Baked Strawberry French Toast with Oat Crumble Topping + 5 Can’t Miss French Toast links!

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“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” Mary Oliver

I sat on the cold hardwood floor in my office furiously sifting through a box of photos as if my life depended on finding this one particular image taken so many years ago.

Photographs.

My husband’s  worry-free face 14 years ago [oh how I miss you!], my girl, maybe three? curled up so small sifting through wet sand, weddings, sunsets, Fenway, misty beach mornings, graduations, forced smiles and genuine ones, baby boy 1, big chocolate-brown eyes [ you haven’t changed yet…] baby boy 2 smooth cheeks, a big under-bite, almond blue eyes [ a compilation of many generations all present in your sweet, chubby face], drunken fun with best friends, worry, innocence, love, in love and love past, Christmas, Mama [happy?] surrounded by her 3 ducklings circa 1989, Dad in the old orange rocking chair, beer in hand, absent yet physically present, school pictures of my littles…I sink momentarily into these memories, my heart full, blessed, nostalgic and then I let them go and take a giant, slow breath.  I had stopped breathing.

I didn’t find the picture I was looking for, nor is it relevant I tell you about the photograph, or the people captured in it.  It is gone just like the moments captured thousands of hours ago, the photos now scattered on the creaky wooden floor in our tiny home office.  I sat and stared at the mess of memories, grateful for almost all of them. And yet.  I carelessly tossed them back into a nondescript, beige box because that is where they belong.

Hours later I wash the kitchen floor, scrubbing away at the faint paw prints, yogurt droplets and strawberry stains left marking the events of another day.  One pound of fresh strawberries gone, consumed by my hungry little monsters before dinner.  Another pound still in the refrigerator.  I’ll need to hide them.

I empty the bucket of dirty water into the sink.  A small spider, no bigger than my pinkie nail scurries to the lip of the sink and willingly crawls in, brave yet unaware of the possibilities.  The spider explores for a bit, his movements becoming more cautious each second.  I turn on the faucet, pull out the hose and aim it right at him.  The current sweeps him off his minuscule legs, pushing him towards the drain.  I turn off the faucet. He fights, finds his sea legs, tries to avoid the impossible.  With a half jealous smile, I turn on the water.  One final flush and he is gone.

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Baked Strawberry French Toast with Oat Crumble

Recipe adapted from NYT Cooking

Serves 12

Ingredients:

9 cups good quality French bread cut into 1 inch cubes (challah or brioche will also work)

Cooking spray or butter for baking dish

8 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound strawberries, cored and halved

Ingredients for topping:

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup old fashion rolled oats

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup or 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into cubes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet.  Toast the bread for about 12 minutes.  Cool and set aside.

Spray or generously butter a 9×13 baking dish.  Add bread cubes to baking dish.

Next make the custard.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, vanilla, ginger, cloves and salt until smooth and well combined.  Pour custard over bread.  Toss with your hands until all the bread is wet.  Press down gently on the bread so it forms an even layer.  Spread strawberries over the top.  Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 48 hours.  Overnight is best!

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Prepare oat crumble.  Grab a large bowl.  Add the flour, oats, brown sugar, ginger, cloves and salt and stir together.  Add the butter.  Work the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand and is crumbly.  (Topping can be made 48 hours in advance.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.)

Sprinkle topping over the strawberries/bread.  Bake until golden brown about 40-45 minutes.  Turn on the broiler for the last two minutes for crunchier crust.  Serve warm with real maple syrup.  Enjoy!

5 Can’t Miss French Toast Links!

Traditional French toast dipped a subtly sweet Panko breadcrumb mixture, fried to perfection and topped with lots of butter and syrup sounds like a bit of heaven to me. Head to Pioneer Woman for her crunchy French Toast recipe.

French toast in sandwich form? Yes it exists.  Head to Handmade Charlotte for Sarah Kieffer’s French toast sandwiches with peaches and mozzarella.

Lemon French toast topped with in season strawberries screams spring.  Head to Simply Delicious for the recipe.  Yum!

Want to wow your brunch guests?  Make Smitten Kitchen’s morning bread pudding with salted caramel.  This is on my must make immediately list.

If you a more of a savory than sweet person, head to Food 52 and check out their recipe for crispy salt and pepper French toast.

Chocolate Stout Tart + 5 Unique Beer Dessert Recipes

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He would say their love story began with a mutual affection for good beer and dessert.  She wouldn’t deny him that bit of nostalgia…most days.  [Lately her moods changed with the tide, the phases of the moon, the direction of the wind.]

She would say their love story began with a conversation, his kindness evident with every word spilling from his sweet mouth. [ His sense of humor, intelligence, opinions, though less appreciated today, fused her soul to his many years ago.]

And what would they say now?  The moon is in the waning Gibbous phase, the tide is low, the winds wild.  A tempestuous phase in their many years together.  Both will agree something was lost along the way. A persistent trickle, not a gash, slowly absorbing into their everyday.  Yet, despite arriving at this volatile juncture they remain in awe of all that followed since their love story began.  So tonight, when the house is quiet, the day almost done, they will split a beer, nibble on some chocolate, and each wonder silently: what’s next in our love story?

Chocolate Stout Tart

tart dough recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

chocolate stout filling adapted from Ambrosia Baking

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Tart Dough:
1 cup + 5 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

8 tablespoons or 1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 large egg

Ingredients for chocolate stout filling:

1- 11 ounce bottle of Guinness, reduced to 1/4 cup

1 + 1/4 cups heavy cream

9 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of vanilla

a generous pinch of kosher salt

Fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels for topping

Directions:

Using a food processor fitted with a blade attachment mix the flour, salt and sugar until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-size.  Next add the egg and continue to pulse until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Remove dough from food processor and shape it into a disk.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes up to overnight.

Flour a clean surface and roll the dough until it is about a 13 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough firmly into the tart pan and in the corners of the pan.  Trim any excess by running the side of a knife around the top of the tart.  Hold onto any scraps for patching.  If there are any holes in your tart, use the excess dough to patch them.  Prick the dough five times with a fork.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the tart shell, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Line the frozen tart with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until the tart is golden brown about 25 minutes but check after 15 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Next make the chocolate stout filling.

Pour Guinness into a small pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce to about 1/4 cup.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Grab a second sauce pan and heat the cream until it just begins to simmer.  Using a medium bowl, add chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, salt and 3 tablespoons of reduced Guinness.  Remove simmering cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate mixture.  Let it stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until completely blended and very smooth.  Pour the chocolate ganache into the cooled tart shell .  Spread evenly using a spatula.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or until the ganache has completely set.  Just before serving, top the tart with fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels.  The tart is best the day it is made but will last up to two days in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

5 Unique Beer Desserts You Must Check Out!

Beer + Brownies = Tasty Beer Brownies!  How Sweet It Is has the recipe for you.

If you are a fan of IPAs check out the Beeroness’ recipe for IPA Lemon Bars.  I am intrigued!  While you are there check out her recipe for beer doughnuts with IPA lemon curd.  Again, intrigued!

Don’t wait until the next holiday season to make Food 52’s gingerbread bundt cake with chocolate glaze.  Seize the day or rather the cake.

Gimme Some Oven’s honey beer bread looks like the perfect vehicle for a generous smear of salted butter.  Yum!

 

 

Soba Noodle Salad with Tahini Dressing + 5 Healthy Soba Noodle Links

 

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It has been a year since I last saw her.  Her face is easily recalled yet appears in my mind’s eye like a photograph, unmoving, resistant to the 8760 hours that have passed.  A day’s struggles, a sleepless night, an argument, a good laugh.  Tears?  All leaving their subtle marks on her face.  But.  I see her still, captured in a time and place that is no longer relevant to who she is now.  You think 8760 hours don’t leave a mark?  You are mistaken. Thumb through photographs of loved ones.  You will see.  Every year, good or awful, stamps their face leaving lovely little lines crisscrossing this way and that.  One story to another.

“Lets do something together we love.”  She requests via text.  I look over at my running shoes, a small hole already developing above the left big toe.

[Miles upon miles of an attempted escape.  No such luck.  She understands.  She lives with the same beast, gently breathing on her neck, quietly reminding her of the solitary run she craves.  Needs, really.  We come from a long line of solitary women.]   

“Ok, pick a race.” I reply.

[Two women, same blood, running together while the icy ocean air puffs up our lungs, sends oxygen to our capillaries, reaches our thick pulmonary veins and enters our hearts. The feeling of flight briefly releasing us from all that grounds our minds, our bodies to this earth.]      

Five weeks from now I will see her beautiful face again, lines appearing where none existed a year ago revealing a life of every days, small moments I know little about.  Yet, I can imagine. And when, a few days later, she returns home to her husband and two boys, I’ll carry her new face with me.  And wonder about her lovely, little lines, the stories we didn’t get to because time gallops along.  She is gone.

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Soba Noodle Salad with Tahini Sauce

Soba noodles, a creamy tahini dressing and tons of vegetables make this a perfect marathon training meal.  Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

serves 6

Ingredients for noodle salad:

1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

2 peppers ( I used 1 red and 1 orange), seeded, sliced thin

half of an English cucumber, sliced thin

3 rainbow carrots, grated

jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, sliced thin

2 packages of soba buckwheat noodles

2 cups shredded chicken ( I bought a rotisserie chicken to make it easier.)

2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 cup cilantro, chopped

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced ( I didn’t use them but I think it will be a great addition.)

sea salt and pepper to taste

Tahini sauce (see recipe below)

Directions:

**Cut vegetables, make sauce and shred chicken before proceeding.**

First add ice and water to a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.  Next, add water to large pot, add a big pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add broccoli to the boiling water and cook for two minutes.  Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop cooking.  After a few minutes, drain the broccoli and set aside.

Bring the same pot of water back to a boil and add the soba noodles.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain the noodles.  Run cold water over them.  Drain.  Add noodles to a large salad bowl.  Toss with sesame oil and soy sauce.  Set aside.

Arrange all of your vegetables including the green onions and cilantro on a serving platter.  Place shredded chicken in a bowl.  Gently warm tahini sauce over low heat.  Transfer sauce to a small bowl.  Place bowl of noodles, chicken, plate of veggies and tahini sauce on the table and allow your guests to create their own soba noodle salads.  Be sure to have sea salt and pepper available!  Enjoy!

**Makes excellent leftovers!**

Tahini Sauce

recipe adapted from Run Fast, Eat Slow

makes  2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

1/2 cup light roasted tahini  (unsalted creamy peanut butter could be substituted for tahini)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon raw sugar

good squeeze of honey

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more if you want it spicier)

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1/2 lemon

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Over medium-high heat warm olive oil.  Add the onion and salt.  Cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.   Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add coconut milk, tahini, soy sauce, honey, raw sugar and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a low boil and whisk constantly until the sauce is smooth.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 10-15 minutes.   Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender) blend the sauce until smooth.   Add lemon and lime juice.  Stir.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with soba noodle salad.

**The sauce will last refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.**

5 Healthy Soba Noodle Links

If it still feels like winter where you live cozy up with Dolly and Oatmeal’s turmeric miso soup with shiitake, turnips and soba noodles.

Looking for a healthy and quick weeknight meal?  Head to A Beautiful Mess for their sweet and spicy soba noodles with shrimp.

FoodieCrush’s soba noodles with sriracha meatballs is on my must make list.  Mouth watering.

Ribboned eggs meet sesame soba noodles in Smitten Kitchen’s can’t miss recipe.  Curious? Head here for the recipe.

It is officially spring in just a couple of weeks so why not celebrate with Food 52’s cold sesame noodle and fava bean salad.  Yum!

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes + 5 Tasty Cupcake Links for Your Sweetheart

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He sat at the edge of the hotel bed drunk, cheeks flushed, bow tie from his rented tux askew, the left lapel stained with a bit of vanilla buttercream, one black sock still erect, the other crumpled around his hairy calf, his middle-aged belly bursting against an already taut cummerbund. His wife slept peacefully alone in the middle of the king size bed in the overpriced hotel room, in the small city he wished he could flee.  The location for his daughter’s wedding had not been his choice, like many decisions in his life. What is a choice really? An option. One path verses another. An alternative.  What if you there is no alternative? Is it still choice?  Well these thoughts penetrated his foggy, alcohol soaked brain, leaving him even more depressed than he was just hours before when he witnessed his daughter say yes to love, while the love he left and the love he ran to sat near.

You don’t have to do this.  I’ll tell the driver to take you to the airport.  Like Julia what’s her name in that bride movie!  

Jesus, Dad.  She said.  C’mon let’s go.  It’s time.  

He conceded, walked beside her with arms linked, held open the church door with one hand and her long, simple veil with the other hand, for he knew better than to stand in the way of desire.

Desire always wins…at least it did in his life.  He was powerless to it, yet if he could have turned his flesh to stone, felt nothing, remained in a perpetual, unchangeable state for the rest of his days he would have done so many years ago.  His first wife.  First love.  A beautiful brunette from the same small town, left him for his best friend.  A loss that changed the map of his heart, leaving roadblocks where paths once laid.  His second wife. The mother of his children.  His need for her so intense [at the time, before the resentment, anger and hate left him sprinting to another life.] he proposed just months after their initial meeting.  [And if you asked him today why marry again? Those blue eyes.  I’m a sucker for big, blue eyes.]  He loved her more than the others.  A love full of blood, sweat and tears, literally with each child she bore him.  Lives entwined like a tree trunk and ivy.  [Which will survive? Neither.  An impossible feat removing one from the other…permanently.]  His third and final wife.  She promised less expectations.  Loved him as is, barricades and overgrown paths to his heart were OK if his warm body remained beside her in bed.   

So, he wept.  His heaves muffled by a throw pillow for he didn’t wish to wake his wife.  He wept for desire and love.  Wept for thinking he understood either.  Wept for his daughter and his new son-in-law. [Fools!]   Yet, now sitting in a tearful, drunk haze on the edge of a plush bed, in a dark hotel room, he wished to do it all over again.

He rubbed a single finger across the dried vanilla buttercream and watched it fall like snow onto the hotel carpet then disappear into its fibers.  A single flash of his daughter’s smile, a bit of buttercream above her lip while they danced to a Beatles song.  He smiled, eased the rest of his tired body onto the bed and slept.

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Sour Cherry Buttercream Frosting   

makes about 16 cupcakes

recipe adapted  from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

Ingredients for ganache filling:

4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cream

Ingredients for cupcakes:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (good quality, I sued Guittard)

1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee, hot (I used French Vanilla)

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 Dutch process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon Ovaltine

Directions for ganache filling:

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.  Using a small saucepan, heat the cream until it simmers and almost boils.  Pour the cream over the chocolate chips, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.  Remove plastic and wrap and whisk until completely smooth.  Place bowl in the refrigerator until it is cold but not hard, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Do not let it chill completely, as it will be too hard to use!

Next make your cupcake batter.

Directions for cupcakes:

Make sure oven rack is in the middle, then pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Only 16 to 17 will be filled.

Place bittersweet chocolate in small bowl and pour hot coffee over it.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap.   Using a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, canola oil, eggs and vanilla.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, Ovaltine,  baking soda and salt on low speed until well combined.  While the mixer is running on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat until completely combined, about 1 minute.

Remove the plastic wrap from the chocolate/coffee mixture and whisk until completely smooth.  Lower the speed of the mixer and add the coffee mixture to the cupcake batter.  Grab your spatula, swipe the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.

Using a ladle or cookie scoop, add batter to prepared pans until they are about 2/3 full.  Remove ganache from refrigerator and add 1 teaspoon of ganache, placing it in the middle of the batter until each cupcake is filled.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until the center of the cupcakes springs back when touched.  Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Sour Cherry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

3 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 + 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons sour cherry jam

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Scrape down the bottom and the sides with a spatula.  Beat on low for a minute or so and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 2 minutes.  Reduce the speed and add the confectioners’ sugar.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Increase speed to medium/high and beat until light and fluffy.  Add sour cherry jam and beat for an additional minute.  Frost cupcakes using an offset spatula.  Cupcakes are best the day they are made but will last for a couple days stored at room temperature in an air-tight container.

5 Tasty Cupcake Links for your Sweetheart

If your sweetheart loves crème brûlée check out Call Me Cupcake’s crème brûlée cupcakes.

Take advantage of winter grapefruit and a little champagne this Valentine’s Day and make Baking a Moment’s grapefruit champagne mimosa cupcakes.

Love all things banana?  Check out The Whole Bite’s caramel filled banana cupcakes with sugar cinnamon frosting.  Yum!  And check out my recipe for banana cupcakes with Nutella buttercream frosting.  So damn good.

White wine cupcakes? Yes they exist and they are awesome.  Check out my recipe here.

 

 

Meyer Lemon Upside Down Poppy Seed Cake + 5 Must Try Upside Down Cakes!

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I nearly missed these smooth skinned beauties neatly stacked like a pyramid of little suns, nestled between the overpriced organic lemons and limes.  I blame my 3-year-old for the near miss.  Grocery shopping with him is like wrestling a bear while trying to maintain some composure and getting everything on my list.  A nearly impossible feat! And yet somehow, out of the corner of my eye or the eyes that exist on the back of my head, I noticed the plump, canary yellow orbs.  I grabbed one, rubbed my thumb across its glossy skin and held it to my nose.  Sweet, floral, bright; a perfect contrast to the heavy, cheese and meat laced comfort food coming out of my kitchen this time of year.

Unsure of what to do with them or the $2.99 a pound price tag, I placed a few in my cart anyway; picked up my 3-year-old who was elbow deep in the organic (oh c’mon) chocolate malt balls candy bin, which, by the way, is oddly placed in between the produce and fancy cheese, (another WTF moment in a long month of WTF moments); and carried on.

I admired the little lemons sitting in our fruit bowl on our sometimes sticky, sometimes clean, kitchen island for a few days before deciding to make an upside down cake.  Sexier recipes for a lemon curd, preserved lemons, cupcakes and pastry cream enticed me briefly before I settled on this 1920s throwback.  Something about taking an old-fashion dessert and modernizing it with Meyer lemons and poppy seeds appealed to me post inauguration.

So I got to work thinly slicing a few lemons, melting butter and sugar together to create a syrupy, caramel like topping and carefully placing the lemons on top of the delicious goo. Next, I made a butter cake batter adding Meyer lemon zest and poppy seeds which made it taste exactly like my Mom’s famous lemon poppy-seed tea cake.  Fifty-five minutes later I had a tender, sweet, subtly tart and modern upside down cake.  I hope this cake brightens your January as much as it did ours.

Meyer Lemon Upside Down Poppy Seed Cake

recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated Fresh Fruit Upside Down Cake

Serves 8 -10

Ingredients for topping:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3 Meyer lemons, sliced 1/4 inch thick, seeds removed

Directions:

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round pan thoroughly.  Set aside.  Using a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add both brown sugars , stir and cook until the mixture foams, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Pour the butter/sugar mixture into your prepared pan and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan with a spatula.  Arrange the lemon slices in concentric circles.  Set aside.

Ingredients for cake:

1 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornmeal

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

zest of 1 Meyer lemon

2/3 cup of milk

Directions for cake:

Place oven rack in the lower middle position and pre-heat your oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium speed.  Slowly add the sugar followed by the lemon zest.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once or twice.  Next, reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternating until both are incorporated into the batter.  Mix until the batter just becomes smooth.

In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in one-quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter.  Then fold in the remaining egg whites until they are completely incorporated.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.  Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-60 minutes.

Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.  Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Place a serving plate over the pan, hold in place and flip so the cake is now sitting on the platter.  Remove cake pan.  If some lemon slices stick to the bottom of the cake pan, remove them and place on top of the cake.  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake will last two days stored in an air-tight container, at room temperature.**

5 Must Check Our Upside Down Cakes

Craving  more citrus in your life?  Head to Broma Bakery for an upside down winter citrus cake that is sure to brighten any January day.

Before pear season is gone, make Fix Feast Flair’s cardamom pear upside down cake.

Love grapefruit?  Check out Food on Fifth’s recipe for a grapefruit upside down cake.

Spring will come and when it does make Martha’s plum-blueberry upside down cake.  This is on my must make list.

I love all things banana flavored so I need to make David Lebovitz’s banana upside down cake, knowing my picky nine-year old will refuse to eat it.  Banana hater.

Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie + 5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

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She drove home from the hospital in silence, headlights of passing cars illuminating her briefly before disappearing into the night.  If she hadn’t been alone, one might have noticed the smeared mascara underneath her tired, blue eyes.  Or maybe they would have noticed her wrinkled blue scrubs, a bit of blood splatter on the right leg from a man, or rather, a boy she attempted to save just hours before.

[“Please don’t let me die!” He pleaded while grabbing her shirt, yanking her stethoscope.  She, now, a metaphysical lifeline to a boy nearly gone.  When his grip on her softened, she removed his hand from her shirtsleeve and placed it across his heart.  Stupid kid, she thought.  Look what you have done.  No, she wasn’t cold, but removed.  After all, how could one carry the pain of so many? Damn near impossible.  She had tried.]

The headlights of her station wagon grazed the moonlit snow as pulled into the driveway of her picturesque, yet, modest colonial standing dark and peaceful at midnight.

[Tonight the kids would be asleep.  And her husband?  Passed out in their loveless bed, entangled in the sheets, snoring, farting, reeking of beer.  At least he was in bed.  A welcome change, really, to the nights when he chose to pass out on the living room floor among the toys that were never picked up and the dog hair that blew around the matted carpet like tumbleweeds.]

She sat in her car inside their cluttered garage (bikes, broken toys, Costco bags of toilet paper and paper towels, trash cans permeating the bitter night air) and thought briefly about not going inside.  Is that really an option?  Of course not.

The house-keys slid easily into the lock, reminding her she was home.  She placed her jacket on the overcrowded coat hat rack, someday I’ll organize this, and walked into the kitchen.  Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, dried ketchup smears decorated their kitchen island, beer cans acted as cairns, marking where his latest, desperate internal battle took place. 

[She sighed.  12:15 AM .  Instead of tackling the mess in the kitchen and the one sleeping in her bed, she would have a drink, ring in the new year with a cold glass of Baileys. ]

The family dog slept curled up against the over-stuffed, milk stained Lazy Boy chair.  She lowered herself into the chair, careful not to wake the dog or spill her drink.  [Did it matter?]  She muted the TV , watched the lovers and strangers in Times Square kiss, desirous for an imagined fresh start.  She understood that craving.

The blue glow from the TV lit her scrubs just enough for the blood splatter to reappear. She rubbed a single finger across it.  The blood soaked in and dry now.  [For a moment she thought of licking  her finger.  A single lick of his blood: water, salt, red and white blood cells, microscopic bits of him dissolving on her tongue and living for as long as she lived.]  She held the glass to her mouth, let the ice cubes hit her lips and took a long sip of the creamy, sweet Baileys.  This year she would save the only life she could save: her own.

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Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie

pudding recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen

chocolate wafer crust adapted from Williams Sonoma

Serves 6

Ingredients for Pudding:

5 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups of milk (not fat-free)

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Crème

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream for topping (optional)

chocolate shavings or crushed chocolate wafer cookies for topping (optional)

Directions:

Grab a medium bowl and whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch until well combined.  Set aside.

Add the brown sugar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan placing the pan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes thick and dark, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the milk and heavy cream.  (Be careful! It will bubble.)  Whisk until all butterscotch bits at the bottom of the pan dissolve.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Do not step away, the mixture could boil over!  Once it reaches a rapid boil, decrease the heat and slowly pour half of the butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking well to combine.  Now add the custard to the remaining half of the butterscotch mixture.

Whisk over medium heat until the custards just begins to gently boil and coats the back of your spoon, about 3 minutes. ( The custard is ready when it coats the back of spoon.  To be sure, draw your finger across the back of the spoon.  Your finger should leave a mark through the custard and not run back together.)  Remove from the heat.  Add butter, Baileys and vanilla.  Stir until butter is completely melted and the custard is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Pour custard into a bowl and chill, uncovered, until very cold and pudding like, about 4 hours.   I chilled it overnight.  Transfer to air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The pudding can be made two days ahead.

Chocolate Wafer Crust

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cups crushed chocolate wafers

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Place chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin until they resemble crumbs.

Stir together cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl until the crumbs are moist.  Pat mixture firmly and evenly into a 9 inch pie pan.  Be sure to cover both the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

Crust will last, unfilled, for several days well covered and at room temperature.

Assembly!

Add pudding to pie crust, filling it to the top.  (You will have leftover pudding.)  Top with fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate and/or cookie crumbs.  Chill until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**Add the pudding to the crust no more than a day before serving it.  The crust will start to get soggy after a couple of days**

5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

Looking for a unexpected spice in your life?  Head to A Cozy Kitchen and make green chili chocolate pudding pie.  Sounds weird but I bet it is delicious.  Embrace the weird.

Vegans rejoice! Ambitious Kitchen has a recipe for vegan chocolate avocado pie that sounds amazing!

A fudgey layer of chocolate pudding covers a sweet chocolate cookie crust and is topped with a light and airy vanilla pudding.  Intrigued? Want the recipe?  Head to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for the recipe.

Butterscotch pudding meets cheesecake and makes this amazing pie by Bake or Break. Check it out!

Dreaming of peach season in January?  Check out my peach ricotta pudding cream pie recipe.  Swap out the fresh peaches for frozen and you’ll have a bit of summer in January.

Double Chocolate Tahini Cookies + 5 Tahini Dessert Recipes

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“Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation.  The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.”   
David Whyte Everything is Waiting for You

 

She knows me.  All of the beautiful, funny, ugly parts of me.  She sees my life now, not as the whole picture, but a small piece of the story.  A friendship like that is a lifeline when the world seems unrelenting.  So, it would seem shocking to think I almost didn’t answer her call the other afternoon.

Cut the rope and let me drift out to sea.  No!  She screams.  You drift away and we are both lost.  

I stared at my phone, picked up on the fifth ring.  A quiet “hi” and “how are you, Kel?” Twenty-three years of her voice, a “hi”, a simple question; she is as comforting to me as anything I have ever known.  Words came, trickling, one after another to her, an inlet discovered just in time.

My son’s recent Autism diagnosis had muted my words, left my mind torpid, my heart divided. Relief and sadness intertwined, choking my voice.  I needed space, a dark cave, time.  And she knew all of this because she fights the same beast, she wears the same albatross around her neck.  Though our conversation was brief, I felt better than I had in months.  Something in me cracked, revealing a sliver of light.  And then.  Gratitude and love followed, marching ferociously back, surrounding me.  [You are not alone!  You. Are. Not. Alone!]  If I were a religious woman I may have fallen on my knees, given thanks to him/her for the blessing of this friendship.  But I am not.  Instead, I picked my kids up from school, made a batch of cookies and poured myself a glass of wine.

Double Chocolate Tahini Cookies

Savory tahini replaces peanut butter and pairs perfectly with chocolate in this traditional cookie recipe

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter cookies

Makes 3 dozen (using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop)

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup light roasted tahini,  at room temperature (be sure to mix in the oil well before measuring)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon of milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)

raw sugar and festive decorations for sprinkling, optional but adds a yummy crunch

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. Slowly, melt the 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on the stove top or in the microwave.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric mixer, beat the butter and tahini until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add sugar and dark brown sugar.  Beat until fluffy, about 3 more minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla extract.  Add melted chocolate.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is well incorporated.  Add the flour and mix until well combined.  Lastly, stir in the dark chocolate chips.

Place raw sugar and/or decorative sprinkles on a plate.  Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, place cookie balls in sugar, roll around and cover completely.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Gently, make a cross-hatch pattern with a fork on each cookie or lightly press on the cookies with an off-set spatula.  ( I used an offset spatula.)

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.  Be sure not to over bake! The cookies may look under baked, but as long as they are puffed and just set at the edges you are all set!  Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies will last in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for 2 days.  Enjoy!

5 Tahini Dessert Recipe You Must Check Out!

Molly Yeh’s chocolate tahini cake with rosemary buttercream is stunning and sounds delicious.  Check it out here!

Chocolate tahini cake two ways, curious?  The Brick Kitchen has the recipe for you.

Tis’ the season for cookies so add something new to your Christmas cookie plater this year with NYT’s salted tahini chocolate chip cookies and A Cozy Kitchen’s tahini concord grape thumbprint cookies.

If quick breads are your go to when it comes to holiday baking, check out my recipe for tahini chocolate chip banana bread.  It is delicious!