Amish Bob Andy Pie

If I have to choose between pie or cake, pie wins every time. So when I was looking for a pie to make this weekend, I went strolling through some favorite old cookbooks. And I found this recipe for Amish Bob Andy Pie. It’s roots are in the Midwestern Amish communities but the origins of the name may be somewhat apocryphal. Supposedly a farmer comes in from the field, tastes this delicious pie and declares it to be as good as his favorite plow horses, Bob and Andy! What’s not to love in a spiced custard pie named after two prized geldings?

Amish Bob Andy Pie is custardy (something my husband adores) with hints of warming winter spices. It’s not fussy to make and if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make your own pie dough, this recipe comes together in no time.

I happen to be an advocate for making your own pie dough and have never used store-bought. It’s not difficult – really. Find one recipe you like and stick with it. But as a realist, I understand that for a host of reasons, you may wish to purchase your dough. No judgement here.

Another great thing about the Bob Andy Pie is that you should have just about all of the ingredients already on hand. There are variations that use only cinnamon as a spice and in different quantities. I really enjoy the smell and essence of cloves in small doses, so was happy to see it in the recipe that I chose.

My Bob Andy Pie comes from Cooking from Quilt Country, Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Marcia Adams. The spicy notes from the cinnamon and clove are winners and put me in mind of pumpkin pie. A warning, though, this pie is very sweet. If that isn’t your jam then this may not be your pie. I found that just a little bit of whipped cream actually balanced out the sweetness.

For some other delicious pies, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 tesapoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups of whole milk

1 Tablespoon of butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll your dough out and place in a 9-inch pie pan (not deep-dish).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients. Using a separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the remaining liquid ingredients.

Blend the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated. Then pour the combined mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for about 45 minutes. The filling should just be slightly jiggly when you remove it from the oven and the center will have puffed up. It levels off as the pie cools. If you feel that the crust is browning too much, you can cover the crust with a pie ring or a bit of foil.

I actually left my pie in the oven with the heat turned off and the door ajar for an additional 10 minutes because it was nowhere near set. That did the trick. However, everyone’s oven is different so definitely check it after 45 minutes.

Because the cinnamon rises to the top, the finished pie is a lovely brown. Allow the pie to cool and serve it at room temperature. When you cut into it, you will see that natural layers form. I don’t think that it requires ANY embellishment and it is unlikely that the Amish would decorate it. However, as a homemade whipped cream fan, a little fresh cream on top never goes amiss!

For more great pie ideas, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Advertisements

Valentine’s Day Cake

Celebrate your love with this deceptively simple yet extravagant Valentine’s Day Cake. Once you have tasted this luscious cake made with dessert wine and olive oil, you will forget all about chocolate.

I’ve been married for over 35 years. And during that time, my husband a and I send each other love notes and texts daily. So I tend not to get too worked up about Valentine’s Day, if I’m being honest. We usually buy or make cards for each other and maybe I’ll make a special dinner or dessert. If I’m in the mood.

However, when I came cross this recipe in the Wall Street Journal by Aleksandra Crapanzano a few weeks ago, I knew that it was going to be my Valentine’s Day Cake this year. It’s everything that I love in a cake. It uses top ingredients but there is nothing fancy or precious about it. There are no sprinkles or cloyingly sweet, artery-clogging frostings. This is a cake for adults. And best of all, it comes together quickly!

Dessert Wines

I became a fan of dessert wines when I was introduced to them on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean years ago. They still haven’t taken hold in the United States the way they have in Europe and that’s a shame. While some can be very pricey, there are lovely and affordable ice wines, Tokaji and Muscat wines. The worst are overly sweet and syrupy, but the best are as light as a kiss on a summer’s breeze.

For this cake, don’t choose a dessert wine that is too light in flavor. You want something that is lovely and fruity. So if you are unfamiliar with dessert wines, ask your local wine store for suggestions. While delicious immediately, the flavors of the wine and the citrus will develop even further if you make this a day ahead of serving.

Moments of Perfection

So go ahead and take a bite. Then just close your eyes for a moment and inhale the amazing flavors and wonderful moist texture. Remember, if your dessert is wonderful, it’s okay if the rest of the meal isn’t perfection.

If you simply cannot imagine Valentine’s Day without chocolate, however, try this Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze or this Chocolate Amaretti Torte.

Cupid Cutout Image #1

Recipe

Yield: About 6 Servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1¼ cups sugar

3 large eggs

¾ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (I actually used an orange EVOO to bump up the orange flavor)

½ cup Sauternes, ice wine, Tokaji or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (I used Beaumes de Venise)

¾ cup whole milk

Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic

Zest of 1 orange, preferably organic

For the syrup: SEE NOTE

½ cup sugar

½ cup Sauternes or alternative

For topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup crème fraîche OR 1 additional cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Splash of Sauternes

1 to 2 Tablespoons of Confectioner’s sugar (to taste)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for convection). Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

2. Use an electric mixer to beat together sugar and eggs until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add oil, wine, milk and zests, and beat to combine, 1-2 minutes. Then add sifted ingredients and beat until just combined, about 1 minute. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a knife emerges clean, 35-45 minutes. After 12 minutes open the springform and remove the outer ring. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting onto a cake plate.

3. Make the syrup: In a small pot over low heat, dissolve sugar completely with a few spoonfuls water. Bring syrup to a simmer and cook until almost golden. Resist the urge to stir the syrup! You are trying to lightly caramelize the sugar and that simply won’t happen if you stir. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the wine.

NOTE: Okay, full disclosure. I had a terrible time with this syrup and I have caramelized LOTS of sugar. As soon as I added the wine, the sugar formed into the ball stage and I had to rewarm the mixture to dissolve the sugar crystals. It also spattered everywhere, burning me slightly in the process. SO BE CAREFUL! Honestly, I thought the cake was delicious on its own with just the whipped cream, but after eating it with the syrup, it puts things over the top.

4. Before serving, whip cream(s) until billowy with a heaping tablespoon or two of confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and a splash of Sauternes. Sprinkle cake with confectioner’s sugar, if using. Serve slices with a generous drizzle of syrup and a dollop of whipped cream.

FURTHER NOTE: While this cake is wonderful as set forth, it would also be great with some sort of stewed or roasted fruit or with some fresh berries.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is for anyone looking for some real lemon love. Whenever I come across a recipe with “Lemon” slap dab in the beginning of the name, I have to take a look. And this recipe really layers in the lemon – first in the batter, then in the sugar syrup and finally in the light glaze. For other truly memorable and very lemony cakes, also try:

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Tarte Citron Mama

While I am admittedly not a mega-fan of most celebrity chefs, I decided to try this Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, an Ina Garten recipe. The problem I have with so many of these celebrity chefs is that because they have to produce so much content in this digital age, many of their recipes are simply not that special. And worse, they are not accurate. My oven is calibrated and bakes as I expect. However, while Ina’s recipe said that the cake takes 40-50 minutes to bake, mine actually took almost 75 minutes. Small differences I expect but that is pretty major, especially for novice cooks.

Other than that glaring difference, this cake was not difficult to make. But I wouldn’t attempt it unless you have an electric mixer. And I wouldn’t eat it right before a mandatory drug test!

Except for the poppy seeds and the large number of lemons, most of the ingredients should already be in your pantry. And while I always have buttermilk in my fridge, there are acceptable alternatives. You could easily swap it out with a non-Greek style whole milk yogurt. Or take any milk (dairy or non) and “sour” it with a teaspoon of distilled vinegar or lemon juice.

This Lemon Poppy Seed Cake should hold up for a week if covered or wrapped well. Just wait until the glaze has hardened before wrapping.

Recipe

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/3 cup poppy seeds (1.75 ounces) [I went by weight with the seeds]

Nonstick baking spray with flour, such as Baker’s Joy 

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 

2.5 cups granulated sugar, divided 

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1/3 cup grated lemon zest, loosely packed (4 to 5 large lemons) 

2.75 cups all-purpose flour 

1/4 cup cornstarch 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided 

For the glaze:

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1.5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Directions

  1. Pour the buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir in the poppy seeds, and set aside at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly spray the inside of a large Bundt pan with the baking spray and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the lemon juice to the buttermilk mixture. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. [My cake took almost 75 minutes, which is what I imagined a cake of this size and density to take.]

5. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a baking rack set over a large plate or baking pan. Spoon the warm lemon syrup slowly over the cake, allowing it to be absorbed into the cake. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.

6. For the glaze, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl, adding a little more sugar or lemon juice to make a smooth, thick, but pourable glaze. Let your inner Jackson Pollock out! Drizzle over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. You can garnish with some additional lemon zest or poppy seeds, if desired.

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

What is bright and tart with lemon, silky and unctuous with a hint of pecans? Perfect Lemon Chess Pie! This easy dessert is so delicious that you have to close your eyes with the first bite and simply sigh. And every bite afterwards. It’s just THAT good.

What is lemon chess pie and where does the name originate? “Chess” is really a colloquial or mispronunciation of “cheese.” In this case, the cheese is actually lemon curd – a beautiful curd that develops as the pie bakes. For a chess pie that is an old variation on a pecan pie, check out the recipe for Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie. It is also delicious but quite different from this perfect lemon chess pie by Gale Gand. I made a couple of tweaks, including adding some chopped pecans. Don’t get put off by the amount of sugar in this recipe. The finished pie is not overly sweet thanks to the amount of fresh lemon juice and zest. It is really just perfect.

Refrigerated, the pie will last for several days, although it is best to bring it to room temperature to eat – assuming you have the will power to wait!

Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon flour

1 Tablespoon fine yellow cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large or extra large eggs

1/4 cup milk (1% milk worked fine)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, melted

Grated zest of 3 medium lemons (about 2+ Tablespoons)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup of coarsely chopped pecans

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix well.

Add the milk and mix. Then stir in the melted butter, pecans, lemon zest and lemon juice until everything is well distributed. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Cover the rim carefully with foil or a pie shield, which I highly recommend getting if you are into baking pies. Bake for 30 minutes and then carefully remove the pie shield. Continue baking until the pie filling is well-browned and barely jiggles. The original recipe said for a total baking time of 45 minutes, but mine took closer to an hour. Ovens vary so watch it. The finished pie forms a very brown, slightly sugary crust.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Refrigerate left-overs.

Tarte Citron Mama

Tarte Citron Mama appeared in the June, 1979 Bon Appetit magazine. It was described as a 14th century French dessert and wasn’t quite like any other dessert I had ever seen or tasted – then or since. I have not been able to find anything like it online, although it does sound as if it may be similar to a recipe found in The Lutece Cookbook. Thankfully I wrote the recipe down years ago because I can no longer locate the magazine in my bookcase….

This is a lemon and almond tarte but without conventional pastry or custard. And while I am not normally a huge fan of meringue, when it is mixed with the ground almonds, I found it transformed. The resulting tarte is just a little bit sticky, a little bit chewy, incredibly moist, bright and light with the fresh taste and fragrance of citrus and almonds. Tarte Citron Mama is the perfect ending to a rich meal.

While it is easy to come by ground almonds these days, I like to grind my own for this recipe. The almonds won’t be quite as fine when I do it, but that is part of their charm. Making this dessert takes a bit of patience, but the steps are easy to follow. And unlike a lemon meringue pie, the meringue here is a relatively thin layer. On the day I made it, there is a little crispness to the meringue and each of the layers is easily discernible, whereas on the second day some magical alchemy takes place and all of the layers meld together. However you enjoy it, this luscious tarte won’t last long.

And while I made use of 21st century appliances, since this dates back to the 14th century it can be made entirely by hand – and with a LOT of elbow grease! So when you have a little time and you want to give your friends or family a delightful and totally surprising dessert, try this 14th century tarte.

I don’t know what lemons were like in the 14th century, but I find that most lemons these days – even organic ones – tend to have thick skins, a lot of pits and pith and not a great deal of fruit. Meyer lemons are sweeter, thinner skinned and less acidic, which is perfect for this recipe. It’s seeking them out if you plan to try this. And I encourage you to do so.

Recipe slightly tweaked by me

Yield: One 9-inch tarte (about 6 generous portions)

Ingredients

3 extra large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

grated zest of one lemon

1.75 cups raw almonds with skins, finely ground with 2 teaspoons of the sugar

1 Tablespoon of flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Approximately 6 lemons (Meyer lemons work best, in my opinion), with all of the skins and pits removed and cut into thin slices

2 extra large egg whites (Use the left-over yolks in your next omelette)

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

For garnish (Optional but really nice)

Strips of lemon peel with all of the white pith removed (I use a boning knife to achieve this) from 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons granulated or castor sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. VERY generously grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pay special attention to the inside rim.

Combine the 3 yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the yolks become very pale and will “ribbon” when you lift up the whisk. Add the lemon zest, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix through.

Blend in 1 cup of the ground almonds and the Tablespoon of flour.

Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of the whites into the yolk and almond mixture to loosen things up. Then carefully fold in the remainder of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned.

Remove the base of the tarte from the oven, but leave the oven on to maintain the temperature.

Cover the top of the tarte base with the lemon slices, overlapping them slightly.

Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the remaining ground almonds.

Using a spatula dipped in cold water, carefully spread meringue evenly over the top, covering the lemon slices completely.

Return the tarte to the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the meringue becomes golden.

Remove the tarte from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before trying to remove it from the tart ring. Don’t worry if the meringue cracks. When completely cooled you can add the garnish to the tarte.

For Garnish

Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in a small pot on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the thin strips of lemon peel and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. The peel should have softened.

Remove the peel from the syrup and roll the pieces in the granulated or castor sugar. Spread the sugared peel on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This same process can be used to candy orange peel. The remaining flavored simple syrup can be refrigerated to use later in a variety of mixed drinks or even added to homemade lemonade.

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lumpy. Bumpy. Chewy. Deeply chocolaty with an undertone of spice. And easy – so easy.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not a vegan. However, I always like to have some good vegan recipes – especially desserts – in my back pocket. Whether you keep kosher or eschew dairy products for ethical reasons or because of food allergies, vegan desserts can be a wonderful option.

However, I will not serve a vegan dessert unless it is just as good as a non-vegan one. I came across this recipe and after a few tweaks, the result is a delicious cookie that chocolate lovers will adore. The hint of exotic spices gives a Mediterranean flavor that marks it as unique.

This recipe comes together quickly and requires no special equipment or techniques – and I had everything on hand in my pantry. Do use a really good quality unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa like Droste or Valrhona when making these. Chocolate and cocoa powders each have their own unique flavor profile so find one that you like and use it in all of your recipes.

I confess that I made my cookies with unsalted real butter, but they absolutely will not suffer if they are made with a buttery vegan solid such as Earth Balance.

My husband and I tried the cookies still slightly warm from the oven and after a day in an airtight tin. While both were good, we agreed that the flavors and texture were at their peak after sitting overnight. The cookies will easily keep for a week, if stored properly, and are luscious with a glass of milk (dairy or non), a cup of coffee or with a sweet dessert wine.

Because the cookies are such a deep, dark brown, it can be difficult to tell when they are fully baked. I made three batches and baked each one for a different amount of time – from 14 minutes to 20 minutes. All worked, but the one that baked for 14 minutes was the best. The dough does not spread during baking so however the cookies go onto the baking sheet is pretty much how they will come out at the end. Try one of these deeply satisfying and not overly sweet cookies soon.

Recipe

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted, solid vegan buttery margarine or unsalted real butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup strong coffee (the liquid and NOT granules!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly pan-toasted blanched almonds or walnuts

1 cup of raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets or pans with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat like Silpat.
  2. Combine first five ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the mixture to melt until it resembles chocolate syrup. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until no flour is visible. Add the almonds and raisins and work through the batter so that everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Lightly spray a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring spoon with a non-stick spray. Scoop out slightly rounded Tablespoonfuls and place on the prepared baking pan. The cookies do not spread during baking so they can be fairly close together.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, turning once if your oven bakes unevenly like mine!
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Indian Cuisine

To say that I have been doing some Indian cooking lately is like saying that I picked up a granule of sand on the beach. Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years and each region has its own traditions, religions and culture that influence its food. Hindus tend to be vegetarian and Muslims tend to have meat dishes, although pork is forbidden. Indian food has been influenced by Mongolian, Persian and Chinese cuisine, among others. It is rich and varied and I love it.

While I have done some Indian cooking before, I had only made Kheer as a dessert. I was intrigued by what I had read about Halwa – not to be confused with the Middle Eastern halva.

Like semolina cakes in the Middle East, there is no one single recipe for making Halwa. They all share the same basic ingredients of carrots, ghee, sugar, cardamom and a dairy milk, but the quantities, cooking times and additions make each one unique. And probably each Indian family believes that their version is the best. One thing that they all have in common is patience.

This is not a difficult recipe but like Indian rice pudding (Kheer), it takes time and almost constant stirring to end up with an amazingly velvety, fragrant and utterly satisfying treat. Make this when someone is around that you want to share a nice long chat with while you stir. It is so worth it.

While I think this is a perfect dessert anytime of the year, in India, it is especially relished during Diwali and the colder, wetter months. It is the perfect comfort food.

In order to come up with this version, I read at least 4 different recipes from Indian and vegetarian cookbooks and watched over 6 YouTube videos. Some versions were made with sweetened condensed milk and others were cooked down to form almost a cake-like consistency that was cut into little diamond shapes. I’m sure that they are all wonderful and I’d be happy to eat any of them. However, this version is my amalgam of what I believe to be the best halwa and one that made my husband incredibly happy. Okay, it made ME incredibly happy too! It won’t disappoint.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

6 cups peeled and finely shredded slim carrots (DO NOT use large, thick woody carrots. They are fine for soup and feeding horses, but will not have the sweetness and tenderness needed here.)

3-4 Tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter

3/4 cup raw or granulated sugar

About 1.25 cups of whole milk (Exact amounts are not essential. Pour in enough to almost but not quite cover the carrots. You can always cook this longer if you added a bit more than you had intended.)

1/4 cup half and half (or additional whole milk) mixed with about 1/8 teaspoon of saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped blanched almonds

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped cashews

3 Tablespoons raisins (preferably golden/Sultanas)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom

Directions

In a large, preferably non-stick skillet, melt 2 Tablespoons of the ghee. Add all of the carrots and mix through. Add up to an additional Tablespoon of ghee, if needed to coat the carrots.

Cook over a low heat, stirring FREQUENTLY for 40-45 minutes. This is tedious but necessary to prevent burning and to get the carrots to a velvety texture.

Now add the milk and half & half mixture and stir through. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and mix through. Cover the pan and on low heat, cook the carrots for 20-25 minutes more. Stir OCCASIONALLY. You want to cook until the milk is just absorbed but the carrots are not dried out

While the carrots cook, melt the remaining ghee in a small skillet and lightly cook the nuts, raisins and remaining cardamom. You just want the raisins to swell and the nuts to release their oils. Set aside.

Uncover and add the sugar and mix through. Now add the nuts and raisin mixture and stir through. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes more. The resulting mixture is incredibly moist, velvety and unctuous. It can be eaten warm or at room temperature. This is quite rich and satisfying and 3-5 ounces per person is more than enough. While the halwa does not need any garnish, you can add a little lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving.

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I absolutely LOVE Middle Eastern food. I love it’s use of fresh, seasonal vegetables and bright spices. And I love it’s use of lemon. So for my dinner tonight I made lamb burgers with a tahini yogurt sauce, hummus with garlic naan and za’atar, freekeh, chickpea and herb salad and this luscious lemon semolina almond cake. It doesn’t get any more flavorful than this.

After successfully making Basbousa, I was looking for another Mediterranean dessert that used semolina flour. The problem wasn’t finding one, but rather deciding on which one to make. This recipe had the added advantage of using almond flour which I happened to have a lot of and wanted to use up.

As with many Middle Eastern desserts, this one has a lovely sugar syrup that gets poured over the still warm cake. The syrup permeates the cake with the result being an almost custard-like interior. Despite the syrup, the cake is not overly sweet. The original recipe called for adding rose water to the syrup. However, my husband finds that the rose water makes him feel as if he is eating fancy hotel soap. Not what I was going for. Since he is my primary audience, I left it out. And if I am honest, I didn’t want any distraction from the lemon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cointreau

This cake is not difficult to make but don’t skimp on the lemon and use a good quality and slightly fruity olive oil. The smell was intoxicating and we dove in while the cake was still warm! It cut like a dream after cooling for about 30 minutes. I’m sure that it will be equally delicious several days from now, although I have serious doubts that it will last that long.

Tip

For an extra special treat, macerate some fresh berries in confectioner’s sugar and Framboise, Cointreau or other fruity liqueur and serve alongside.

Recipe by Edouard Massih

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake:

  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 large eggs

Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp rosewater (Optional)

Candied Lemon:

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and any pits removed

Directions

Lemon-Semolina Almond Cake:

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Grease parchment. Sift together the almond flour, semolina flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add salt to the mixture and whisk everything to combine.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk oil, sugar, and lemon zest from 2 lemons together, about 3 minutes on medium high. With motor running on low, gradually add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate, about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients and juice of 1 lemon and whisk everything to combine, about 1 minute. Do not over-mix.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Place the cake on the middle rack, and bake until golden brown, approximately for 60 minutes. Lightly press the top of the cake to test — it should feel lightly springy when done. Let cool for 20 minutes or so in pan before removing and transferring to a cooling rack.

Spoon all of the syrup (See below) over the cake. I like to put a pan covered in foil under the cooling rack to collect the inevitable dribbles and to make clean-up easier.

Simple Syrup & Candied Lemon:

  1. In one easy step, combine water, sugar, juice of 1 lemon, and rosewater, if used, in a pot. Cook it over medium-heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add thinly-sliced lemon to the simple syrup, and cook it on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes until the lemon is tender.
  3. Carefully transfer candied lemon to a wire rack.

Almond Flour Blondies

Gluten-Free? Really?

I’m not gluten-free. However, I did have left-over a lot of wonderful almond flour that I had bought for Passover. Not sure what I was thinking when I went shopping, but let’s just say that I got carried away and we’ll leave it at that.

And I’ve been in a brownie-making mood so I went in search of a recipe. Everything sounded pretty simple and I had all of the ingredients on hand, which was a plus since Frances has me cooking down my pantry. The only problem I had is that I really do not like white chocolate. So I made a couple of minor tweaks and came up with this version.

If you want an ooey, gooey blondie with crispy edges, I recommend that you try this version or the original. You don’t have to be gluten-free to enjoy them. And because they are so gooey, I think that the brownies actually improved when they were a few days old. It didn’t stop me, my husband or our cat from eating them the second that they had cooled down!

Recipe from Meaningful Eats and tweaked by me

Yield: About 24 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter [coconut oil will work for dairy-free]
  • 3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to fully incorporate. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.
  4. Pour the dough into the greased baking dish. Smooth into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until until golden and the brownies appear to be set. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Slice into bars and enjoy!

Fudgy Brownies with Beets and Walnuts

Food Fads

I’m not into food fads. When I like something, I like it whether it is in fashion or not. I still used olive oil and ate salmon when we were told they weren’t good for us. (Can you believe that nutritionists ever thought that?) And I still eat kale even though its fad has passed. But I am sometimes intrigued by seeing ingredients where I didn’t expect to find them.

You Added What?

Over the years I have watched The Pioneer Woman with Ree Drummond. And while I rarely would make the foods she prepares, on occasion I have tried some of her recipes. They are generally easy to follow and work out as she says they will. This recipe was called the “Hidden Secret Brownies” because of the addition of beets to the batter. When I thought about it the recipe just made sense. After all, sugar can be made from beets and they have a lovely texture and color.

I happened to have some cooked beets on hand and this seemed the perfect place to use them up. Of course, I made a couple of minor tweaks. To me, if you cook with chocolate you have to add some espresso powder to it. The espresso just brings out the depth of the chocolate without actually adding any coffee flavor. Not that I mind a good mocha when I can get it!

Ready in No Time

These brownies took no time to prepare, especially, if like me, you use prepared beets. Almost all decent grocery stores carry vacuum-sealed, roasted, peeled beets in the produce section these days. I imagine that you could also use a good canned beet that had been drained and rinsed. If you can’t find ready-to-eat beets, there will be instructions on roasting that follow the main recipe.

Recipe

Yield: 9 large brownies

Ingredients

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Baker’s brand for brownies rather than a more expensive brand. Let’s face it, brownies are unsnooty comfort food so don’t waste your Valrhona on this. It just doesn’t taste the same. I’ve tried it.)

2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter, softened

1.5 cups of granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

8 ounces finely chopped, cooked beets

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted in a dry skillet

1.25 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/4 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder (Here I DO use Valrhona!)

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon finely ground instant espresso powder

Confectioners’ sugar to serve

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square pan with a nonstick baking spray. Line the pan with parchment that hangs over two of the sides by a couple of inches. Spray the parchment

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. If using a microwave, first heat the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 45 seconds on high. Then give it a stir and return it to the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Any bits that haven’t completely melted will melt with a brief stir. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Add the vanilla, beets, walnuts and slightly warm chocolate to the mixture and mix on low speed until combined, scraping down the bowl.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt in a small bowl to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed just until combined. Scrape down the bowl and repeat with the remaining flour. DO NOT OVER MIX!

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly across the surface. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine took 50 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan. (I know, the smell will drive you crazy but you have to wait – REALLY.)

Just Add Milk

Using the ends of the parchment paper, lift the brownies from the pan. Place the brownies on a cutting board and peel back the paper. Cut into nine squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar that you put through a sieve when ready to serve.

Cat Approved

Cooking Beets

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the unpeeled beets in foil and roast until soft. This takes about 40 minutes, When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and cut them into chunks. You can chop these by hand or in a food processor. The recipe said to very finely mince them. Mine still had some texture, but that is personal taste.