroughly. Cut the butter into the mix with a pastry blender until the butter/flour mix resembles pea sized gravel. If you do not have a pastry blender – they are cheap and plentiful – popular lore has it that you can use two dull knives. I find that awkward to say the least. Bare hands would probably work better. Do NOT make the classic mistake of over blending. This is a biscuit (scone) – NOT a roll or bread. Make a well in the center of the mix and add the heavy cream, stirring it in with a fork until all the flour/butter is moist. Don’t over mix. If necessary add a little more cream.

Let the mix stand for about 5 minutes, then pour it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold and press 3 to 4 time until the mix starts holding together. You may find it beneficial to use the heel of the hand and the wrist rather than fingers or palm. The heel generates less heat into the mix and you don’t want to melt the butter.

Pat it out about ¾” thick or so and cut 3” circles out with a round cutter. You should be able to get 8 out of this dough. Put them on a cookie sheet – either non-stick or greased – brush the top with cream and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes or until they rise and are slightly browned.

Gently split and butter while they are still warm. A serrated knife works best – these are quite crumbly. {{Herself Sez: OR you can split them using a fork – as with English Muffins.}} Put about 1/3 cup strawberries in each biscuit, put the tops back on. Add a tablespoon or so of strawberries to the top, then cover with the whipped cream topping. Be sure to get some of the strawberry liquid from the bottom of the bowl dribbled over each biscuit.

—– Topping: —–

Whip the cream until almost stiff. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until cream holds peaks.

If you are not going to serve immediately the strawberries and the whipped cream will refrigerate nicely. Just assemble as many shortcakes as you need just before serving.

{{Herself Sez: Lots of Yummy Sounds for this one!}}

The Best Brownie You’ll Ever Taste

30 August 09

Herself used to say that the brownies that you made from the box were as good as it could get. There was therefore no need to make them from scratch. She no longer says this.

{{HERSELF SEZ: Lots and lots of Yummy Sounds!!}}

8 – 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
5 eggs
600 g sugar (3 cups)
12 g vanilla (1 Tbs)
230 g flour (1-1/2 cups)
7 g salt (1 tsp)
250 g chopped pecans or walnuts toasted (2-1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lube a 9 x 13 pan with your favorite grease. I like unsalted butter.

The easiest way to melt the chocolate and butter is in a double boiler. Put enough water in the bottom pot to do some good, but just shy of touching the top pot when it is seated. Plop the butter and chocolate into the top pot and set it on the bottom pot when the water is boiling. Reduce the heat enough to keep the water boiling without getting it all over the place. Stir the chocolate and butter fairly frequently. When it is completely melted and smooth take it off the heat.

While the chocolate and butter melt set up a mixer and beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla at as high a speed as you can get without a mess. Usually works out to a 4 or 5 on my Kitchenaid. You want to just let it run for about 10 minutes. Yea, I know that this sounds excessive, but you will notice a definite color and texture change about 6 to 8 minutes into this. I would hate to do this by hand!

When the chocolate and the sugar/butter are ready, add the flour and salt to the butter/sugar and mix briefly. Add the chocolate melt in small batches, then add the nuts.

Dump everything into the pan and then bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 375°F.

Resist temptation and do NOT cut it until it has cooled off. Some nice home-made whipped cream goes well with this.

Monkey Bread –

29 March 08

This sticky sweet yeast bread dessert was first popularized in America by the women’s magazines of the 1950s. Nancy Reagan brought about a resurgence of popularity when she served it at the White House during the Reagan Presidency.Most people have had it made from canned biscuits. The real thing is far superior and not at all difficult.

This is wonderful fresh from the oven. It is not bad reheated.

First, make the dough:

305 grams milk – hot but not scalded. (1-1/3 cups)
57 grams unsalted butter (4 Tbs), cut into pieces
50 grams sugar (1/4 cup)
1 package yeast (do not use rapid-rise)
55 grams 110°F water (1/4 cup) (for blooming yeast)
2 large eggs, room temp
750 grams flour (5 cups)
14 grams salt (2 tsp)

I suppose you could use the paddle on your mixture for the first couple of steps, but I’m too lazy to wash something else, so I just use the dough hook for the whole thing. If you don’t have a good mixer then have fun with the mixing and kneading.

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Mix the milk, sugar and butter 2 minutes low speed. After the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm add the yeast mix, eggs and stir on low speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and the flour Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Mix on second speed for 3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.

Butter up a good sized bundt pan (at least 12 cup). Don’t use anything else, a tube pan will not work, nor will anything else that has a removable insert.


1/3 cup brown sugar – most use light
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
good handful of chopped pecans (around ½ cup)

Heat up the brown sugar, butter and cream, stir continuously. Just as it comes to the boil, pour it around the bottom of the bundt pan evenly. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the glaze. Be sure to get nice, even coverage.

The dough should be risen by now. Cut off golf ball sized pieces and roll into balls. Set aside.


handful of chopped pecans (about 1/2 cup)
¾ stick melted unsalted butter (5 to 6 Tbs)
Enough sugar to coat (about ¾ cup)

Pour the melted butter into one dish and the sugar into another. Roll each dough ball in the butter and then the sugar and then place them into the bundt pan.

When you are about halfway up the pan sprinkle the pecans. Keep adding layers of coated balls until you reach 2/3 to ¾ of the way up the pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 45 minutes. Flip the bread out onto a cooling rack. There will probably be some coating and nuts in the bottom of the pan. Spoon out onto the bread immediately.

Let it cool for at least 20 minutes and then enjoy while warm.

Herself Sez: O Yeah! Made with dark brown sugar, oodles of pecans and lots of butter – yummm!! Fingers get sticky and greasy – you just gotta lick ’em off! And then it takes a washcloth to  take care of your face!! This is wonderful stuff! But I warn you, a whole loaf is just too much for two people – even 1/2 a loaf is too much for the two of us. We usually end up giving away about 3/4 of the loaf to friends (the grandchildren are mostly non-sugar kids at this point, so we don’t even offer it to them). The Ol’ Curmudgeon only makes it when we have people in mind to give the majority of it to – so it won’t go to waste (or to waist!).

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