5 1/2 cups all-purpose
flour, plus more for rolling/dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground
4 teaspoons ground
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon freshly
grated nutmeg (In my opinion, this little detail...freshly grated...makes a difference)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks (16
tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing for
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a
medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium high speed until
fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in
molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just
combined. Divide dough into 3 portions, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate
for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare heavy baking pans with
a piece of parchment paper on each.
Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto a cold, hard surface such as
marble or granite. (It does make a
difference). Roll a piece of dough to
about 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick. Brush off
excess flour. Cut out desired shapes.
Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets, and refrigerate for about 15
minutes. Remove from refrigerator, and
bake for about 10 to 12 minutes (less if using small cutters). The key is to watch the baking progress, and
being careful not to burn the edges. The
cookies should be firm, but finger soft when touched. Remove sheets from oven, and let cool in pans
on wire racks for one minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Decorate as desired; let dry completely before storing
between sheets of parchment at room temperature for up to one week. These cookies freeze beautifully.
Photo: Mini Gingerbread Men stand guard around my Gingerbread Cheesecake.
In celebration for the arrival of my first grandchild, a baby shower was held in March for my daughter-in-law. She asked me to make some goodies for the dessert table including an ombré cake with the ruffled frosting in soft shades of blue fading to cream. The cake itself was a butter white with a cannoli cream filling including mini chocolate chips, and flavored with a hint of orange zest. The ombre frosting was made from butter and cream cheese.
I decided to try Macarons for the first time, and after a few failed attempts, got the hang of the technique. My inconsistent oven didn't help, but they eventually turned out--forming the required "feet," and I filled them with chocolate and vanilla butter creams. Macarons are different from Coconut Macaroons. These are made with egg whites and almond flour; finely ground blanched almonds, and are a perfect gluten-free confection. They're not necessarily difficult for the experienced baker, but there are specific steps to follow that make them a bit more finicky than other meringue cookies.
The cookie treat bags were filled with Peanut Butter Shortbread, Vanilla Butter Cookies, and Cinnamon Biscotti. Just for fun, I also made Rice Krispie Lollypops dipped in blue-tinted chocolate.
Since it was a baby shower, I thought the little baby feet and quilted-covered bottom made from fondant would be a cute addition to the table. My son--the proud dad-to-be, bit the toes off when it arrived home. After it had been sitting in a box waiting for its display--not edible--purposes, it wasn't that tasty.
So here are a few pics, and how thrilled we all were when my grandson arrived the next week--4 weeks early. Being a Nonna is by far, the most amazing experience of my life.
My nephew and Godson, Brad celebrated his 40th birthday last May. I'm a day late and a dollar short adding this to my blog, but better late than never so they say. Time sure flies when life is happening. Well, of course Auntie Puma would make his cake. Two of them. And two dozen cupcakes. So now, the theme. Brad is a wonderful artist, so I decided to stick with that, but keep it somewhat whimsical. As I was modeling the fondant "supplies" for the decorations on his Pina Colada cake, thoughts of other favorites of Brad's ran through my head, and I realized I'd need more than one cake. A second, chocolate cake was now in order decorated with some fondant "signature" items. This is what I came up with. Brad loved both cakes, but I think the most fun was watching his daughter, Nikole, 7 at the time, and the other kids ripping the cakes apart, enjoying an edible paintbrush, sketch pad, and everything else. Hours in the making; decimated in seconds.
old-fashioned when it comes to desserts.
I love the traditional favorites, adding my own twist, sometimes
combining two flavors into one.
Serve with fresh fruit
of your choice...I've chosen blackberries, since I love the dark, contrasting
color and the crunch of the seeds. This tart was featured in ENCompass Magazine, Naples, FL Summer 2014
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ice-cold water
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
In the bowl of a food processor, place flour, sugar, lemon peel,
and extract. Process until
combined. Add egg yolk and butter; pulse
until butter is incorporated, but still shows pieces. Add water, and again process just until dough
Place dough on floured counter or floured wax paper; cover with
another piece of wax paper. Roll gently
into a 10" round, sprinkling with more flour if dough begins to stick. Carefully transfer dough to a 10" tart pan
with removable bottom, pressing gently to the edges of just the bottom of
pan. Prick generously all over the
bottom with the tines of a fork. Freeze
for 15 minutes.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to rack to cool.
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon
1/2 cup plus 2
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons unsalted
butter, cut into pieces
Whisk together zest, lemon
juice, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
Add butter all at once,
and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until
curd is thick enough to
hold marks of whisk and bubbles begin to appear on surface,
about 10 minutes.
Immediately pour curd through a fine sieve
into a bowl. Cover and
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, eggs, yolk, and flour until
smooth. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and coconut
to a simmer over medium heat. Gradually
add hot milk mixture to egg mixture whisking constantly. You don't want to add it all at once, or the
eggs will cook. Return mixture to
saucepan, and continuing to whisk constantly, cook for about 4 to 5 minutes or
until the cream thickens and begins to boil.
Pour into a stainless steel bowl, and press a sheet of plastic wrap
directly onto the mixture to prevent a skin forming. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to a
Spread about 1/2 cup lemon curd on top of tart shell; spread
gently and evenly. Spoon coconut cream
filling on top of lemon layer. Cover and
Top with whipped cream before serving; sprinkle with toasted
coconut. Remove tart from pan sides
right before serving.
To toast coconut: Spread
desired amount on a heavy baking sheet.
Place in center of preheated 350˚F. oven for about 5 minutes. Watch closely...coconut burns quickly!
For those who don't know, my nickname happens to be Puma. No...not the implication of "Cougar," but a name given to me about 39 years ago when my nephew, Brad, began to talk. My name sounded like, "Auntie Poomla," so it was shortened to Auntie Puma. I've been Puma ever since, and I love it.
Back to the kitchen. I LOVE a great burger. And if there's cheese and sauteed onions involved, well...what can I say? So, I had the urge tonight. Went to Trader Joe's; picked up a million or so items to include ground beef, arugula, a brilliant cheese: Cheddar with Italian Truffles. Really? There IS such a thing? Honestly, I love truffles...truffle oil...just the name. I once had a Parakeet named Truffles. But, as I always do....I digress.
Eric and Moireen sent me an incredible sampler gift they purchased at a great place they visited called, "O & Co." Check it out at "www.oliversandco.com"
My menu tonight:
Arugula Salad with a Fresh Lemon Juice, Honey, and Olive & Basil Oil
Beef Burger with Sauteed Onions and Cheddar and Italian Truffles Cheese...OMG
I really must brag about this place. But first, a thing or two. Adam and I went to the movies tonight...saw "Saving Mr. Banks." Well, as Disney lovers...taking our pilgrimage to the land of mouse ears and goofy dogs many times over the past years, I was thrilled that my 28-year-old son would indulge his mother and see this flick. Well, it was nostalgic, sentimental (is that redundant?), and funny. We enjoyed the movie, even the guy snoring in the seat next to us. What can I say? We're odd that way. So, post movie, where to go? Well, I hadn't seen John at C Level in quite a while (shame on me!), so, we headed to Bonita.
Never a disappointment, John was out among his adoring fans when we arrived, and gave us a warm welcome. We sat at the bar; ordered a drink or two; then studied the menu. Adam decided on the Grouper; I chose the Sea Scallops. Well.........can I say, "Yum, yum, and yum?" Yes, I can, and I did. Not only did these plates look like works of art, they tasted SPECTACULAR!
If you haven't visited this gem of an eatery, please add it to your list! I'm seriously upset that we didn't take a selfie. I think the glorious food completely sidetracked us......
I love curry and ginger and think this broth adds such an exotic flavor to chicken soup even though I'm usually the first to say, "Make your own stock for soups...don't use processed, etc., etc." But I love this product! The cream adds richness...the leeks add an additional depth of flavor. Of course the beauty of making your own soup is that you can create your own signature flavors.
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, keep refrigerated until ready to use
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 leeks, cleaned well; sliced thin (mostly white part only--discard tougher green)
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 tablespoons flour
32 oz. Swanson Thai ginger broth
2 cups skim milk
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup chopped)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
Salt (I use sea salt) & freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Crushed red pepper to taste, optional
In a large stockpot, melt 4 tablespoons butter and one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, leeks, carrots, and onions, turning heat to medium-high and saute' until vegetables begin to tenderize, about 3-5 minutes being careful not to burn. Lower heat if necessary. Stir in flour, and combine well, stirring constantly, about a minute and a half. Slowly pour in broth and milk while continuing to stir or whisk until liquid incorporates the flour smoothly. Add potatoes, carrots, parsley, celery seed, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender; about 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime, melt remaining butter with olive oil in a large saute' pan; add chicken pieces, and saute' until nicely browned. Add lemon juice to deglaze pan. Remove from heat.
When potatoes and carrots are tender, add peas and heavy cream; stir to combine all, then add cooked chicken and crushed red pepper if desired. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.