Debbie’s Orgasmic Pumpkin Roll

img_5625Even though we are in the midst of yet another heat way I was in the mood for some fall baking.  That to me always means pear tarts, apple pies and pumpkin.  I didn’t really feel like pears or apple pie.  What I was really in the mood for was something pumpkin.  I thought that pumpkin pie was just a bit too heavy for this hot weather and besides, in a few weeks I will be making it for Thanksgiving anyway.  I considered a pumpkin pound cake or a pumpkin steamed pudding and then it hit me.  My sisters fantastic pumpkin roll.  Her pumpkin roll is out of this world.  I can never decide if the best part is the wonderful pumpkin sponge or the incredible cream cheese and nut filling but no matter which it is this roll is superb.  I know that pumpkin is usually associated with the Thanksgiving holiday but this roll for me is always associated with Christmas.  I think that it is because I usually never made it home for Thanksgiving but when I would show up at Christmas, my sister always had several of these pumpkin rolls on hand for the celebrations.  I have always loved it and when she gave me the recipe I have made it every year since then.

img_5627It is a fairly easy recipe.  For me the hardest thing is waiting around for everything to get to room temperature.  If your like me and like to start baking at 5:00 in the morning, that waiting around can seem like an eternity.  At any rate, I am sure my sister won’t mind if I share her recipe.  This recipe will make one pumpkin roll but I always double it and make two as it never stays around long.


For the sponge:

3 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling”

1 cup confectioners sugar
4 Tbl butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes.  Beat in the lemon juice.  Fold in the pumpkin.  Sift together the dry ingredients and stir in to the egg mixture.  Spread the batter in a well greased & floured 15x10x1 in cookie sheet. ( I usually just spray the sheet with non-stick cooking spray and then line it with parchment).

Bake the sponge for 15 minutes at 235 degrees, or until lightly browned.  Turn it out onto a towel well dusted with confectioners sugar.  Dust the top of the sponge with more confectioners sugar and then roll up in the towel and allow to cool completely.

Make the filling:  Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in the confectioners sugar and vanilla until incorporated.  Stir in the nuts.

When the sponge is cool, unroll and spread with the filling.  Reroll the sponge and dust with confectioners sugar.

img_5631You can make these way ahead and wrap them in plastic wrap and foil and freeze them until needed.




img_5634 This was one of the technical challenges on The Great British Baking Show and when I saw it I was intrigued.  The one thing that amazed me was that none of the bakers had ever seemed to have heard of it.  It is one of the most classic and iconic of all the French cakes so it surprised me when no one knew what it was.


This challenge was set by the lovable Mary Berry.  I have made numerous versions of the marjolaine over the years and I was pleased to see that Marys recipe is very close to the original.  The marjolaine was created by the great culinary master Fernand Point at his iconic restaurant La Pyramide in Viennes, France.  It is considered to be his masterpiece and is still on the menu at La Pyramide to this day.

lapyramideMarys recipe for the Marjolaine can be found here:

The cake consists of four light and crisp nut dacquoise layers sandwiched with nut flavored buttercream and chocolate ganache.  The whole cake is then frosted with more buttercream, covered in sliced almonds and decorated with more chocolate ganache and hazelnuts and pistachios.

img_5637It does take a bit of time as the dacquoise layers need a long slow bake and then must stay in the turned off oven until cool so plan ahead if your going to make this cake.  You will also need to make buttercream and ganache and a nut praline so be advised if you are leary of sugarwork.  All in all it is a wonderful cake and well worth trying at least once.

A few observations about the recipe.

Mary calls for you to bake the dacquoise in a single layer on two baking sheets and then when baked and cooled, cut them into the four layers.  Being that the dacquoise is so fragile I prefer to mark out the size on need on the bottom of the parchment paper and then pipe over the lines.  That way all I have to do is trim the edges a bit to make sure the layers are all even.  I just feel that I have less chance of breaking the layers this way.

When making the buttercream, Mary indicates to whip the egg and sugar syrup mixture for 5 – 10 minutes until it is cool before adding the butter.  This timing is relative.  My mixer has stainless steel bowls and I sometimes have to beat these types of mixtures for up to 30 minutes before the bowl cools down and the mixture is cool enough to add the butter.  At any rate, just make sure your mixture is cool before adding the butter.  If you don’t. the butter will melt, the mixture will become greasy and your buttercream is essentially ruined as it will never come together and thicken.


Seven Sisters Cake

img_5619Back in the 1970s when I worked in the housewares department of a major department store we stocked Ebelskiver pans.  I thought I was pretty cookware savvy even back then but in all honesty I had never seen these pans nor had any idea what the heck an ebelskiver even was.  There were 3 men and 5 women in the department and between all of us, no one knew what these pans were for.  In the 3 years that I worked in that department I don’t think we ever sold a single one of these pan.

Years later when I moved to California and was living in Ventura county we used to go to Solvang (which is a Danish town) all the time to browse the shops and of course eat all the wonderful danish pastry.  It wasn’t until those trips that I finally found out that an ebleskiver is a small round pancake sometimes hollow and sometimes filled with fruit or cream fillings.  I even learned how to make them.  Recently a work colleague and I were talking and the subject came around to Solvang.  We each told our stories of the wonderful food we had there and he related the story of how he first had Seven Sisters cake while on a visit there.  I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.  It is certainly worth making as it is totally delicious and not very hard to make.

It is a slightly laminated dough with the exception that there is no rolling and chilling and rerolling.  The butter is simply folded into the dough and then rolled out and the cake assembled.  It has an almond butterscotch and a vanilla pastry cream filling.  This recipe will make two 8 inch cakes


Butterscotch filling:
1 cup almond paste
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
pinch salt
pinch cinnamon
1/2 egg white

Custard filling:
1 cup prepared  vanilla custard (any recipe you prefer)

Ring dough:
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 package cake yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or the zest of 1 small lemon
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoon milk
2 Tablespoon sugar

To prepare butterscotch filling:
Mix almond paste, brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon and egg white until smooth. Set aside. Prepare custard; set aside.

To prepare the dough:
Divide butter in half and spread each half on an 8-by-8-inch square of wax paper. Chill.

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, lemon extract (or zest) and egg;.  Mix well. Add flour and mix until smooth.  Divide dough in half.

Roll half of dough on well-floured board to an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Place 1 square of chilled butter on two-thirds of dough. Fold uncovered third of dough over the middle third, then fold the remaining third over the top. Again, fold one end over middle third and fold remaining third over top, making a square of nine layers. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate 30 minutes.   Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Roll the dough flat to pie-shell thickness.  Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch greased cake pan with a 10-inch square cut out of pastry dough. Put 1/2 cup of Butterscotch Filling, topped with 1/2 cup of custard, into dough-lined cake pan and spread evenly.

on the rest of rolled-out dough,Gather the remaining dough and re-roll into  a square, about 8 by 8 inches. Spread a thin layer of Butterscotch Filling on the square of dough.  Roll up like a cinnamon roll. Cut into 7 slices, about 1/2-inch thick (Hence the seven sisters), and arrange the slices on top of the filled cake pan.

Repeat assembly with second half of butter, dough and fillings, to make second cake.

Let the cakes rise for about  45 minutes. Brush tops with milk, sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350°F. until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool and remove from pan.  If desired the cakes can be frosted with a confectioners sugar glaze.

The cakes will keep for several days stored in plastic  bags in the refrigerator.


Swedish Tea Ring

img_5607I have been thinking about my mom alot this past week and as usual most of my fondest memories of her are of spending time in the kitchen with her.  It seemed that almost everything we did in my family involved food and being in the kitchen.  A cherished food memory of my mother was her Swedish Tea Ring.  It was a special treat and although it was one of her signature desserts she only made it a few times a year so it was indeed very special to us.

img_5606As always it seemed like it took ages for it to be ready and I would sit at the kitchen table reading my moms cookbooks while she made the dough and set it aside to proof and I would constantly ask her when it would be ready.  When the dough finally had risen she would roll it out and spread the date-nut filling on it and roll and shape the ring.  Then began the long wait for the second proof and again I would pester her about when it would be ready.  Finally it went into the oven and the kitchen would fill with the wonderful aroma of baking dough and dates and sugar.  Finally it came out of the oven and we were warned not to touch it until it was cool, which always seemed to take an eternity.  Them my mom would make the confectioners sugar glaze and drizzle it all over the top, sprinkle it with chopped nuts and decorate it with cherries.  Finally, after what seemed like eons we were able to have a slice.  It never failed to thrill us.  In homage to my mom I decided to make her tea ring.

img_5598The tea ring is really nothing more than a yeasted sweet roll dough filled with the filling of your choice and shaped into the ring.  This is my mom recipe.  She always used a date-nut filling which is what I have chosen to use her but I have included a few other options.



1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 1150)
1/4 cup lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled) 1,4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening, or margarine or butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, shortening, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 11/2 hours. (Dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.)

Punch down dough. Shape, let rise and bake as directed.

*If using self-rising flour, omit salt.
Do-ahead Tip: After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on lightly floured surface. Spread with desired filling. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down, shape into ring on lightly greased cookie sheet. Pinch ends together. With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through ring at 1-inch intervals. Turn each section on its side. Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (If tea ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.) Spread ring with Glaze and decorate as desired.


1 cup finely chopped dates
1/4 cup Sugar
1/3  cup water
1/3 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Cook dates, sugar and water over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in nuts; cool.

Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until glaze is smooth and of desired consistency.

Optional Fillings

Mix 1/2 cup finely cut-up dried apricots and 1/2 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries, drained on paper towels.


2 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup raisins.
Spread butter over rectangle; sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins.


Chocolate Eclairs and Cream Puffs

img_5594Last week my sister made wedding soup which made her think of my mom which in turn made me think of my mom.  Certainly wedding soup was one of her signature dishes and we could never seem to get enough of it.  I can still hear her scolding me that I was making the meatballs too big.  Oh those tiny tiny meatballs.  Both my sister and I still make it and always strive to achieve results as good as my moms.  My sisters is most excellent.  Mine is very good but not quite of mom caliber yet.  Still I labor on to achieve her perfection.  Last Christmas my sister passed the recipe on to her daughter (my favorite niece) and I have to say that she was just about spot on to my moms.  I remember sitting around the table on Christmas eating it and we were all pretty much in tears over it.  But, I digress.  As I have said, the wedding soup was a signature, as was her wonderful Creamed Chicken and Biscuits (my all time favorite).  But, the one recipe that totally screams mom is her cream puffs.   She made them for us often and they were always such a welcome sight.  As a child I remember sitting up on the counter watching her make them and I thought she must be some kind of magician.  She would put trays of these goopy lumps of dough into the oven and out would come these huge golden puffs ready to be filled.  As much as that fascinated me the best part for me was her wonderful vanilla cream filling.  She would make it while the puffs were baking and then pour it out an a platter, cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to cool.  I would keep sneaking into the kitchen to swipe a finger into it for a taste.  I remember that I would always swipe along the edge thinking that she would never notice what I was up to.  Of course that was never the case and she would always scold me that if I didn’t stop there wouldn’t be any left to put in the cream puffs.  I would just shrug and think, who cares I can just eat it all this way.

img_5596At any rate, all week I have been thinking about those cream puffs and decided to make some.  My moms cream puffs were enormous.  At least in my childhood memories of them.  Maybe my sister remembers differently but I still believe they were huge.  Mine aren’t that big.  I also decided to make some chocolate eclairs as they both use the same recipe and it is just too easy and too quick not to do both.

img_5584img_5592Just use whatever pate a choux recipe you like.  My moms was straight out of Betty Crocker. Mine is similar but uses a few more eggs.  For eclairs, pipe diagonal lines about 4 inches long and space them about 2 inches apart using a 1/2 inch plain piping tube.  For cream puffs, using the same tube pipe them about 1 to 1 1/2 inches around and about 1 1/2 tall again spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes.


I filled my eclairs with chocolate pastry cream and then dipped them in chocolate glaze.  My cream puffs were filled with my favorite vanilla pastry cream and then dusted with confectioners sugar.


Apple Strudel

img_5577Since I have been on a pastry craze the past few weeks I thought I would continue with one of my favorite but seldom made pastries, Apple Strudel.  I made this once many many years ago and thought it was a total disaster.  That was in the days when I lived in fear of anything involving dough.  Now that I have had alot more experience working with various types of dough I no longer approach it with fear and trepidation but embrace it as a relaxing and thoroughly satisfying kitchen project.  My words of advice are to just work quickly and with purpose and always remember that it is only dough and you can still eat it even if it is tough, dry or doesn’t puff and just keep practicing.

img_5583img_5582Strudel dough is not at all hard to make and it just takes a bit of patience and persistence to do the stretching.
For the dough:

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) unbleached bread flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for bowl
Warm water

Stir the flour and salt together in a bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat the egg and oil together with a fork in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough warm water to make 2/3 cup.

Use a rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the flour.

Attach the dough hook to an electric mixer and mix the dough on low speed until it begins to hold together, about 5 minutes. Increase the speed a couple of notches to just below medium and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, another 5 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute. Coat a small bowl with a very thin layer of oil and invert the dough into it; turn the dough over so that the top is oiled, and directly cover the surface of the dough with plastic wrap. Let rest for at least one hour or up to overnight.

img_5578For the filling:

2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Confectioners’ sugar, for finishing
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins in a medium saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. When the apples have released their juices and there is a lot of water in the pan uncover, lower the heat, and cook until the water has evaporated and the apples have thickened, about 20 minutes. Pour filling into a baking dish and stir in the walnuts; let cool to room temperature.

In a small saute pan, melt 5 tablespoons butter and add breadcrumbs. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter; set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay a large, clean cloth or sheet on your work surface, and sprinkle well with flour. Remove strudel dough from bowl without folding it over on itself and set it in the center of your work surface. Use the palms of your hands to flatten the dough. Dust dough lightly with flour and roll it in all directions, rolling thinly as possible. The dough is very soft and sticky so be patient. Lightly brush entire surface with oil and allow the dough to rest and relax a few minutes before stretching.

Slide both hands, with slightly curved palms facing down, under dough toward the center. Using the backs of your hands and knuckles, lift the dough off the cloth and with your knuckles, begin stretching from the center out to the edges until it is too large to stretch easily with your hands. Carefully set dough back on cloth, spreading it to smooth out any wrinkles or folds. Starting in the center again, continue to stretch out the dough in all directions, maintaining a rectangular shape, until the dough is almost translucent everywhere except the edges, which should be thicker. If the dough tears while stretching; you will be able to patch any holes with some of the excess stretched dough. Once dough is stretched, let dry for 10 minutes.

Trim all the thick edges until the dough is approximately 24-by-30-inches. With the 24-inch edge facing you, scatter the breadcrumbs on a 12-by-4-inch rectangle of dough centered about 3 inches in from the 24 inch side so the 16 inch side of filling is parallel to the 24 inch side of dough. Scatter the cooled filling on the same space.

Use a brush to drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of cooled butter all over the unfilled portions of the dough, reserving a little to brush the strudel with once it has been rolled.

Roll strudel by folding 3 inches of dough from the 24-inch side of dough over the filling, then fold the unfilled dough in from each side. Lift the cloth and roll the strudel, stopping to fold the edges inward as you roll. Transfer to prepared pan, seam side down, positioning diagonally if necessary.

Brush the top of the strudel with remaining butter, and snip vent holes in with sharp scissors.

Place strudel in oven. Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until deep golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut on the diagonal into slices. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Stretched dough with bread crumbs

Stretched dough with bread crumbs

The apple filling

The apple filling

The first fold

The first fold

Completed strudel ready to bake

Completed strudel ready to bake

Just baked

Just baked


Danish Pastry

img_5562This week I decided to try something I have never attempted before, Danish Pastry.  I have always enjoyed Danish but never really thought about making it at home.  For one thing, I usually only eat one or two so I thought making a whole batch of it would be kind of wasteful around my house.  Well, once I got started I went a bit wild and made three batches of danish dough so I have plenty to pass around now.

img_5553Back in the 70s when I was working as a hairdresser, there was a bakery next door to the salon that made the most wonderful bear claws.  Every morning before work I would stop in a get a couple to have with coffee before my first client arrived.  Tom, the baker and his wife Lisa eventually became clients of mine and every time they came in to get their hair cut they would bring me an assortment of pastries and we would talk about each one.  That was my first introduction to laminated dough.  One day Tom invited me to come over and watch him work.  I was thrilled and ended up being there for over 3 hours.  Lisa was working on a wedding cake the day I visited and I was fascinated with her piping work.  Tom was working on the danish dough for the next day and he showed me how the butter was rolled into the dough to form all the flaky layers.  Little did I know that years later I would be doing the same thing in my own kitchen.

img_5551Danish dough is a butter laminated dough similar to puff pastry and croissant dough.  Puff pastry is just a flour, water and salt dough into which butter is rolled to make the flaky layers.  Croissant dough is also a flour, water and salt dough but it has butter and yeast added to the base dough before the butter is rolled in.  Danish dough is also a yeasted dough like croissant dough but it also has the addition of milk and eggs and a bit of spice before the butter is rolled in.

img_5560Once the base dough is made and chilled the butter is rolled in exactly like the other doughs and the dough is rested and chilled between each turn.  This recipe calls for 3 turns.


For the dough you will need

1/2 oz active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
4 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pound  unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 1 pound, 4 ounces flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 4 tablespoons butter; beat on low speed until butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the yeast-milk mixture; mix until dough just comes together. Add the eggs and yolk; mix until just combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overmix

On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead to form a smooth ball.   Wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the remaining 3 1/2 sticks butter with 2 tablespoons flour.  The addition of flour here helps to absorb any excess water in the butter and prevents it from weeping when the butter is rolled into the dough. Form the butter mixture into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle on a sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 1 day.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, a little over a 1/4 inch thick, keeping the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a pastry brush. Remove butter mixture from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until it reaches the consistency of the dough. With a short side facing you, place butter mixture over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the unbuttered third over as you would a business letter, followed by the remaining third. This seals in the butter.

Roll out dough again to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, then fold dough into thirds as described above; refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat rolling and folding two more times, refrigerating for at least 1 hour between turns.

Refrigerate the completed dough, tightly wrapped in plastic, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

One recipe of dough will make about 18 danish.  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 x 18 inches. Cut the rolled dough into 9 – 4 inch squares and proceed with your desired shape. Allow the formed pastry to rise for about 45 minutes.  Brush the danish with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar.   Bake the danish at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes rotating the trays half way through the baking time.

For the bow ties you will need about a cup of your favorite Creme Patissiere recipe and whichever fruit you decide to use.  Place a dollop of the pastry cream in the center of the dough square,  Place two pieces of fruit over the cream and fold the top corner down over the fruit, then fold the bottom corner up and press to hold.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.

For the cheese danish use whatever cheese filling your prefer.  I used ricotta cheese to which I added lemon zest, a tablespoon of flour and the zest of 1 lemon.  Place a dollop of the filling into the center of the square and fold the corners into the center and press to hold.  Bake as above.

For pinwheels, cut the for corners of the square about 3/4 into the center.  Fold every other corner into the center and press.  Add a dollop of fruit preserves into the center.  Allow to rise for about 45 minutes and bake.

For the snails, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Fold the dough in half and trim the edges.  Cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips.  Twist each strip and roll into a coil.  Allow to rise and bake.


Chocolate Mint Cheesecake


As I was already making a cheesecake and I had all the ingredients on hand I decided to do a second one.  I have made this cheesecake many times in the past and it always gets rave reviews.  It is especially good during the holidays as it has the peppermint which just sings holiday.  It is also nice for holiday buffets or to take as a gift during the holidays as it is a rather large cake and since it is rich and a little goes a long way, it will serve a crowd.  It has a chocolate cookie crust and a rich dense filling with a hint of peppermint.

For the crust:

9 oz chocolate wafer cookies, broken
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

In a food processor combing the cookies and sugar and process until you have fine crumbs.  With the processor running, pour in the melted butter until the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan.  Wrap the pan in foil to prevent any leaking.  My pans generally don’t leak but I always do this as a precaution.

For the filling.

10 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 lbs cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 large eggs

Melt the chocolate and set aside while you get on with the rest of the filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar until very smooth. Beat in the cocoa powder and peppermint extract until combined.  Scrape the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating just until incorporated. Beat in the melted chocolate just until combined, scraping the bowl as needed.  Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees until done, about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and then chill for at least 4 hours.  Decorate as desired.



Goat Cheese Cheesecake

img_5521I admit to not being a great cheesecake fan.  While I like it I often find it just too dense and rich for my taste.  This recipe comes from one of our favorite local French bistros, The Smoking Goat.  This is their signature dessert and our waiter convinced us to try it.  We did and found it delicious.  It is not as heavy as a traditional cheesecake and the goat cheese gives it a lightness and slight tang that we found most delightful. They were most generous in providing me with the recipe and I decided to give it a try.  The restaurant serves this cheesecake with a peach compote which was marvelous but I decided to just decorate my cheesecake with poached peaches instead as the ones I got at the market this week weren’t completely ripe.

img_5524It is a very simple recipe and goes together very quickly.

For the crust:

7 oz of graham cracker crumbs
1 oz of sugar
2 oz melted butter.

In a food processor combine the crackers and sugar and process until you have fine crumbs.  With the processor running pour in the melted butter and process just until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.  Allow to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

2 lbs cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 lb goat cheese
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the cheeses and sugar in an electric mixer until very smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla and mix until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  Allow to cool.  The recipe suggests putting a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to prevent cracking.   I generally haven’t had much problem with cracking but I gave it a shot anyway.  It worked.  I have also heard many different ways of cooling a cheesecake to prevent cracking.  My preferred method is just to turn the oven off at the end of the baking time and just leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar until it is completely cool.  This does take a bit of time so I usually bake my cheesecakes in the evening and just leave it in the oven overnight.  It has never failed me.  Another trick I always do is to line the bottom of my springform pans with parchment paper.  That way I can get the cake off the bottom of the springform and onto a serving plate so that the bottom isn’t attached when I serve or present the cake.


Layered Mocha Cream Torte

IMG_5515This is another of those recipe clippings I found last week.  It is again from the January 1995 issue of Bon Appetit.  It is from an article about a holiday dessert table.  It is certain fit for that but I think it would be great for a dinner party anytime of year.  You can make it well ahead and freeze it until you need it.

IMG_5514I made mine a few days ago and kept it frozen until I had time to finish it.  It can also be served frozen like an ice cream cake or thawed and served at room temperature.  I haven’t decided which way I like it best.

IMG_5486IMG_5491IMG_5492IMG_5496It is a wonderful combination of chocolate cookie crust filled with a heavenly and light mocha mouse and smooth coffee flavored whipped cream all layered with dark chocolate cookie crumbs. Light and smooth and very flavorful.

Layer Mocha Cream Torte


2 1/2 cups ground chocolate wafer cookies (from about 1½ 9-ounce packages)
1 ¼ tablespoons instant coffee powder 6 tablespoons (K stick) unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
5 large egg whites
2 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F Blend ground cookies and coffee powder in processor Set aside 3/4 cup cookie crumb mixture. Add butter to remaining crumb mixture and process until crumbs are moist. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until just firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

FOR FILLINGS: Stir chocolate, butter and 1 teaspoon coffee powder in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Set chocolate mixture aside while preparing meringue.
Stir 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil syrup without stirring until candy thermometer registers 240’F, tilting pan to submerge bulb, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat hot syrup into whites. Continue beating until medium-stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Fold 1/3 of meringue into lukewarm chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining meringue. Set chocolate meringue aside.

Combine 1/4 cup cream and 5 teaspoons coffee powder in large bowl to dissolve. Add 2 1/2 cups cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon and beat until firm peaks form. Fold 1 ½ cups whipped cream into chocolate meringue forming mocha mousse.

Spoon half of mocha mousse bottom of crust. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons reserved crumb mixture over meringue. Spoon half of coffee whipped cream over crumbs. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons crumbs. Repeat layering with remaining mocha mousse, crumbs, coffee whipped cream and crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Can be made3 days ahead, keep refrigerated.) Run knife blade around pan sides to loosen torte. Remove pan sides and serve.