Category Archives: Dessert

Eating Well and Sharing the Love with Mom

Gougeres_Foodie for TwoI bet you wonder what I have been up to, huh?  Well, in January I visited Phoenix and spent Super Bowl Sunday with Mom.  After spending a few days with my sister, it was Mom’s turn.  When we all arrived, we were greeted with mouth-watering smells drifting out from the kitchen.  Mom had made some Gougeres (small, delicate cheese puffs – recipe below) that were flavored with smoked Gruyere and rosemary and still hot from the oven!  We opened a bottle of Prosecco, toasted each other and sipped while we savored every bite of the gougeres.  Mom and I had already decided our menu before I came out and it wasn’t the traditional Super Bowl fare.  Instead, we planned out a fun menu with a gourmet flair:

Gougeres with Smoked Gruyere & Rosemary – Ponte Prosecco

Castelvetrano Olives

Baby Greens with Warm Brie & Apples and Toasted Bread

Grilled Chicken & Vegetable Skewers

Boston Cream Pie

The fun didn’t end there – the next evening we attended a glass making class at Circle 6 where we made heart shaped paperweights.  It was fun and scary at the same time because I was working with red-hot material (always under the protective guidance of the experts).

Circle 6_Foodie for TwoAfter collecting some molten glass on the end of an iron rod, it is moved over to the always-fired-up furnace (protective eyewear required) and continuously rolled, the rod is removed and the glob is rolled in color chips, and it is heated again.  Then you move to a seat so you can knead the glass a few times with large tweezers to mix the colors.  The glass glob is transferred to a mold, pressed down, released and transferred to a kiln to fire.  It was a blast.  Mom and I actually swapped paperweights because I liked how her colors came out better than mine.  It’s now on my desk at work as a reminder of my visit.

Now, back to our Sunday Super Bowl menu ……….

Brie, Honey & Pistachios_Foodie for TwoOur first course was an incredible salad of Baby Greens with Warm Brie & Apples (adapted from Barefoot Contessa recipe).  It’s easy to put together with brie wedges that are drizzled with honey and chopped pistachios, then heated in the oven until soft and almost oozing.  The baby greens are simply dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper, and the warm cheese tops the salad.  Toasted French bread slices make for the perfect scoops and add just the right crunch.

Warm Brie Salad_Foodie for Two

Dinner was simple with chicken and vegetable (yellow bell pepper, red onion and cherub cherry tomatoes) skewers.  We marinated the chicken in a mixture of olive oil, white wine, honey, garlic, salt and pepper.  After we were done assembling the skewers, the sauce was drizzled over for extra flavor while cooking.

Chicken & Veggie Skewers_Foodie for Two

It was delicious and the perfect light finish to the meal.

Dinner_Chicken Skewers_Foodie for Two

My childhood favorite dessert is Boston Cream Pie and Mom makes the best!  In fact, it was usually my birthday cake when I was a kid.  Straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook, it is a white cake filled with homemade vanilla pudding and topped with a thick chocolate icing.  It is a treat for me because I can’t seem to make the cake at this altitude, so it’s not often that I get to enjoy it.  I wish I could dig into a piece right now!

Boston Cream Pie_Filling_Foodie for TwoHere are some action shots of Mom adding the homemade pudding to the cake (above), and covering it with chocolate goodness (below).

Boston Cream Pie_Top & Icing_Foodie for Two

Boston Cream Pie_Icing_Foodie for Two

Logo Foodie for TwoEat well and share the love!

Gougeres with Smoked Gruyere & Rosemary (print)
Adapted by Mom from About.com/Rebecca Franklin
Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes / Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup water
8 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups Smoked Gruyere cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring water, butter, and salt to a rapid, rolling boil. Make sure all the butter is melted, and then add flour. Stir the mixture for 20-30 seconds, until a sticky dough ball forms and begins pulling away from the sides of the pan. Reduce heat to low-medium heat and cook, stirring, for 90 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, along with cheeses, seasonings and rosemary. Place heaping teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. The gougeres are done when they are a deep golden brown and puffed.

Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and serve immediately.

Olive Jar & Olive Spoon_Foodie for TwoA surprise gift from Mom – a beautiful jar filled with Castelvetrano olives and an olive spoon attached!

La Bête Noire: An Elegant, Decadent & Unforgettable Chocolate Dessert

La Bête NoireJust one bite of this amazingly fudgy, impossibly creamy, positively addicting cake is proof positive of the healing power of chocolate.” 
Bon Appetit magazine, September 2006

On this Christmas Eve, I have a quick post for you that is all chocolate.  My bookshelf holds a well-used issue of a Bon Appetit magazine; the cover shot features a piece of the most decadent, rich and fudgy flourless chocolate cake that is aptly named La Bête Noire, which translates to “The Black Beast”.  I have served it many times for special occasions and it never disappoints.  This year it was the perfect finale for a Christmas dinner feast with friends.  The bottom layer of the cake consists of a flourless chocolate cake and to make it even more luxurious, a layer of ganache (cream and chocolate) is spread over the top. Whether it’s for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a Birthday or Dinner party, La Bête Noire is one of my favorite elegant desserts.  Someday when I find a 5” springform pan I may reduce the recipe by half, but for now I always make the full recipe of 16 slices of chocolate heaven.

The recipe may seem daunting, but it’s fairly simple to make as you can see below.  It’s not included in this post but you can easily view and print the recipe here. To get started, you’ll need to prepare the springform pan for a bain marie, or water bath.  Three pieces of foil are wrapped around the sides, which help protect the batter from the water and provide insulation during cooking.Foil-wrap the springform pan_Text

For the batter, I melt the butter first and then stir in the chocolate for easier melting.  I used 12 ounces (about 2 cups) of 60% cacao chocolate chips and 6 ounces (about 1 cup) of semi-sweet chips.Cake Batter_ Melted Butter & Chocolate

Simple syrup is whisked in and then some eggs – the batter is done and ready to be poured into the pan.Finished Batter

A classic cooking method, the recipe uses a bain marie, or water bath, to cook the delicate cake.  Now you can see why so much foil is needed around the springform pan.
Place the springform pan in the bottom of a large roasting pan, pour the batter into the springform pan and then pour hot water into the roasting pan, enough so it reaches halfway up the side of the cake pan.  Bake for 50 minutes.Cake Batter in Bain Marie

After cooking, the foil is removed from the sides and the cake cools completely.Bottom Layer_Cooling

The decadent finish: a layer of Ganache is spread over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight.

Pour Ganache over Cake

Serve with fresh whipped cream (if you have on hand, use a fresh vanilla bean for more flavor!) and savor every bite.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I hope your celebrations are filled with chocolate, love, peace, joy and happy times.

Eat well and share the love!Logo Foodie for Two

Snow in DecemberWe’re excited that snow is in the forecast this Christmas Eve, plus we’re expecting a White Christmas tomorrow!  And thankfully, after being without heat for the last five days, our heater is being replaced this afternoon – sweet.

Moroccan Mint Tea & A Cookie With Many Names

A cookie with many names…….Growing up in the Southwest, we called them Mexican wedding cookies – a melt in your mouth buttery, shortbread-like cookie with a sweet, nutty flavor.  They are also known as Russian Tea Cake, Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop and Viennese Sugar Ball.  In the September 2012 issue of Food & Wine there is a version called walnut snowball cookies; it is just one of several recipes from two friends born in Jerusalem who are chefs and restaurant owners in London, and releasing a new cookbook inspired by their home country.  When I saw the beautifully photographed plate of cookies, I was inspired to get baking and indulge my sweet tooth!  My next thought was how wonderful our family recipe for Moroccan Mint Tea would be with this can’t-eat-just-one cookie.  I was also sold because the recipe uses some fresh vanilla bean, which always promises full vanilla flavor.  The hot, sweet mint tea proved to be the perfect pairing with the cookies.

The walnut snowball cookies tasted even better than I remembered (the vanilla bean really does make a flavor difference), and the recipe is easy to prepare.  I made a few modifications to the F&W recipe: increased oven temp by 25 degrees, added water in order to get dough to come together and used a hand-mixer instead of upright mixer (the first two were probably due to our high altitude and the low humidity) – the recipe below includes my changes.  I also reduced the recipe by half, for a yield of about 20 cookies.  Trust me; you’ll want extras of these addicting little cookies. In fact, this post was supposed to be for last week but we ended up eating most of the cookies (among other photo mishaps) before I got my main photograph!  The plate just didn’t look right with only 6 cookies on it, so I made up another batch the next day and got out the camera again.

My family’s beautiful Moroccan tea pot held countless glasses of mint tea when we were growing up; I am glad I ended with up with this heirloom!  We lived in Kenitra, Morocco (outside Rabat) for a few years in the early 1970’s while my father was stationed there with the Navy; as a young child, it was a cultural experience that opened my eyes in many ways.  We lived for a short time in the middle of the city, in a villa surrounded with high walls.  The large yard held a garden, including mint plants – it was in this garden where we discovered as kids how delicious the honeysuckle flower nectar tasted fresh off the vine.  For her Moroccan Mint Tea, I remember Mom snipping off several sprigs of mint, adding them to the tea pot filled with sugar and tea leaves, and then the fragrant aromas when the hot water was added.

It’s been a while since we made a pot of tea so I had to call Mom to get the official family recipe.  Loose black tea leaves (didn’t have any hand so I got permission to use a tea bag instead; gunpowder green tea also shown in picture with tea bag), sugar and whole mint sprigs are added to the tea pot and hot water is poured over it all.  The mixture steeps for 5 minutes and after a taste for sweetness, it is ready to enjoy.

The Moroccan Mint Tea and walnut snowball cookies will definitely be served together in our house again, and again.

Eat well and share the love!

Moroccan Mint Tea with Walnut Snowball Cookies   (print recipe)
Original Cookie Recipe: Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi
Cookie Recipe Adapted by: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes about 20 cookies (adapted recipe is halved from original; recipe can be doubled)

Moroccan Mint Tea
Serves 2, makes 3 cups

Ingredients:
1 tea bag (black tea) or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
3 whole mint sprigs
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups steaming hot water

Directions:
Add the sugar to a tea pot or serving pitcher; add the mint sprigs and tea, and pour hot water over mixture. Stir a few times to dissolve the sugar and close the tea pot lid (or cover up pitcher). Let steep for 5 minutes. Serve hot; pour into glasses tableside.

Walnut Snowball Cookies
Ingredients:
¾ cup walnuts (3 ounces)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
½ cup, plus 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cold water

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts on the baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Add the butter and vanilla to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Using a hand-mixer beat the butter with the vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. At low speed, mix in the salt, then gradually add the flour, 2 teaspoons water and walnuts and beat just until the cookie dough comes together, scraping down the side of the bowl halfway through.

Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for about 17 minutes, until they are lightly browned on the bottom; rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies firm up on the sheets, about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool slightly.

Put the remaining 2/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar to coat and return to the rack to cool completely. Roll again in the sugar.

v  Make Ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


A late-summer sale that I couldn’t resist: These zinnias are happy in the indirect sun and continue to bloom. They are a welcome sight to the almost spent flowers and changing colors of Fall around us.

Cantaloupe & Cambozola Cheese: Inspiration from a Supper Club

Have you ever heard of a pop-up dinner, underground dinner or supper club?   Denver has several – they are invitation-only dinners organized by local chefs who want to share the love and showcase some of their culinary skills. Earlier this month we were lucky enough to get picked for a Noble Swine Supper Club dinner.  It was our second dinner with the friendly crew (and the second time I forgot my camera!) who create and serve a culinary feast for about 30 people.  Today I was inspired to recreate a simple but flavorful course from their dinner menu: musk melon (from the Boulder Farmer’s Market) dotted with French blue cheese, and paired with an Italian Moscato.  I used a regular cantaloupe and one of my favorite blue’s, Cambozola (more on this cheese in a bit). This dish is simply prepared with cubed, market-fresh cantaloupe and a strong, creamy blue, finished off with fresh-cracked pepper, fresh thyme leaves and a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  The sweet, juicy melon is a wonderful contrast against the creamy, rich Cambozola cheese and the pepper adds an unexpected brightness.  With the Moscato, it was the perfect end to the meal!

More about the supper club: The Noble Swine team changes location for each dinner, where one long table is set up, nametags organize the seating and guests get to enjoy a meticulously prepared 5 to 6-course meal paired with several different wines.  This is an intimate dinner experience with locally sourced food that is prepared to perfection, superb wines and people who enjoy eating food as much as I do!  The August 6th venue was hosted by generous dinner guests who opened their home so they along with 25-plus other people could dine on the balcony of their downtown Denver apartment. Before dinner, we enjoyed a cocktail on the rooftop patio/garden with sweeping views of the city and Front Range. It was a fabulous evening! 

Now back to the cheese that I used with the cantaloupe: Cambozola cheese. A recent Costco discovery, this cheese has become our favorite choice for a blue. It’s a triple cream soft cheese combined with Italian gorgonzola that delivers with tons of creamy flavor and a slight tang, which is why I like this style so much; the creaminess mellows out some of the pungent blue cheese flavor. It’s best eaten at room temperature and wonderful on fresh bread or crackers, or with cantaloupe.
Cheers to new food experiences and supper clubs!

Eat well and share the love!

Sweet Boy Murphy with Auntie Dawne, visiting from Tucson

No-Bake Dessert: Strawberry Vanilla Icebox Cake

Sometimes my inspiration for a blog topic comes from ingredients already on hand; today it was fresh strawberries and a plump vanilla bean.  We all know how hot it has been so turning on the oven to bake something sweet just wasn’t going to happen.  I came across a recipe for a mocha chocolate icebox cake from Barefoot Contessa that requires no cooking, which I used for inspiration.  I know, I can hear you exclaiming: “How can you possibly pass up something chocolate in favor of something vanilla?”  It was the strawberries that stretched my culinary creativity and the silly fact that I do not like chocolate and fruit together – gasp!  If we’re talking chocolate fondue then I’m all over it but for some reason my taste buds revolt when the two are combined otherwise. Originating from Nabisco, the traditional icebox cake is made with layers of chocolate wafers and whipped cream.  I borrowed two things from Barefoot Contessa’s recipe: adding mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and using a springform pan, which makes for an easy assembly and snazzy presentation.  Here’s how I made my Strawberry Vanilla Icebox cake for our 4th of July celebration.

Whole Vanilla Bean (for the filling):
Whole vanilla beans have a beautifully fragrant paste inside that adds tiny little specs of flavor to your dish, a visual cue that you are about to enjoy pure vanilla. To remove the paste, make a slice down the middle of one side of the bean and scrape out with a paring knife. I like to cut the bean in half for easier removal. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, use a good quality pure vanilla extract.

The Filling:
Four ingredients make up the filling: heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla – Yum! Whip until firm, stiff peaks form and the mixture has some body.

Another Layer of Flavor:
After the mixture is whisked into blissfulness, fold in the chopped strawberries.

Using either an 8 inch or 9 inch (what I used) springform pan, line the bottom with vanilla wafers and fill in any big holes with pieces of broken cookie.  Add one quarter of the filling on top of the cookies, spread out and repeat the process. You’ll end up with four layers of each, finishing with the whipped cream mixture.  Smooth out the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 12 hours.  It’s that easy!

The vanilla wafers soften from the whipped cream and soak up the flavors for a light and sweet dessert that is hard to pass up. The strawberry vanilla icebox cake is perfect for a dinner party and transports well. Thankfully the cake stays fresh in the refrigerator for several days, so any leftovers are a great way to indulge your sweet tooth. There are many ways to make an icebox cake and I have some ideas for future tasty combinations. This was the first time I tasted this treat – did you have one as a kid?  What was your favorite?

Best wishes for a sweet-filled summer!

Eat well and share the love!

Strawberry Vanilla Icebox Cake (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Refrigerate: 12 hours or more

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups chopped fresh strawberries, about 16 strawberries
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon for chopped strawberries)
1 vanilla bean – paste removed from pod, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 12 oz. package of Vanilla Wafers

Directions:
Filling: Add the chopped strawberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar; mix and set aside.

To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla (if you don’t have an electric mixer, use a large glass bowl and hand mixer).  Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined and increase speed to medium (speed #4); mix until stiff peaks form.

Remove bowl from mixer, scrape off whipped cream from whisk attachment, and gently fold in the chopped strawberries.

Assemble: Arrange the vanilla wafers in a single layer in the bottom of an 8 inch or 9 inch springform pan, covering as much of the bottom as possible; if needed break some cookies to fill in the larger spaces.

Add ¼ of the mixture (a very generous cup) on top of the cookies and spread out evenly, making sure the edges are well covered. 

Repeat with remaining layers (4 of each) and finish with the whipped cream mixture. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

To serve, release the clasp on the ring of the pan and gently run a knife along the edge of cake.  Remove the ring, slice and serve cold.

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Murphy, on the lookout for anything amiss!