Bread Pudding

bread pudding 2I love to make bread pudding. We always have left over bread and rolls and turning them into dessert is just satisfying. There are so many variations on bread pudding. Basically, anything you have leftover can be turned into a bread pudding, be it savory or sweet. I once went to Canada with my husband on a romantic getaway. We stayed at this really nice hotel and they served a mushroom bread pudding. I have never forgotten how good it was. They also made a layered potato gratin that was the best I ever had, but that’s another post. This time around, on request from my dog’s grandpa-Bob, I made a regular bread pudding with craisins and a salted caramel sauce with fresh whipped cream. I made two pans, one for Bob and one for our dinner too.

Recipe:

preheat oven to 350 degrees, one pan approx 1 hr. If divided into two pans about 50 min. It’s done when it is puffed in center  and browned on edges and firm to touch. You can always slide a knife into the center to see if it is eggy still. Every oven is different so keep an eye on it.

Batter:
6 eggs
4 c. 1/2 and 1/2
1 c. Milk
1 c. Heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 c. Sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

bread pudding batter

 

 

 

 

 

 

mix well and add:
3/4 pound of bread cut into 1″ cubes (stale bread is fine)
1 heaping cup craisins

bread pudding soaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add bread and craisins to egg batter and let soak for 1/2 hour.

bread pudding cooked

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divide evenly into two buttered 9×9 pans or 1-13×9 buttered pan. Bake until golden brown and puffed in center and firm to touch approx 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Spoon into a pretty glass or dish, top with caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream.

 

Caramel sauce:
Use store bought caramel or make a homemade hard sauce if you want. I just add 1/4 c. bourbon to 1 cup of carmel sauce and it is really delicious.

Fresh whipped cream:
1 c. heavy cream ( be sure and buy a brand that does not get milk from cows treated with RBGH or RBST, antibiotics and hormones, I know Oakhurst is a great source, but there are others.
1/4 cup of confectioners sugar
1 tbsp bourbon
whip until stiff and place a dollop on top…Enjoy!

bread pudding 3

Carrot-Cake Whoopie Pies

carrot cake whoopie piesCarrot cake finger food. Does it get any better than that. This little hand pie is so easy to eat and super yummy. No fork, knife, or plate required. I made these from a carrot cake recipe that I have made throughout the years and all I needed to do was make a few changes. These are so good that the first time I made them, my husband Brian told me if I entered these in a contest they would win. So, here they are and just to let you know, they taste better on day two and three. Most other whoopie pies get stale as the days progress, not these. But, I guarantee they will not make it to day three.

You will need…
Free standing mixer with paddle attachment
or large bowl a hand mixer
whoopie pie pan or a cookie sheet
spray oil
ice cream scoop
parchment or wax paper
spatula
preheated oven at 350 degrees

Cake:
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. oil (I use melted coconut)
4 eggs beaten
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. finely grated/shredded carrots

mix all ingredients together until evenly mixed. Scoop with ice cream scoop onto a greased whoopee pie pan, bake at 350 degrees, 9-10 minutes or until done. Remove from pan immediately and cool on parchment paper.

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese room temp
1 stick of soft butter (not melted)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. coconut (I use desiccated, but any will work)
1 tsp vanilla
3 c. confectionery sugar
beat all together, the ingredients will come together, add 1 tbsp of cream if necessary

When cakes are completely cooled, fill and eat.

Cannoli

cannoli
Cannoli is a family favorite around here! The shell is crunchy, the filling is creamy and sweet. You can purchase the shells at the grocery store or make them homemade. They are readily available around the holidays, but they are available all year in Italian markets. I made 12 of the mini ones on christmas eve and they all went. The recipe I will provide to you will most likely fill 36 mini or 18 large. I’d like to tell you that this is the authentic filling, but the Italians are pretty tight lipped on this filling recipe. I have only been able to experiment over the years and come extremely close. I will say that I would let this recipe be put up against any Italian pastry shop Cannoli proudly! I believe that the key to getting this filling right is being patient and buying good ricotta. I get my ricotta at the Italian store in Portland, Maine. It is very good quality, but the key is letting it drain in cheesecloth in the refrigerator for a few days. The excess liquid that comes out of it is super important in getting this filling correct. That is the hardest part, the rest is simple, unless you make the shells and then the recipe would be more time consuming.

Filling:
2 cups ricotta, all ready drained for one or two days
1 vanilla bean split and scooped of seeds
1 c. confectionery sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla
6-8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

Optional Items: dried candied diced fruit, lemon or orange zest.

Prepare the filling.
place two layers of cheesecloth in a sieve with a handle and place in a bowl.(This is like a mesh strainer) Put enough cheesecloth to hang over the edges. Place the 2 cups of ricotta and wrap the ricotta and twist the excess cheesecloth for wringing out liquid. Place bowl in fridge to drain. Anytime you think of it give it a squeeze. After two days you may have gotten as much as a 1/4 cup of liquid out of the ricotta.
Now add the the rest of the ingredients and beat with electric mixer, place into a piping bag, close end with an elastic and place in refrigerator until ready for use.
The shells:
Embellish the shells by dipping in melted chocolate and chopped pistachio nuts. When ready to serve snip the end of the piping bag and fill the shells. After filling with cheese mixture dip one end in mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle with powdered sugar! Serve immediately while shells are crunchy. They will stay fresh for a few hours.
Enjoy!

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Italian Ricotta CheesecakeCheesecake is the one dessert that gets the most favorable responses from people. They are so visually appealing. But, then they are so creamy, sweet and delicious, its like a big hug when you bite into a rich piece of cheesecake. I guess you could say it is the ultimate comfort food. I first saw a picture of this on Pinterest and knew someday I would need to make it, and when I say “make it” most of you know I mean, make it my own way. Great idea and so pretty! This one is perfect for Christmas with green pistachios and red raspberries. The base cheesecake can be used for so many different cheesecakes. You can add any flavor you want to the cheesecake, almond extract would be great, or banana, or ginger or just plain vanilla. The crust can be chocolate graham crumbs, oreos, or ginger snaps, nutty or shortbready. The possibilities are endless so go create something!

Crust
10″ springform pan ~ buttered pan
Preheat oven to 300 degrees

1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. Butter melted
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
mix well and press into buttered springform pan
wrap the bottom of the spring-form pan in two layers of foil and set aside

Filling

1 c. ricotta cheese
3- 8oz. pkg of cream cheese (room temp)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean split open and scraped of the seeds
5 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Beat cheeses, sugar, salt, and flour on med speed with an electric mixer, add vanilla and vanilla bean, add eggs 1 at a time, add sour cream and lemon. When fully mixed add to the springform pan crust.

Place a pan on the bottom rack with 2 inches of boiling water in your preheated 300 degree oven. Place the Cheesecake on the rack above the water and bake for 70 to 80 minutes. A good rule of thumb when a cheesecake is fully cooked, is the center will be level with the edges, not concave. When the center is puffed it is usually done. If it splits in the middle, don’t fret, it’s okay. All the toppings will cover any cracks, besides that’s the sign of a homemade cheesecake. When it’s done, do not remove the cake from the oven, just turn off the oven and crack the door a bit, leave it until fully cooled. At this point you may, leave it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving.

Sides of the cheesecake can be embellished with whatever you love, this cheesecake has pistachios. Any chopped nut or mini chocolate chips, or crushed cookies or candy will work. I used an apricot jam, spread on the cake with a butter knife, and then added the chopped pistachios. The topping I used was fresh raspberries, however, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries, or any fruit you like will work. It took about 3 half pints of berries.

I also had a fresh seedless raspberry glaze on hand that I put below the raspberries…
Have fun and Enjoy!

Christmas Candy

IMG_0959It’s that time of the year. That wonderful time when everyone bakes and makes their specialties and traditional family treasures. Here in Maine, it’s quite common to receive a wonderful plate full of mixed baked goods or candy as a Merry Christmas wish. I personally think its a wonderful way of showing someone you care about them. Time, effort, thought and real love go into these types of gifts. One of our favorite candies is one that we buy in Freeport a few times a year. A bag of these little delights is 17.95. It pains me to delve out the money for these caramels filled with marshmallow and wrapped in wax paper. So, I decided that I would try to make them. After careful searching on the net and Pinterest I found two recipes that I combined into one with a few tweaks. I should also mention that the first batch of caramel went into the trash. However, take two, with a different recipe was a hit and luckily the first batch of marshmallow was a success. I also managed to use each of them for a few other confections as well. These two batches made dozens of candies. I made chocolate covered marshmallow squares, pecan turtles, and marshmallow caramels. These were so yummy and pretty also.

Marshmallow Recipe
from the Barefoot Contessa’s family style cookbook

Ingredients:
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup ice cold water
set aside

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. Light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 c. water
confectioners sugar for dusting

Prepare a glass baking dish 8 x 12 (not metal) generously dusted with powdered sugar so the mixture will not stick to the dish. I learned the hard way.

Place 1/2 cup of water with the gelatin into your mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Let sit and bloom while you are making the syrup.

Combine remaining water, sugar, glucose syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer and cook until it reaches 240 degrees on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat immediately.
Turn mixer on slow speed and slowly pour syrup into mixing bowl [using a stand mixer will be so much easier than a hand mixer]. Once you have added all the the syrup into the mixing bowl, turn on high and mix until the marshmallow becomes lukewarm and whipped fairly stiff and glossy, approximately 15 minutes. Add vanilla about 20 – 30 seconds before you are ready to turn off the mixer.
spread into your prepared dish and dust generously again with powdered sugar. Let set and cool about an hour and begin working with it when it is able to be handled. You can leave these to dry uncovered or keep them soft by covering with waxed paper. If you are planning to use them in their soft state you will need to use them within a day and finish up your candy.

IMG_0958

Homemade Caramel

1 cup butter
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make sure for this recipe you are using a candy thermometer, have all your ingredients and equipment ready to go.

Generously Butter a standard size baking sheet.
Melt Butter over low heat in a medium size sauce pan.
Add and mix sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk. Remember to pour sugar in center of pan, and if any sugar crystals stick to the side of your pan, brush them down with a damp pastry brush.
Cook and stir on medium heat until boiling, then clip your candy thermometer to the side of pan. Do not allow the thermometer to touch the bottom of the pan.

caramel boiling
Reduce heat to medium or a temperature which allows for a steady, moderate boil. If you notice brown bits off the bottom of your pan when you stir you may need to lower it a bit or stir it more frequently. The lower the burner is set for the longer it will take to reach the temperature. It will eventually get there, be patient it can take 30 minutes to an hour.
When the thermometer reaches 235 degrees, remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.( a typical caramel recipe will require you cook until 245 degrees). 235 to 245 will produce varying hardnesses for your caramel. I prefer a softer caramel and pulled mine at 230 degrees and let it sit overnight before I tried to work with it. If you are making strictly Caramels to eat, as is, I would go to the 245 degrees. When the desired temp is reached pour the caramel into your prepared baking sheet – use caution! This is a very hot mixture.
Allow to cool overnight then use a pizza cutter to slice into desired slices. After it has set place a piece of wax paper over the top and leave overnight.

caramel in panIMG_0954

Now it’s your turn to be creative… make a log of caramel filled with marshmallow and then slice into 1/2″ slices and wrap with wax paper, twist the ends to close.
Layer marshmallow and caramel, add nuts or just dip in melted chocolate. Cut squares of marshmallow and dip in chocolate. Toast nuts in oven for 5-8 minutes and make caramel pecan turtles. Whatever you like do, it’s all up to you.
One tip on melted chocolate. Use a large glass bowl and melt very slowly (20 seconds at a time) in microwave or on a double boiler. The trick to shiny chocolate and not chalky looking chocolate is stirring. After your chocolate is melted, stir it briskly for 3-5 minutes. It will be much shinier the more you stir it. Then dip away, I use a toothpick to dip.
Enjoy!

Raspberry Lemon Tiramisu

slice tiramisuToday I was testing a recipe for an annual, family reunion in Kennebeunk at my wonderful cousin Michael’s house! It was something I dreamed up and I thought a test run would be prudent. I plan on making these in individual dishes, but today it went in a large tart pan. It came out really good. The qualities it has, is a lemony tartness with a hint of Limoncello liquor. A sweet and tart raspberry flavor and a creamy rich mascarpone filling. Then it has a sweet almond crunch from the Ameretti cookies. This one is a keeper folks. The Liquor is quite optional. Don’t go out and spend the money if it’s not already on the shelf. Looks like a-lot of work to make this, but it’s not. It’s a no bake dessert so it’s very quick to assemble. This dessert is a show stopper and it’s really delicious!

Tiramisu
9″ pan

Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
simmer just until all the sugar is dissolved and shut off.
Add…
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup of Nellie and Joes Key lime Juice (found in your bartending section)
If you cant find this use the juice of 1 or 2 limes. Make it as tart and zest as you want.
Set this mixture aside.

Filling
3 egg whites
1 tbsp sugar
beat egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form

In a seperate bowl with an electric mixer, beat…
1 8 oz. container of Mascarpone Cheese
3 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
beat until it starts to thicken up
Add the whipped egg whites and continue beating until thick. About 3 minutes
set this aside

Ladyfingers or Saviordi Biscuits which are the crunchy lady finger biscuits.
you will need 24 -36 of the soft biscuits and 24-30 of the crunchy biscuits.

1 cup of frozen raspberries, thawed and sweetened with sugar and a tablespoon of the simple syrup mixture, mashed into a puree.
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries

Ameretti cookies. These are crunchy Italian almond meringue cookies.
rasp tiramisu 1
Now to assemble…

Tart pan with a removable bottom
very thin layer of the filling, about a half cup
ladyfingers dipped in the simple syrup and placed quickly into the pan, cover the bottom, breaking if needed to fit in all slots
place the ameretti cookies along the edges standing up
pureed raspberries evenly distributed over the ladyfingers
rasp tiramisu 2
1/2 of the filling spread evenly over the raspberries
repeat with ladyfingers, dipped in the syrup and pressing them into the filling slightly
remaining filling spread evenly
fresh raspberries decorated pretty
3 or 4 crushed cookies sprinkled on top…
Voila!   Chill for 3 hours before serving.
rasp tiramisu

Pear Custard Tart

pear custard tartI recently purchased some really ripe and wonderful pears. I had intended to saute them in cinnamon and sugar, top a wheel of brie cheese and then wrap in puff pastry. I was thinking labor weekend was upon us but I was a few weeks off. The pears were ready for use, so I had to do something with them. I remembered back at the restaurant, one time we ordered this case of pear tarts. Brian really liked them so, we would always keep a case in the freezer. They had more of a thicker and shortbread type crust that was crisp. I was in a bit of a time crunch so I used an already pie crust for the crust. I really didn’t know how this would come out since I had no recipe. It was really good. Brian was not at all disappointed. It is really super easy to make and fast. The effort is in peeling the pears and slicing them up. Here’s how I made it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a tart dish with an already pie crust or any crust you prefer.

Peel and slice 6-8 pears
Lay them into the crust evenly until they are all in. You may end up with 2-3 layers.

Custard
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
Beat with a fork until all incorporated.
Gently pour the custard slowly over the pears and let it seep into the crevices. If you find you have more custard than you need, leave it out. It should not overflow the edges of the crust.

Sprinkle generously over top of the pears and custard, ground cinnamon and if you wish grate a little fresh nutmeg on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the custard is puffed and the top is browned.
chill completely

Top with fresh whipped cream, sweetened and flavored with 1 tbsp. of rum or bourbon

Tiramisu

tiramisu  Tiramisu is an excellent dessert! It’s pretty expensive to buy due to the ingredients but worth it. It’s such an elegant dessert to serve and so delicious. You can make it in individual cups or dishes and you can change it up with the addition of flavors. I personally love it in its simplest form right here. It really needs a full 3 hours to set otherwise it will be a little sloppy. They sell pans for Tiramisu with a removable bottom, or you can use a springform pan, a regular pie plate or square dish with high sides. When you make the decision to make this dessert, you will have some challenges finding the exact ingredients. I get a lot of my ingredients at MICUCCI’s, an italian store in Portland Maine, mostly because their prices are way cheaper than any grocery store and they have everything I love. However, you can substitute ingredients. Once you purchase the instant espresso powder and the bourbon, you will get many future trays of Tiramisu. Bourbon is a great addition to sweet sauces, like for bread pudding. There are lots of things you can use it for, one of my faves is adding it to fresh whipped cream. I buy the Honey flavored bourbon and its even yummy to drink. Mascarpone is basically the italian version of cream cheese, its slightly softer and more expensive, but you can use regular cream cheese if necessary. The biscuits are hard and crunchy and they usually are called Saviordi. They soak up the strong coffee quickly and hold the liquid. You can use the soft cake like ones if you cannot find these biscuits. They may use up more coffee or maybe less, I don’t really know. You will find a recipe for Tiramisu on the Mascarpone cheese tub and on the biscuits. They are quite different. I like Tiramisu to be light and fluffy, like the recipe on the mascarpone. You can experiment with any recipe, they are all good, just have different characteristics. Here is my favorite version…

6 egg whites whipped until stiff peaks plus 1 tsp. sugar, set aside

In a seperate bowl…
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP espresso powder
1/4 cup honey bourbon( brandy or cognac is fine too)
beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes
add:
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
beat 5 minutes
Fold in the stiff whipped egg whites with a spatula

in a seperate bowl…
2 1/2 cups of left over coffee
2 tbsp espresso powder
1/4 c. honey bourbon

In a mesh strainer/colander
1/2 cup cocoa powder

36 Saviordi biscuits or ladyfingers

tiramisu ingred

Begin assembling the dessert by opening all the biscuits, making sure your filling is prepared, your coffee is cooled, and your cocoa is ready for sifting.
line the bottom of your dish or pan with dipped biscuits. Dip quickly because they will fall apart in seconds. Cover the whole bottom, if necessary break the biscuits to the size you need and dip and place them in the dish. Next put about a 1/2″ layer of the cheese filling on top(approximately half of the bowl), spread all around until level, generously sprinkle with cocoa powder. Repeat the process for a second layer. You may have a little filling leftover, you can always make a couple of individual servings with leftover filling. Now refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut and serve.

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

reeses cupcakesThese are always a winner! Not many people will pass up a chocolate cupcake with Peanut butter frosting. Use your favorite Chocolate Cake mix, in my opinion the darker the better, make 24 cupcakes. Then follow this simple recipe for Peanut butter frosting. Top with a peanut butter cup and everybody is happy!

 

Peanut butter marshmallow Frosting

1 stick of room temp Butter
4 heaping tbsp creamy Peanut butter
2 cups confectionery sugar
1 tbsp heavy cream
beat until creamy
add 1 sm. tub of marshmallow fluff and beat until fluffy.
frost cupcakes and add a peanut butter cup

If you want to omit the fluff for whatever reason, add 1 more cup of confectionery sugar and a little more cream if necessary to get the right consistency.

Pumpkin Doughnuts

donuts 2These doughnuts are great the day they are made and still good the second day. The recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on Pinterest from Blueeyedbakers.com. The pan you use is a doughnut pan. I got mine at AcMoore craft store for 9.99. It makes 6 doughnuts at a time, which was why I almost bought two pans. However, I am glad I only bought one because, by the time you glaze or sugar the doughnuts, the next batch cooking is almost done.

Pumpkin Doughnuts

For Donuts:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

For Coating:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven 350 F.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined. Mix dry ingredients. Stir just until combined.

Using a pastry bag or a steady hand and a spoon, fill each donut cup with the batter just until level.                                                    donuts

Bake for 8-9 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed (if you’re using a large donut pan,12-15 minutes). Flip donuts out onto a wire rack or a cloth and allow to cool for a few minutes. While cooling refill your pan and begin cooking your second 6 donuts. When donuts can be handled dip in butter and then sugar mixture. Serve immediately.