Perfect French Walnut Tart

Perfect French Walnut Tart

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Are you looking for something new for Rosh Hashanah? This luscious French Walnut Tart is perfect. A short bread cookie-like pastry shell gets filled with toasted walnuts, each piece coated in a honey, buttery caramel. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with the earthy richness of walnuts. Yes, please!

Try this Perfect French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

The recipe calls for crème fraîche, a naturally soured cream. It can be purchased in many grocery stores these days. However, it is so simple to make your own crème fraîche. You just need to plan one day ahead of using it. My husband loves it on so many desserts that I almost always have a jar in my fridge. I love homemade whipped cream, but crème fraîche adds a certain umph to what might be an otherwise overly-sweet or blah dessert – neither of which this is.

While this recipe calls for unsweetened crème fraîche, I often add some confectioners sugar and vanilla when I am serving it with a simple cake. Crème fraîche is incredibly easy to produce. All that is required is a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk kefir. Mix them together and leave the jar covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila! If you plan on adding sugar or vanilla to the crème fraîche, only add it after the mixture has soured and thickened.

The cookie-like crust is a dough that anyone can work with. It’s not fussy to make, comes together quickly and there is no need to roll out any pastry!

The Perfect French Walnut Tart is a cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is a lovely dessert any time. But nuts and honey? Perfect as a High Holiday treat. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high, giving it an almost toffee-like texture. Total, unadulterated yumminess!

Perfect French Walnut Tart


Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings


For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (You could use a non-dairy “butter” if you wanted to eat this with meat on the holiday.)

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche (If you need to keep this non-dairy, there are non-dairy sour “creams” on the market.)

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter (Or a good quality non-dairy “butter” like Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

3 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (2.5 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt as a garnish


Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, egg yolks, butter, vinegar, cornstarch and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, you want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. (Because this is essentially a short bread crust, there is no need to line the pan or to use weights.) Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes. You might want to put some foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any spill-over. (Do NOT be alarmed when you first see the baked tart coming out of the oven. It will bubble up and look kind of messy at first. Trust me – it settles down as it cools.)

Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Pistachio, Chocolate and Dried Cherries Tart

Valentine’s Day for some reason always means chocolate dessert for me.  Whether it’s a molten lava cake or a sachertorte or really any other chocolate dessert.  This would be great for this year’s weekday Valentine’s as it is easy to make ahead.


We found this recipe after watching the Food Network and much to my pleasant surprise, this ended up being one of those recipes turns out exactly as you would expect.  I might have had to go to two or three different grocery stores to find the ingredients (dried cherries in a pinch are at Trader Joe’s, though I’d recommend buying from if you have the time to plan ahead)!


This is a very rich dessert though, so wouldn’t recommend making for a crowd that is looking for lighter desserts.  On the other hand, if one of your crowd members is a dedicated chocolate enthusiast (ahem, Matthew) this is a winner!

Also, I might have called this a cake for the 4 days it was around before Matt finished it off, and was reminded multiple times that this is a TART not a CAKE.  Not that that in any way diminished from its deliciousness.


  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing pan
  • Eight 4 1/2-inch-long plain or almond biscotti cookies, coarsely broken (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry preserves or jam, such as Bonne Maman 
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped shelled pistachio nuts
  • Salt flakes, such as Maldon, optional

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the biscotti, butter and sugar in a food processor. Blend until the mixture forms moist crumbs that stick together when pressed. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until golden and feels firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Spread the cherry preserves over the cooled crust leaving a 1/2 to 1-inch border.

For the filling: Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the dried cherries and 1/2 cup of the pistachios. Pour the chocolate filling over the cherry preserves and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios on top. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.

Loosen the tart from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Unmold the tart and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt flakes, if using. Cut into wedges and serve.

Blood Orange, Almond and Ricotta Cake

I’m hosting a dinner party in a few weeks, and this always means that I’m looking for delicious ideas for all the meal parts, but especially dessert.  This was so beautiful and different looking that I thought I might serve it, but being the naturally risk-averse person that I am, decided to “test” it first before finding out three hours before dinner that the recipe failed me or anything unexpected like that.


THANK GOODNESS I did, since this ended up taking nearly twice the amount of time it claimed it would in baking, and I definitely needed an extra orange to get that amount of juice.  All in all, a delicious cake that is rapidly being devoured.



1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon water
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
3 blood oranges
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (165 grams) ricotta
1/3 cup (45 grams) cornmeal
1 cup (135 grams) firm-packed almond flour or meal
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup apricot jam

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

Stir brown sugar and water together so they form a thick slurry. Pour into prepared cake pan and spread thin. Set aside.

Whip egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until they hold thick peaks. Set aside.

Place granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Finely zest all 3 oranges over it.

Cut oranges in half. Cut one of the halves into paper-thin slices and arrange slices over brown sugar base in cake pan. Juice other 5 halves (to get about 1/3 cup juice) and set juice aside.

Add butter to zest and granulated sugar in large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer (you can use same beaters you just did for egg whites) until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to combine. Add juice and ricotta; mix until smooth. Sprinkle salt over batter, then add almond flour and cornmeal and mix until just combined. Gently fold in egg whites.

Scoop batter in large dollops over prepared cake pan base. Gently spread batter flat, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath. Bake in heated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  (The original recipe calls for 35-40 minutes but my cake was waaaaaay undercooked at that point and had to keep cooking and cooking it!)

Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes, and then run a knife around the side and invert onto a cake plate. If any orange slices don’t come out easily, just gently arrange them on the top of the cake. If desired, heat jam until loose and brush over cake top for a glossier finish. Let cool and cut into slices. Tastes good at room temperature or after being chilled.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Pot de Crème

Some years ago, Matt and I participated in “Tasting on the Wine Road” where over 100 wineries in the Healdsburg region (in Northern Sonoma, California) offered tastes of their wines paired with something to munch on.  Offerings ranged from very rich cheese fondues paired with bold reds, and salmon teriyaki paired with crisp white wines.  We collected our free cook books that documented all the wines we had the option to taste and all the foods that had been paired, and after a solid day of eating and tasting, concluded that this was one of favorite places to vacation.


A little later while leafing through the book, we came across this recipe for Pot de Crème from a winery that we were members at, but had not stopped at for the Wine Road day.  But given how much we liked Truett Hurst Winery (both for their wines and the beautifully rustic property where we’ve whiled away a day in the sun), we knew the recipe must be delicious, and so it was!  It’s turned into my favorite company dessert since it can be made ahead, and looks beautiful in presentation with a raspberry or two on top and a little bit of whipped cream or “schlag” as we love to call it.  The flavors for this are incredibly dense and delicious.


1 cup Zinfandel (they recommend their Red Rooster Zinfandel)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 tsp clove
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp brown sugar
8 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips
4 egg yolks
2 tsp smoked Maldon sea salt (optional)

raspberries and whipped cream (optional for garnish)


Place the Zinfandel and the spices in a small saucepan and reduce by half.  Whisk in the cream, bring to a simmer, cover and turn off the heat.

In a small double boiler, melt the chocolate with the brown sugar, stirring to combine.  Whisk in the warm cream mixture.

Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, and add in 4 tbsp of the chocolate mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking throughout each addition.  Whisk the tempered yolks into the chocolate on the double boiler and continue to cook, whisking, for 5 more minutes over low heat.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a small pitcher.

Pour into 1/2 cup ramekins (should be enough for 8).  Allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt (optional) and allow to cool for 4-6 hours until set (better if overnight).

Serve with whipped cream and raspberries (optional).

From Tasting Along the Wine Road Cookbook, volume 15, recipe from Chef Peter Brown, Jimtown Store

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Vegan Pumpkin PieI am not a vegan, however, I have beloved family members who keep Kosher and one who is deathly allergic to eggs. As you can imagine, this can present quite a challenge when it comes to desserts – especially for the holidays. And I have an aversion to making something with substitutes that isn’t almost as wonderful as the real thing. It’s taken some searching and experimentation, but I think that my vegan pumpkin pie is as good as pumpkin pie with milk and eggs. It has the right taste and mouthfeel. So if I didn’t have to work within these restrictions would I still make the vegan version – probably not, but when I eat this do I feel as if I am “making do?” Definitely not. It’s one darn good pumpkin pie. And my niece, who has eaten both, swears she likes this version better! cut pumpkin pie

Vegan Pumpkin Pie      


1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (I use the Crisco recipe)

12 ounces silken tofu, blended until liquefied

1 recipe non-dairy condensed milk (see attached recipe)

15 ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 rounded teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground clove

2 Tablespoons molasses or buckwheat honey

3-5 cracks of black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth and well-blended
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 10 minutes Pumpkin Pie ready for oven
  4. Cover the crust with foil or a pie guard and continue baking for about 30 minutes more or until the center just jiggles a little. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave the pie in the oven for 10 more minutes. Don’t worry if it cracks a bit and poofs up. It will settle down as it cools. My baked filling is very dark because of the spices and molasses.
  5. Allow to cool thoroughly. This tastes best when made a day ahead.
  6. Because this is not a real custard, you don’t have to worry about refrigerating it.

I brought this to my niece’s house for Shabbat and it is the favorite dessert of my goddaughter/great niece.

Talia and pumpkin pieTalia digging in

Instant Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk Alternative

Author: Alisa Fleming

Serves: Makes approximately 14 ounces


  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free, vanilla milk powder (I used Growing Naturals Organic Vanilla Rice Milk Drink but I’m not sure this is still available, so you might look for either a soy-based version if you have no issues with soy or Better Than Milk brand Rice Beverage Powder Mix – Vanilla. I have not yet tried either of these, so I am going off of reviews on the internet. )
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons canola, rice bran or grapeseed oil
  • Generous pinch salt


  1. Place the rice milk powder and sugar in your blender. Whiz the ingredients for about 30 seconds, or until powdered.
  2. Add the water, oil, and salt to your blender and blend for 2 minutes, or until thick and creamy.
  3. Use as a substitute for sweetened condensed milk in recipes.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Another wonderful recipe from my new favorite cookbook, this was a perfect way to wind down my stock of apples.


When we went apple picking and *only* picked up two bushels of apples I was really worried it wouldn’t be enough (for a small village?)   Anyways, this was an easy and delightfully “Fall” way to spend more apples, and if not now, when?


For the Filling

  • 3 or 4 apples that will hold shape while cooking (I used Macintosh and I think Jonah Gold, but Cortland, Northern Spy, Winesap or Rome would work, as well)
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed

For the Pastry

  • 10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp sour cream
  • pinch of granulated sugar

Make the Filling

  1. Peel, halve and core the apples.  Melt the butter in an 8-in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and then add the brown sugar.  Arrange the apples cut side down in the pan, making sure they are squeezed tightly.
  2. Cook until the juices from the apples bubble, then turn down to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid.  Continue cooking until the apples are tender and most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from stove, flip the apples so they are cut side up and allow to cool completely.


  1. Rub the softened butter and flour between your thumb and index fingers.  After several minutes it will begin to incorporate into the flour.  Continue until the butter is in pea-size pieces.  Stir in the sour cream until completely incorporated.
  2. Turn out the dough and knead until smooth.  Form into a disk and cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out the dough on your floured work surface so it is big enough to cover the pan plus about 1 inch.  Transfer the dough to the top of the pan, molding the overhanging dough to the side of the pan.  Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool until warm.

Place a large plate over the top of the pan and flip the whole thing upside down.  Dig in!

From Chris Taylor’s Twenty Dinners.

Best Lemon Bars

I love lemon bars, or really, anything dessert-like made with lemons and sugar.  Recently Lisa and I were at a restaurant where I basically ate an entire bowl of lemon curd and had zero regrets.  Therefore when my on and off again baking buddy came over for an afternoon of bubbly and baking, lemon bars were clearly going to be on the agenda.


A food processor made this recipe very easy work, it just required patience to wait for the baked end result to cool off in the fridge before lightly dusting it with confectioner’s sugar and digging in!  

Speaking of food processors, not so long ago, Lisa sent me a link for a food processor for about 18 cups and I remember thinking I would need a small army to feed all the food that the giant processor would make.  Some months later, I finally decided that my teeny tiny 2.5 cup food processor (as cute as it was) was just not cutting it anymore and I splurged and bought one with an 11 cup work bowl.  As it turns out, it’s a great size and has helped me make everything from beet caviar to eggplant dip to helping me make these lemon bars.

This ended up being dessert, and second dessert, and breakfast.  Yum!



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks


  • 1 small to medium sized lemon
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp table salt


  1. Place a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan.  Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet.  Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray.  Set the pan aside.
  3. Crust Blend the flour, sugar and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is podery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about 1/2″ up the sides.  Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork.  Leave the oven on.
  4. Filling Cut your lemon in half, and remove the skin.  Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds.  Toss the lemon rounds – lemon flesh and peel – in the bowl of the food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly processed about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evnely combined.
  6. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set.  You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly.
  7. Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge.  Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck and then gently use the parchment “sling” to transfer bars from pan to cutting board.

From the Smitten Kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman.

Lemon-Sour Cherry Pound Cake

IMAG0759_1When I have a day off, I like to indulge my love of baking – and I worry about who will eat it later…. A few thanksgivings ago, I found this recipe for a lemon cranberry pound cake and it was wonderful. The recipe, from the Joy of Baking, said that you could also use dried cherries and since I happen to have some lovely cherries from, I’m going with that today. The end product is a beautiful cake, bright with the tang of lemon and either the dried cranberries or sour cherries. It’s wonderful for a buffet and lasts for days, with the flavors intensifying, if well wrapped. It’s so pretty that I like to display it in my domed cake stand. And while I do not have a freezer large enough, you could make this ahead, except for the glaze, and freeze it in preparation for the holidays. Yep, it’s almost that time already.

Lemon – Sour Cherry Pound Cake taken from the Joy of Baking

Yield: 12 – 14 servings

Ingredients       Lemon pound cake ingredients

Dried sour cherries or cranberries

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons brandy

1 cup dried cranberries or sour cherries


2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

3 cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs at room temperature

2 Tablespoons lemon zest

1/2 Tablspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

Lemon Frosting (optional)

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice


For Cranberries/Cherries

  1. Bring the brandy, lemon juice and cranberries/cherries to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool completely, reserving the cranberries/cherries and the liquid separately.

For the Pound Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan. If using a dark colored pan, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, alternating with 1/2 of the sour cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
  5. Stir in the drained cranberries/cherries by hand.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top.  lemon pound cake ready for oven
  7. Bake for approx. 60 – 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into themiddle of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
  8. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool. After 5 minutes, lightly brush the top of the cake (it’s really the bottom) with half of the reserved liquid from the cranberries/cherries.
  9. After 10 more minutes, loosen the sides of the pan with a sharp knife and invert onto a wire rack. Immediately brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cranberry/cherry liquid. Cool the cake completely before frosting or dusting with powdered sugar.

Lemon Frosting  IMAG0755

  1. In a bowl, using a whisk, combine the confectioner’s sugar with the lemon juice. You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will run down the sides of the cake. If necessary, add more lemon juice or powdered sugar accordingly.
  2. Pour the frosting over the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides. Allow the icing to dry completely before covering and storing the cake.

Pumpkin “Crème Brûlée”

In the span of a week, NY temperatures have gone from 90 degrees F a day to 55.  I feel like I am always surprised, nay shocked, by Fall, and this year was no exception.  In any case, with the drop of the temperature, it seemed that it was appropriate to begin the season of making chili, pumpkin recipes and all else “Fall”.


While flipping through an old Mark Bittman book that I have loved for years, I came across a Pumpkin “Crème Brûlée” — left in quotes since it’s not truly a custard but it is as delicious as Mr. Bittman says in any case!


  • 1 small can of pumpkin puree
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch allspice
  • pinch kosher salt
  • brown sugar for sprinkling


  1. Whisk the mascarpone, pumpkin puree and brown sugar together in a bowl until combined.  Add cinnamon, allspice and salt and whisk.
  2. Pour into 6 oz ramekins.  When ready to serve, sprinkle brown sugar in a thin layer on the mixture in the ramekins.
  3. Set the oven to broil.  Stick the custard cups under the broiler for 5 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately.

Molten Chocolate Cakes for Two

Oftentimes I look at recipes for dessert and get really excited about making these large, elaborate cakes until I realize that there are only two people eating it.  Which of course means, either I need to commit to a lot of chocolate cake eating contests or something out of Matilda.


Thankfully I happened to come across this wonderful blog that specifically makes desserts for two.  I modified it a bit because I wanted to use dark chocolate.  The cakes turned out delicious, though I think I’d panicked and baked them a smidge too much when I thought they were undercooked.  As it turned out, when I did it again in round 2, 13-14 minutes was perfect to get a runny center.  Just be 100% sure to butter the ramekins or custard cups you use to make sure the cake will easily plop out.

Regardless, the result was deliciously chocolatey.


  • 1 /2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spray two small (~6 oz) custard cups liberally with cooking spray or rub with butter.  (Make sure to do this as otherwise the cakes just won’t “flop” out.)
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler over low heat until the mixture is homogenous.
  3. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and vanilla using an electric hand-held mixer until thick ribbons form, about 3 minutes.
  4. Fold the flour into this mixture, and then the chocolate. Divide between the two custard cups and bake for 13-14 minutes, until the tops of the cakes look well done. If you under-bake, the center of the cake will pour out the top when un-molding.
  5. Let stand for one minute before inverting onto plates.

Adapted from Food and Wine Molten Chocolate Cakes and Dessert for Two.