Passover Lemon Cake Balls

Passover Lemon Cake Balls

The popularity of my Passover Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake balls has skyrocketed over the years. The winning combination of convenience and novelty cannot be denied. Plus they are over-the-top delicious. This year, I set out to make an even simpler version for a cooking class I taught a few weeks ago. These Passover Lemon Cake Balls are the happy result. Enjoy!

Passover Lemon Cake Balls

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Passover Cake
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd
  • 10-12 ounces vanilla candy coating (I like Ghiradelli Vanilla Melting Wafers
  • Sprinkles, poppy seeds, or another embellishments for decorating that you’d like

Directions:

  1. Crumble the cake into a bowl.
  2. Add the lemon curd and mix well to combine.
  3. Roll mixture into balls using a cookie scoop and place on a baking tray.
  4. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  5. Melt the vanilla candy coating according to package directions and let cool slightly.
  6. Dip each ball in the melted candy coating using 2 forks and give each a gentle shake to remove excess coating.
  7. Place on wax paper and let the coating harden at room temperature or stick them in the freezer to speed things up. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Notes:

*A small cookie scooper will make 24 1-inch truffle-sized cake balls, and a medium one will make 12-2 ½ inch cake balls. It is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.

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Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

I love this dessert. This is the dessert that makes me love Passover desserts.

It is cold, and creamy, and fruity, and fresh.

And pretty too.

Did I mention that you can make it ahead? Well, you can. And it is a great ending to a big matzo-filled meal.

Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

  • 1-10 ounce can of soft store-bought macaroons, almond or coconut flavor
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 CUP cantaloupe, diced–don’t add more or your filling will be too liquidy!
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-8 oz. bar of cream cheese, at room temp
  • strawberries and kiwis for topping
  1. For the crust, preheat oven to 350°F. Place macaroons in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they turn to crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse again until combined. Press the macaroon mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ tart pan. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden. Let cool on a rack while you make the filling.
  2. For the filling, put the cantaloupe and sugar into the food processor and puree. Add the cream cheese and process until ingredients are well blended. Pour into crust and spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. For the topping, before serving, peel kiwis and thinly slice. Slice strawberries the long way (I use an egg slicer so they come out evenly sliced). Arrange the fruit on top of the tart in concentric circles. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

White Chocolate Caramel Apples

Sweetheart Caramel Apples for Valentine’s Day

Sweetheart Envy Apple

Share these with someone you love!

Speaking of love, I LOVED making these on Great Day St. Louis on KMOV here in St. Louis:

Envy Apples and Great Day St. Louis

I can’t help it, but I get a little nostalgic–Great Day St. Louis was the site of my very first live television cooking demo back in 2008– I made my world famous Perfect Potato Pancakes for Hanukkah with Kent. The energy on the set is super fun, everyone who works there is upbeat, and the hosts are down-to-earth. There is also this casual feel that makes guests feel right at home. What a rush, both then and now! And they loved, loved, loved the apples. My host this time, Matt, got a little giddy over giving the apple a bath in the vanilla candy coating, and frankly, I did too. You can watch it here:

Making Sweetheart Caramel Envy Apples Live on Great Day St. Louis

I made a few extra Sweetheart Caramel Envy Apples to share with my sweethearts at home. Not only are these caramel apples are pretty, but by the time you are done dipping them in all of the yummy layers, they have grown big enough to share (although you could just eat one on your own). So like I said before, share these with someone you love, even if that someone is YOU!

Sweetheart Caramel Apples for Valentine’s Day

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Press a stick into the stem end, deep into each apple.
  2. Place the caramels and sweetened condensed milk into a bowl and microwave for 90 seconds. Stir well, and if necessary, microwave again in 30 second intervals until the mixture starts to melt. Stir until smooth. If it is hot and bubbling, let it cool a bit, but it make sure it is still warm and melted enough to be able to coat the apple.
  3. Dip the apple into the caramel until completely coated and let the excess drip off (you can decide if you want some of the apple to show near the end with the stick or if you want it completely covered). Place coated apples onto a plate lined with parchment paper and let harden.
  4. When the caramel coating has hardened, melt the candy coating in a bowl in the microwave according to package directions. Stir until smooth.
  5. Dip the caramel apples into the warm vanilla candy coating until coated and let the excess drip off (again, you can decide if you want some of the apple to show near the end with the stick or if you want it completely covered). Place the apple onto the parchment paper and immediate sprinkle the top generously with the sprinkles. Repeat with the other apples and allow to set. Once the chocolate has hardened, serve or wrap in cellophane to give as gifts.

Note: If you have any caramel mixture left over, add a little more sweetened condensed milk until you get the consistency you like, warm in microwave, and stir to use as a dip for sliced apples!

How I Hosted Thanksgiving Without Losing My Mind in 19 Steps

Cranberry Curd Tart from the New York Times Cooking Section

It’s over. But hindsight is 20/20. I’m posting this with the hopes that I can learn from a little self-reflection. More holidays right around the corner, after all.

Step One. Shop three times in three days and still forget 5 things. Buy half the amount of onions I meant to. Store is open on Thanksgiving, right? Oh, it’s not? Buy 4 pounds of cranberries instead of 2. They freeze, right?

Step Two. Make cranberry sauce. Put in fridge. Whew. My work is done and all of my labor and careful planning has already paid off.

Step Three. Have 2 kids make 2 pies, one from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can, the other from the back of the Karo syrup bottle. I am officially not a snob and my kids are now very accomplished. Third kid is currently negotiating to help tomorrow instead of today. #studyingnotstudying

Step Four. Run down to basement with husband in tow. He’s there to carry assorted cooking gadgets–electric turkey roaster, bread machine, ice cream maker, instant pot, soup pot, tart pan, and serving platter–but he is also there because I shouldn’t have watched the first episode of The Haunting of Hill House and now I can never ever safely go to the basement alone again without thinking of “The Bent Neck Lady.” #shudder

Step Five. Make King Arthur Flour Cookbook recipe for stuffing bread. It calls for 13 ingredients and I planned on leaving out the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and the bread dough enhancer. Realize that I am out of sage, cornmeal, potato starch. 7 out of 13 ingredients down. I momentarily wonder if it will taste as good? Is it even stuffing bread anymore??? Pause to have existential crisis. Decide to wing it and hope for the best since I refuse to buy a loaf of fancy bread to shred for stuffing. Spending pennies instead of dollars even if the stress costs me my health. 

Step Six. Spontaneously decide I will make the Cranberry Curd Tart from the New York Times Cooking website because I really am a snob. My supermarket doesn’t carry hazelnuts or rice flour. Improvise with almond flour from Costco leftover from Passover and some unbleached white flour, but decide to otherwise follow the directions meticulously.

Step Seven. Realize that I didn’t follow the directions at all and have made 2 substitutions and 1 big fat mistake. Proceed anyway. Doesn’t quite look like the picture, but I am sure it will taste good.

Step Eight. Open bottle of wine that was meant for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a white blend from Pop Crush and was on clearance at the grocery store for $5. The joke is on them because it’s so good they could have charged three times the price. It would be GREAT paired with food. Turkey especially. Oh. the joke’s on me. It’s gone and now I am too drunk to follow directions meticulously. I think I will call it a day.

Step Nine. Thanksgiving morning. Wake up and hit the ground running. Well, actually, sleep in, go to Jazzercise, do some online shopping, make some phone calls, and oh shoot, better start cooking. Set the table instead. See procrastination blog post

Step Ten. Cut stuffing bread into cubes and toast in oven. Saute leeks, celery, apples, thyme. Chop chestnuts and parsley. Stuffing looks picture perfect. Makes a lot but should have doubled this anyway–it’s everyone’s favorite! 

Step Eleven. Vaguely notice family as they lounge nearby while I wrestle 18 pound Trader Joe’s turkey out of wrapper and hoist into roaster. Watch family recoil in fear of salmonella. Husband stands on guard with bleach bottle in hand. Meanwhile, I dump random spices from the cabinet on top of the turkey, stuff a bunch of random things from the crisper to the cavity, drizzle with olive oil, and add onions and broth to the pan. Close lid. Pray. Should have had more of a plan, but turkey always tastes like turkey, no matter what fancy things I do to it. I stare into space and have flashbacks to Thanksgiving 2008 when I lovingly massaged the turkey with homemade herb butter and left the skin to crisp for 3 days in the fridge, all for nothing. It tasted good but just like every other turkey. Feeling better about my decision, or lack of decision.

Step Twelve. Ask husband and kids to help peel potatoes. Watch husband pretend sweet potatoes are manatees swimming off the coast in Florida and act out entire watery scenario. Wonder if he is losing his mind. Decide he is just very hungry and his blood sugar is low.

Step Thirteen. Sheesh, step thirteen?!?! What kind of crazy holiday is this? Thank god I only have to do this once a year. Pry sweet potato from husband’s hands for cooking. Does he look a little tearful? Did he just quietly say, “Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest?” Make mashed potatoes. Bake stuffing. Chop kale for our favorite salad.

Step Fourteen. Turkey is done. Husband lifts cooked turkey out of roaster with wooden spoons. The wooden spoons snap. We don’t speak for a full minute as we stare thoughtfully at the turkey. What have we done in the past…think…complete amnesia sets in as we both stare off into the distance trying to conjure memories of Thanksgivings past. None of our 23 Thanksgivings together are coming to mind. Two pairs of metal tongs do the trick. It looks lovely on the platter tented with foil. It is picture perfect, but no one will get to see it because carving is imminent as my husband clutches the carving knife.

Step Fifteen. Make gravy. THIS IS THE MOST STRESSFUL PART. Pouring a giant vat of hot greasy liquid into 4 cup fat separator as wide-eyed starving children look on is a little unnerving. Separator does its magic. Kids don’t care about watching turkey being carved, but they appear mesmerized by the fat separating from the stock, the way one might stare at a lava lamp. I make a swimming pool’s worth of gravy. It is perfect and no seasoning is necessary.

Step Sixteen. Kids and husband carry food for 50 people into dining room set for 5. I’m in the bedroom frantically printing out Thanksgiving trivia and games as I just thought of it right now.

Step Seventeen. We eat. We play. It’s perfect. All of the stress and hard work was worth it.

Step Eighteen. Kids clear table. Kids do dishes. So many dishes. Kids do dishes on repeat for two days. Best kids ever. I am truly thankful all around.

Step Nineteen. We eat Thanksgiving dinner three times a day for three days. When it is gone, we are both relieved and sad.

Step Nineteen. Start planning for Chanukah. I think I’ll get a head start. I learned a lot from Thanksgiving this time. 🙂

 

 

Amazon Affiliate Links:

King Arthur Flour Cookbook

Instant Pot  Oster Turkey Roaster

Apple Pumpkin Pie and Mulled Cider Cocktail

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Envy Apple​ ​Pumpkin​ ​Pie

For the pie filling:

  • 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs yolks + 1 whole egg
  • small pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 frozen pie crust

For the apple topping:

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced on a mandolin

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425℉.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients for pie filling until well combined.
  3. Place the frozen pie crust on a baking sheet and then fill the crust with the pumpkin pie filling.
  4. Combine the melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. VERY gently toss the apple slices in the butter mixture to coat.
  5. Begin with the larger slices and shingle in a circle just inside the crust. Repeat with smaller slices until they come together in the middle.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350℉ and cook for 40-50 minutes more until set. Allow to cool completely. Slice and serve!

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Mulled Envy Apple Cider and Bourbon Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon, 1 shot or 1 ½ ounces per serving
  • Spiced Rum, 1 shot or 1 ½ ounces per serving
  • 1 thinly sliced Envy apple
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Apple Cider, as little or as much as you want to serve, approx. 1 cup per serving
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the sliced apple, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the apple cider and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add shot of bourbon and spiced rum to each glass.
  3. Top with the warm apple cider mixture and a sprig of rosemary.

 

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1. Quick Pickled Apples, 2. Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries, 3. Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, Apple, & Cranberry Stuffing, and 4. Apple Rye Punch

 

You probably think of apples as harbingers of autumn. But when you think about it, they are there in the grocery store all year round. Loyal friends that they are, they wait in heaps and piles, queued to go home with you anytime. Sweet!

 

Envy Apple Display

 

Speaking of sweet, this weekend I attended a cooking class featuring Envy apples taught by Chef Kim at the Schnucks Cooking School in Des Peres. What fun!

 

As each person entered the room they were offered an apple-themed cocktail–a glass of Apple Rye Punch. If that doesn’t set the tone for a good time, I don’t know what does. 

Envy Beverage

Apple Rye Punch

I was lucky enough to be able to join a group of super fun ladies who were longtime friends, good cooks, and quite photogenic to boot. Plus, they did most of the work while I took pictures.

 

Envy Cooks

 

Chef Kim started class by teaching us what makes Envy apples so special. It turns out that the more flecks you see on the outside, the sweeter they will be on the inside. The flecks are called lenticels and they help the fruit “breathe.” Carbon dioxide goes in and oxygen goes out. This increases the production of the enzyme that slows browning, which means that you can cut them ahead of time, and their flesh will retain its white color. This is great news for putting sliced apples in lunches, on cheese platters, and in salads.

 

Raw, they are crisp and juicy, but cooked, they are delicious as well. And cook them we did. You won’t believe this, but the first thing we did was pickle them! I have to admit, I had my doubts. My first thought was, Why would anyone do that to an already perfect apple? But I stand corrected. The first bite of the Quick Pickle Apples humbled me to my core.

 

Quick Pickled Apples

 

The apples were still sweet and crisp but mixed with exotic flavors, and if you can believe this… juicier! A bite of a pickled apple with a bite of cheddar cheese almost brought me to my knees. I could have eaten that and that alone for the entire night and gone home happy.

 

Envy Apple and Cheese

 

But wait, there’s more…

 

The class made a Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries that had such fantastic flavors. The fresh parsley, the green onions, and the crisp apples were the perfect foil for the main course.

 

Envy Cutting Board

 

A thick pork chop stuffed with Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts, Apples, and Cranberry Stuffing. The chop was just a vessel for what lie within. I would make this stuffing again, perhaps serving it stuffed into or even alongside chicken or turkey. Cornbread cubes, brussel sprouts, hunks of apple, and fresh sage conjured up flavors of Thanksgiving.

 

Envy Cooked Chop

 

And of course there was pie. Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie. No, really, that was its name.  The crust, made from scratch, draped over a perfect mixture of apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, and dotted with butter. The pie was then brushed with cream, sprinkled with sugar, and baked to browned perfection.

 

Everyone left happy with an Envy apple apron, fantastic recipes, a full tummy, and new friends. You can’t get that just anywhere, but you can get Envy apples at your local grocery store. They are just waiting for you to bring them home, and that is pretty sweet!

 

Envy Arial Plate

Perfect plating!

 

Quick Pickled Apples

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white or champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pickling spice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large Envy apples
  • 2 star anise pods
  1. Combine water, vinegar, maple syrup, pickling spice, and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, wash and core your apples (no need to peel). Cut apples in half from top to bottom, then cut each half into ⅛ inch slices.
  4. Put the apples slices into a glass bowl and add the star anise. Through a strainer, pour the brine over the apples and star anise. Cover and allow to come to room temp.
  5. Store them in the fridge in a glass jar with just enough of the the brine to cover the apple slices. They will keep for a week.

Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 bunch or 5-6 green onions, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Envy apple, cored and diced
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Toast hazelnuts: preheat oven to 350℉ and spread the nuts out on a baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes and let cool completely. You should hear the skins crackle while cooling. When cool, remove the skins and chop the nuts.
  2. Meanwhile, put the water for the quinoa up to boil. Rinse the quinoa well, and add it to the boiling water with a pinch of salt. Cook on medium-low for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and let cool in fridge.
  3. Heat a skillet with the olive oil, and saute the onion and celery until soft. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
  4. When cool, add the parsley, cranberries, green onion, apple, quinoa, and hazelnuts.
  5. Drizzle with additional olive oil and lemon juice if desired, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well and allow the flavors to blend for 20 minutes before serving.

Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts, Apples, and Cranberry Stuffing

  • 1 pound butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts, julienned
  • 1 Envy apple, diced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 10 slices of bread (cornbread, sourdough, or whole grain), toasted and cubed
  • 1 ½ cups stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Toss the squash, brussel sprouts, apples, onions, celery, shallots, and 2 tablespoons of the oil together. Season very well with salt and pepper and roast until the veggies are tender and a bit singed. Remove from oven and let cool. You can serve it as is or you can now use it for stuffing.
  2. Reduce oven temp to 375℉. Cut a pocket in your chops and season with salt and pepper. On a baking sheet, lay out the chops, put stuffing into the pocket, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie

For crust:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 11 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6 ounces very cold shortening, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup ice water
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put flour and salt and blend on low speed. Add butter and mix until flour looks crumbly. Add chunks of shortening and continue to mix. When clumps begin to form and the dough holds together when you press some between your fingers, slowly pour in the water and mix just until incorporated. Divide into two pieces of dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first piece of dough into an 11 inch circle. Put into a 9 inch pie plate, letting it hang over the edge of the dish. Roll the second piece of dough into a 10 inch circle and set aside.

For the pie filling:

  • 2 Envy apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • ¼ flour
  • ¾ sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on crust if desired
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cream or milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425℉. Mix the apples, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Pour into the prepared pie crust and dot with the butter.
  3. Cover with the top crust and tuck the overhang under the bottom crust. Flute edges with fingers or a fork and vent the top.
  4. Brush the top with the cream or milk and sprinkle with extra sugar.
  5. Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes until the juices bubble through the vent. If the edges are browning too quickly cover them by wrapping two strips of foil around them loosely. Let cool on a rack for half an hour before cutting.

Apple Rye Punch

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 750 ml rye or whiskey
  • 25 dashes bitters
  • 20 ounces hard cider
  • 6 cups ice
  • Envy apple slices for garnish
  1. In a pitcher, mix together cider, rye or whiskey, bitters. Right before serving add hard cider and ice. Garnish with Envy apple slices and serve.

Envy Pouring Apple Filling

 

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough with Chocolate Truffle Filling

Have you tried to use chocolate chips to fill hamantaschen? Of course you have! And did it turn into a chalky dry disappointing mess? Of course it did! And since any kind of negative feelings on Purim are just plain and simple against the rules, I am here to help.

What you want to do is think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and add the chocolate chips to the dough. Then, not only do you get speckled, freckled happiness, but these pied beauties will bring joy to any chocolate lover you choose to bestow them upon.

side view

freckled speckled hapiness

You will need to finely chop the chocolate and add some fresh orange zest as a nod to the land of Israel and Golda Meir’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the rest is pretty straightforward and mostly foolproof. The wow factor here is the orange zest so be sure not to skip it.

finely chopped

finely chopped chocolate

You can make the dough and truffle filling up to 3 days ahead and then assemble when you are ready.

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one large orange
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  1. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and stir.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the finely chopped chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
sugar

sugar

and butter

and butter

mix it up

mix it up

for 3 minutes

for 3 minutes

until fluffy

until fluffy

whisk together dry ingredients

whisk together dry ingredients

add dry to wet

add dry to wet

mix

mix

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

finely chopped

finely chopped

add to batter and mix

add to batter and mix

chocolate chip dough

chocolate chip dough

Truffle Filling

  • 8 ounces of chocolate
  • 6 ounces of heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Put the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and pinch of salt into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir. Then heat in 20 second increments and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Place in fridge until firm.

To assemble:

  1. Rip off a hunk of dough and form into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin until about ¼ of an inch thick. Cut out a circle using a 3” cookie cutter or cup. Repeat.
  2. Put a dollop of the truffle filling in the center of each round (you can use Nutella if you don’t want to make the filling).
  3. Lift sides of dough toward center to form a triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes. Let cool before eating to give the filling a chance to firm up.
grab a handful and make a ball

grab a handful and make a ball

roll it out

roll it out

cut

cut

fill

fill

fold

fold

like this

like this

and this

and this

perfection

perfection

Mexican Chocolate Sauce

It is Cinco de Mayo weekend and time for a fiesta!  For me, Cinco started last week when I was on two morning news shows promoting Mrs. Wages salsa, guacamole, and queso dip. What fun!

See the clips here:

This one is my favorite! Tim Ezell and April were a hoot!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/02/easy-salsa-guacamole/

Elliot politely refused my sombrero but it didn’t stop me from having a blast!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/03/three-amigos-of-cinco-de-mayo-snacks/

For my own Cinco celebration at home with friends, I wanted to do something special after the tortilla chip crumbs were brushed away—so, for dessert, I served  Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ten years ago I went with my husband to a conference in San Diego. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the bay and had a view of Coronado Island.

At the time, my boys were little, 2 and 5, and my girl was not yet on the horizon. It was the first time I was getting on a plane to go somewhere without my kids. It was just two years after 9/11 and getting on a plane was still a little anxiety provoking, to say the least.

The third Lord of the Rings movie had just come out in theaters, and I was almost done reading Return of the King, rushing to finish before seeing it in the theater, which we planned to do on New Year’s Eve on our trip.

We lived in a small town at the time, Winona, Minnesota, and the New Yorker in me was desperate to go to a city, any city, and eat great food and be around hoards of people. So off we went.

It was an icy December, and getting on a tiny propeller plane from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities was no comfort as it shook and shivered to get off of the ground. I watched the blinding whiteness of snowy Minnesota disappear as we headed to what I hoped was a lush, green California.

When we got to San Diego we were told they were having the coldest winter in recent history. I pulled my coat tightly around me and braced myself for the chilly California weather and an exciting week without my two loves I had left far behind at home.

Return of the King weighed heavily on my mind—I fretted as I read.  Frodo had risked everything to travel far and away and save Middle Earth. Surely I could make it through the week without going to pieces over missing my boys. Frodo and I, we were in this together.

On December 31 we took the bright red trolley to Old Town. A couple of stops further and we would have been in Tijuana. I wouldn’t have dared to travel over any borders with my kids so far behind, so Old Town was as far as we went.

We spent a very enjoyable day browsing ceramic lizards and other hand painted pottery in the Mexican art galleries. We ate delicious Mexican food and drank wide and wobbly glassfulls of margaritas rimmed in salt with clinking cubes of ice. We sat outside under a chilly sky with brightly colored restaurant décor and lively music playing all around us.

That night we would ring in the New Year by sitting through a late showing of Return of the King, too excited to do anything else. But first we would shop at a the Mexican stores—our Minnesota house was too tiny for more art, but the grocery store was pure delight. One of the things I purchased that day was a large box of Ibarra chocolate with plans to make hot cocoa as soon as we returned home from our trip. It was something I could share with my boys from our trip that would warm us up together from the harsh Minnesota cold.

Ibarra

Ibarra

I kept the bag of Ibarra on my lap during the movie that night, and clutched it tightly as I watched Frodo destroy the ring and restore balance to his world. We would go home the next day.

Home was filled with hugs and kisses and joy and cups of hot Mexican cocoa.

All of these years later I rediscovered the yellow box of Ibarra, 5 more paper-wrapped discs waiting patiently to be transformed into more cocoa. But instead I made something much, much better: Mexican Chocolate Sauce.

Ibarra disc

Ibarra disc

On our table I put out the sombreros from my TV cooking demo from earlier in the day. I hung the paper Mexican flags from our window and made bowls of queso, salsa, and guacamole. We had our Cinco de Mayo dinner with friends, and for dessert, little white bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with warm Ibarra chocolate sauce: the flavor rich and spicy; the texture enhanced by the slight sugary crunch and the subtle hint of cinnamon; the chocolate flavor deepened by a splash of Kahlua and silky cream.

Ooooo

Ooooo

We were transported to magical places…

Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce

  • 5 large disks or a scant pound of Ibarra chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  1. Place the chocolate and the cream in a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, stir, and microwave it for another minute. Continue to heat in 20 second increments, stirring each time until the cream is very warm and the chocolate begins to melt. Let stand for a few minutes and stir until smooth.
  2. Let cool to room temp and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Yum!

Yum!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.

 

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Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours, but take out and leave at room temperature after that.

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Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

This one speaks for itself!

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

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Whoopie Pies: Whoop! Here it is!

If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about food. My opinion about Whoopie Pie is, that it is good. But these, my friends, are great!

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

These can be made hamburger-sized, bun and all, but you can make them smaller if you are into mini things. Part of their charm, if you ask me, is the size, and are not necessarily meant to be delicate. But do as you will.

I say make them big and eat one for lunch.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake will stick to your fingers, reminiscent of the cream filled snack cake in little plastic packages from your childhood, but fresh and homemade.

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

The cream is somehow very un-marshmallow-like and more the stuff that dreams are made of, if one were to dream about cream-filled dessert.

I do…

Dreamy

Dreamy

They are just about foolproof, so go ahead and mis-measure a little, sift or not, substitute here and there–it is entirely up to you.

The only few things I will insist upon, is that you must use vegetable shortening & butter when specified to get the proper texture of cake and cream; and it is the Marshamallow  Fluff  brand I recommend since both the brand and the dessert are classics.

This is the shtuff

This is the shtuff

So experience a little high, and get it on with these Whoopie Pies.

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.
  3. Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, you can just use a hand-held mixer instead), beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop (sm, med, or lg), drop batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (1 Tablespoon for 2” cakes, 2 T for 3”, and 3 T for 4”).
  6. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes which will make 24 Whoopie Pies, or 36 three-inch cakes which will make 18 W.P.’s., or like I did, 24 four-inch cakes for 12 hamburger sized W.P.’s!

For the marshmallow filling:

  • 1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing the medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble:

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon put a large dollop in the center of half of the cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press down to help the cream spread. Eat right away or store between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container large enough to fit the Whoopie Pies.
Flour

Flour

Cocoa

Cocoa

The sifter

The sifter

Adding cocoa to the flour

Adding cocoa to the flour

Ready to sift

Ready to sift

Sifting in progress

Sifting in progress

Done sifting

Done sifting

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Creaming

Creaming

Vanilla

Vanilla

An egg

An egg

Mixin' it up

Mixin’ it up

Add egg and vanilla

Add egg and vanilla

Add half the milk

Add half the milk

Add half the flour mixture

Add half the flour mixture

Batter mixing

Batter mixing

Almost done

Almost done

Scrape down the sides

Scrape down the sides

Beautiful batter

Beautiful batter

Get the scoop

Get the scoop

Drop it

Drop it

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

All lined up

All lined up

Transformed

Transformed

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

All fluf

All fluf

Whip it

Whip it

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

Dreamy

Dreamy

A scoop

A scoop

Filling in place

Filling in place

Beginning to look like dessert

Beginning to look like dessert

Yum

Yum

Lookin' good

Lookin’ good

mmm...

mmm…

The topper

The topper

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

A small army of dessert

A small army of dessert

Heavenly

Heavenly

Whoopie!

Whoopie!

Yum

Yum

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Happiness

Happiness

Bombshell Blondies

We all know blondies have more fun and I’m here to prove it to you.

Now, I like a good brownie now and again, but I will tell you there is not too much variation when the point is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

But blondies on the other hand are like a blank canvas, waiting for the artist to color it in.

And usually folks fall on one side of the camp or the other, and I am on Team Blondie all the way.

I am not a chocoholic as many people proclaim to be.

Carboholic, yes (see All Hail Kale), but chocolate, not so much, and prefer it as more of an accent to something else rather than the main attraction.

I’ve been asked what the difference is between these and a “pan cookie” and I can tell you that this isn’t any old drop cookie recipe shoved into an 8 x 8 pan. Instead, it is a carefully thought out combination of ingredients, each having its own special job, but together create a taste explosion.

The texture, chewy and dense, will satisfy the most hardcore brownie lover (you are a tough bunch, btw).

The sugar and butter caramelize and people will ask what your secret ingredient is, and even try to guess (butterscotch, caramel, toffee). But no, alas, it is just the transformation of seemingly everyday things that creates this illusion.

And as for the kosher salt, well, this in fact is key here. It gives the blondies balance so they do not come off cloyingly sweet or garish in their dessert-ness, and instead create a depth that brings out all of the other flavors, especially enhancing the bit of chocolate that goes in.

These are buxom blondies, that eat like a meal with their hearty, toothsome, cakey texture, the meatiness of the nuts, the ever-pleasant burst of chocolate in every bite. They sit in all their glory on their plate waiting for someone to fall game to their voluptuous appeal, laden with deliciousness.

This is dessert after all and it doesn’t play fair.

But alas, life is not always fair, and blondies really do have more fun. Feel free switch it up and add raspberries and coconut, or chopped peanut butter cups, or nothing at all.

But this is how I like it and I am a fun gal, after all.

Me being fun

Me being fun

 

Bombshell Blondies

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt, slightly rounded

¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay, make it heaping if you must)

¾ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides; then butter the parchment (the butter here will help form a crisp exterior).

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2. In a large bowl, melt the 2 sticks of butter in the microwave and let cool for a few minutes.

melt the butter

melt the butter

 

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, and salt; set aside.

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4. Into the large bowl with melted and slightly cooled butter, whisk in the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

add the sugar

add the sugar

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yin yang of chocolate and pecans

yin yang of chocolate and pecans

stir to combine

stir to combine

 

4. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and even out the top.

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

spread evenly

spread evenly

5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes for a 9 x 9 pan, and 45 minutes for an 8 x 8. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.  Holding the paper overhang, lift out the blondies. Cut into 16 squares (or cut them again to make 32 slices or triangles).

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We are all fun over here at my house!

We are all fun over here at my house!

Cloud Cookies, aka Chocolate Chip Meringues

It is just after Thanksgiving and probably best to take it a little easy when it comes to eating dessert.  If your family served nine kinds of pie—This. Means. You.

I don’t mean anyone should skip dessert entirely—I would never suggest anything as radical as that—but here is an opportunity to eat something a little lighter.

I wouldn’t call this healthy or good for you, but honestly, it is not too bad, as far as desserts go.

These are easy to make, so if you just spent days cleaning and cooking for T-Day, then this is surely the way to go. And you probably have all of the ingredients in your house already, since there are only four. But note: don’t make these on a rainy or humid day—ironically these Cloud Cookies won’t turn out.

It starts off simply–first you take three large eggs and leave them at room temp for about an hour or so. If you don’t have time to spare, then take your three eggs and put them in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 275° F and line a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper and set aside.

Next, you crack the eggs, and separate the white from the yolk using any one of the following methods:

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Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls for Passover

Here it is folks, up to the minute breaking news from right here in Aura’s Test Kitchen and pomegranatesandhoney.com! I’ve been in the kitchen trying to reinvent Passover. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it can be done. No more matzo flavored chocolate cake. No more weird tasting egg-puffed chiffon cakes. No more getting dessert out of a can.

We are free, so let’s eat like it! No need to be enslaved to your grandmother’s fruit compote recipe forever.
Every year I consider it my personal mission to come up with one or two never seen before Passover recipes. I have fond memories of my mom’s Passover desserts from childhood. But let’s face it, Passover desserts taste odd. Maybe some of you look forward to that matzah cake meal flavor, but I say let’s leave matzah where it belongs—on the seder table. On your dessert table, put these, because, well, why not?
I bring to you my latest creation…
Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls
·          One and half 8 ounce packages pre-made Passover cake, such as Osem marble cake or pound cake (12 ounces total)
·         ¼ cup cream (dairy-free creamer is ok too)
·         ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
·         ½ teaspoon almond extract
·         10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate  plus 1/2 cup cream for the coating, or if you want a hard chocolate shell use 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark candy coating
·         1 ½  tablespoon finely chopped almonds
1.      Crumble the cake into a large bowl. You will get about 4 cups of cake crumbs.
2.      Put the cream and chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and cook for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Add almond extract and stir again.
3.      Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake crumbs and stir until well combined.
4.      Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop (will make 36 truffle sized balls) or a medium cookie scoop (will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls) scoop out the batter and roll into balls. Place on tray and place tray into freezer. Note: it is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
5.      Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate and the half cup cream in a dish in the microwave; let stand for a few minutes then whisk together until smooth, or for a hard chocolate shell melt 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark or chocolate candy coating.
6.      Dip each ball in the melted chocolate using 2 forks, and give them a gentle shake before removing from the bowl to remove excess chocolate.
7.      Place on wax paper and sprinkle each with a pinch of chopped almonds as you go along, so the almonds stick to the still-wet chocolate. If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds won’t stick.
8.      Let the chocolate harden or stick them in the freezer and remove 30 minutes before serving. Feel free to double the recipe—I would if I were you. These are over-the-top delicious and you won’t taste any matzo in this dessert.

Notes:
*A small cookie scooper will make 36 truffle sized cake balls, and a medium one will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls. It is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
**If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds or sprinkles won’t stick.

Aaaaahhh, heaven!!!