Desserts Feed

Best Vegan Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake

Cheesecake 2

It may sound a little cliché, but many of my California friends are vegetarian or vegan and it can often be a challenge to prepare a menu that still tastes great for everyone. I’ve managed to come up with a few winning main course recipes – like hearty veggie chili with gluten free corn bread topping – but desserts have been a bit more difficult – until now. I was searching the web for a nice fall dessert when I stumbled on a site called Minimalist Baker (  authored by wife-husband team Dana and John Shultz who are based in Portland, Oregon. They share incredibly delicious, simple recipes that are mostly vegan and/or gluten free. I found a recipe for vegan pumpkin cheesecake that looked too good not to try. I adapted the recipe slightly to reflect the spices that I use in my own pumpkin recipes, so feel free to make adjustments to the spices. Cashews create a creamy filling and slightly tangy flavor that give it that “cheesecake” taste and texture. You can make this in a 9” springform pan, or in a cupcake tin, but I used Chicago Metallic mini cheesecake pan (  The coconut cream topping is easy to make and gives them a great finish.

Download recipe for Best Vegan Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake



1 cup packed medjool dates, pitted (about 20 dates, pitted before measuring)

1 1/2 cups (180 g) raw walnuts or almonds (I toasted them for 5 minutes in a 375 degree oven)

½ teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin spice

Pinch sea salt


1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in very hot water for 1 hour)

1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)

1/3 cup light or full fat coconut milk (or sub unsweetened almond milk)

3 tablespoons olive oil (or melted coconut oil, though it will add coconut flavor)

1/2 cup grade A pure maple syrup or light agave nectar, plus more to taste

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons freshly grated gingerroot

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or favorite combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)

1 teaspoon vanilla, optional


 14-ounce can organic coconut cream

1/4 - 3/4 cup powdered sugar (use organic to ensure vegan friendliness)

Optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract



1.  Cover cashews with boiling hot water. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour. Then drain thoroughly and set aside.

2. In the meantime, add dates to a food processor and pulse until small bits remain, or it forms a ball, about 10 one second pulses. Remove and set aside.

3. Add nuts, spice and salt to processor and process until finely ground, stop before it turns to butter! Add dates back in and process until a loose dough forms - it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If too crumbly, add a few more dates. If too sticky, add more crushed walnuts. Set aside.

4. If using a springform pan, line with parchment paper. If using ramekins or muffin tins, cut parchment paper into circles the size of the base of your ramekins or muffin tins. Also, cut out two long strips of parchment paper per ramekin and lay them in an "X" shape at the base. Top with circle shape. This creates little tabs that make removing the cheesecakes easier to pop out once set. (For muffin tins, you can also just use cupcake liners.) If you have the Chicago mini cheesecake pan, no additional prep in needed.

5. Divide crust evenly among ramekins or tins (or springform pan), and press down with fingers to evenly distribute. Use a pastry tamper, or a small glass wrapped in parchment paper, or the back of a spoon, to press down firmly, allowing some crust to come up the sides. Set in freezer.

6. Once cashews are soaked and drained, add to food processor (or blender) with remaining filling ingredients and puree until very smooth – 3-4 minutes. If it has trouble blending add a touch more coconut milk (or almond milk). Taste and adjust flavor/sweetness as needed.

7. Divide filling evenly among the ramekins or tins (or pour into a parchment-lined springform pan). Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze until firm - about 4-6 hours, depending on size of dish.

8. Once set, run a butter knife along the edge and gently remove by tugging on the tabs in an upward motion. They should pop right out. If they aren't quite set, pop them back in the freezer until firm. If using a springform pan, simply pop open and remove cheesecake.

9. Serve with a touch of coconut whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg.

10. Store leftovers in the freezer for 7-10 days, though best when enjoyed within the first 3-4 days. Let thaw at room temperature 15-20 minutes before serving for best texture


1. Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid.

2. The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.

3. Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies).

4. Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla (optional) and powdered sugar and mix until creamy and smooth - about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.

5. Use immediately or refrigerate - it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it's chilled. Will keep for up to 1 - 2 weeks


Dates and nuts 

Crust pastry tamper


Blue Ribbon Streusel Topped Apple Pie

Apple pie crisp topping slice

 Now that we’re in the peak of apple picking season, it's time to post one of my favorite apple pie recipes. Some people find making pies a daunting task. There are stories, mostly said in hushed tones, about my mother throwing more than a few pie crusts against the wall. I must admit, rolling out a homemade pie crust can be intimidating at first. There are several variables that can throw a “wrench” in your dough – humidity, temperature of the butter, amounts of water, types of flour, overworking the dough - all can influence the outcome of your crust. Once you master a pie crust recipe, and you truly learn the “feel” of pastry in its various stages, it will be a breeze to roll out a pie. If it still seems too challenging, there are some acceptable store bought pie dough brands.  Wholly Wholesome, which has won the praise of Cook’s Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple Magazine and CBS The Early Show, offers organic easy to use rolled pie dough and pre-made pie shells. If you have a Trader Joe's market, try their butter rich frozen pie crusts – just thaw, unroll, and use with your favorite recipe. I like two-crust apple pies, but using a “crisp” or “crumble” topping is also a nice choice, especially if you’re using a pre-made pie shell. The brown sugar, butter and oats bake into a crisp caramel like topping that complements the apples perfectly. Celebrate apple season with this blue ribbon pie. 

Download Blue Ribbon Streusel Topped Apple Pie recipe

Streusel Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

¾ cup old-fashioned oats

¼ cup finely chopped pecans or almonds

1. Pulse flour, sugars, cinnamon, salt to combine. Add butter and process until mixture has texture of coarse crumbs (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about 12 one-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in oats and nuts, and use fingers to pinch topping into peanut-sized clumps. Refrigerate while preparing filling.


Apple Pie:

1 pie crust shell, store bought or homemade

3 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (use one type or a variety – I prefer a mix of Braeburn, Golden Delicious, and McIntosh apples)

2-4 tablespoons flour (depending on juiciness of apples)

¼ -½ cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)

1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium lemon

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup heavy cream

1. Position rack in lower third of oven and place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, preheat to 400°F. 

2. Fit pie crust into 10” deep dish pie plate and flute or crimp edges. Chill.

3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt and toss with apples and lemon juice to combine. Place apple mixture in pie shell, they will mound very high – press down slightly. Pour cream over top. Gently apply streusel topping to apples, pressing it into the slices. The streusel should cover the apples but not cover the edge of the pie shell.

4. Place the pie on preheated baking sheet; bake for 25 minutes, then transfer to center rack, reduce temperature to 350°F and bake an additional 45-60 minutes; pie should be golden brown and apples will be tender when tested with a sharp knife or skewer. 

Apple Pie Streusel Topping filling

Apple Pie Streusel Topping prebake

Apple Pie Streusel Topping Baked

Avocado Banana Blueberry Coconut Milk Vegan Ice Cream

IMG_2535 Avocado Banana Blueberry Ice Cream

This is a great alternative to full fat dairy ice cream. The avocado gives a rich creamy texture and the banana and blueberries add plenty of sweetness and flavor. It tastes best when you allow it to soften a bit on the counter before serving. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can just pour the blended mixture into an air tight container and place in freezer.  Remove from freezer about every 30-45 minutes and stir with spatula or whisk.  Keep checking and stirring periodically until frozen.

Download Avocado Banana Blueberry Coconut Milk Vegan Ice Cream recipe

1 avocado

2 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks

½ cup fresh blueberries

1 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk

1- 2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Pinch of sea salt


1. Halve 1 avocado, remove pit, and scoop flesh into the base of a blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Place the blender, covered, in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer instructions. It takes about 15 – 20 minutes until mixture is frozen and resembles soft-serve ice cream. Transfer to an air tight container and place in freezer. 

IMG_2498 avocado ice cream blender 

IMG_2500 avocado blend 


Modern Mini Mince Tartlets

Mini mince pies

Mince pie seems to have fallen out of favor in the U.S., although it was once the quintessential American pie - much more popular than apple or cherry, and in the 19th century Americans ate mince pies all through the year - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In Britain, it is still the top Christmas dessert. The markets and department stores in London are filled with festive boxed pies in all shapes and sizes. Traditional mincemeat was made with - you guessed it – meat, usually beef, mutton, or sometimes venison. Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England. Suet, the dense fat which surrounds beef kidneys, was the other common ingredient, but modern mince generally uses butter rather than suet which can be difficult to find. This recipe uses apples and dried fruit as the main ingredients (no beef, thanks) and, combined with traditional spices and citrus, produces and delicious sweet filling perfect for the holidays. I like to make them into small tarts using a mini muffin tin and top them with a sugar coated pastry star. You can also use the filling with a favorite double crust pie recipe, or make turnovers with your favorite puff pastry.

Download Modern Mini Mince Tartlets recipe


3 Granny Smith apples, large (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 McIntosh apples (or Macoun, Royal Gala, Empire, Cortland), large (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup dark raisins

1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

1 cup currants

¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

1 cup packed dark brown sugar (7 ounces)

¼ cup granulated sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)

¼ cup diced candied orange peel, (homemade or available online

Grated zest and juice from 1 orange

Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups apple cider, plus more as needed

1/3 cup rum or brandy


1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch pieces

5 tablespoons cream cheese, cold

1 egg white, beaten, for glazing pastry stars

1 tablespoon sugar or turbinado for sprinkling over crust


For the filling:


1. Place all ingredients except 1/2 cup cider and rum in large, heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. Bring to boil and simmer gently, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens and darkens in color, about 2 ½ to 3 hours, adding more cider as necessary to prevent scorching.

2. Continue cooking, stirring every minute or two, until mixture has jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup apple cider and rum and cook until liquid in pan is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes; cool mixture. (Mince filling can be refrigerated for several days to improve flavor.)


For the crust:


1. Process flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add butter pieces and cream cheese and process until mixture is the size of small peas about 20 pulses. Then process until mixture just comes together, about 15-20 seconds.

2. Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press together to form large even mass. Divide dough into 3 sections and refrigerate the remaining section. Pinch off 24 pieces of dough (12 from each section) and roll them into balls in the palm of your hand (about 1” balls). Place them on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove remaining section from refrigerator and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out with floured rolling pin to 1/8” thick (make sure dough doesn’t stick to surface. Cut into 1½” star shapes or 1½” rounds. Arrange on small tray or plate and place in freezer.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position. Lightly grease a 24 mini muffin tin with butter.

5. Remove balls from the refrigerator and flatten each one with your fingers. Press them gently into the muffin cups so that the edge of each comes 1/8” above the rim. (A pastry tamper is helpful, or just use your fingers) Make sure not to make a hole or tear the dough. Place tin in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill the dough.

6. Remove stars from freezer. Beat egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and brush each star (or round)with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar or turbinado sugar.

7. Remove tarts from freezer and fill with mince filling – about 1 rounded teaspoon each. Top with pastry star (or round).

8. Bake 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a rich golden brown.  Cool the tartlets completely in the pan. Run a little butter knife around the edge of each tart, and use the knife to gently lift the tart out of the pan.

9. These are great the day they are baked. You can also store them in an airtight container or freeze them for up 2 weeks. 

Mini Mince pie fruit pan 

Mini Mince pie filling cooked

Mini Mince tarts tamper

Mini Mince tarts unbaked

Mini Mince tarts pastry stars

Mini Mince tarts star

Mini mince pies baked1

Summer's Best Fresh Peach Cobbler

Peach cobbler 1a

This is a fantastic recipe that makes great use of fresh summer peaches. Cobbler is a classic summer dessert and just about as American as Apple Pie.  The clever folks at Cook’s Country have mastered a method that prevents the cobbler from sitting in too much liquid. Traditional cobblers are usually made with a biscuit like topping and can be made with almost any fruit, although peaches are my favorite. I usually make biscuits with buttermilk or heavy cream, but the yogurt really works well here. Top the warm cobbler with some vanilla ice cream and enjoy.

Download Summer’s Best Fresh Peach Cobbler recipe 


Fruit Filling

2 ½ pounds peaches, ripe but firm (6 to 7 medium)

¼ cup granulated sugar (1 3/4 ounces)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon

pinch table salt


Biscuit Topping


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon table salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

2 teaspoons turbinado or granulated sugar


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

 2. Peel peaches, then halve and pit each. Using small spoon, scoop out and discard dark flesh from pit area. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Gently toss peaches and sugar together in large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes, tossing several times. Drain peaches in colander set over large bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup of drained juice (discard extra), cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt together in small bowl. Toss peach juice mixture with peach slices and transfer to 8-inch-square glass baking dish. Bake until peaches begin to bubble around edges, about 10 minutes.

3. While peaches are baking, in food processor, pulse flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Scatter butter over and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl; add yogurt and toss with rubber spatula until cohesive dough is formed. (Don't overmix dough or biscuits will be tough.) Break dough into 6 evenly sized but roughly shaped mounds and set aside.

4. After peaches have baked 10 minutes, remove peaches from oven and place dough mounds on top, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart (they should not touch). Sprinkle each mound with portion of remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool cobbler on wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes; serve.

Cobbler peaches
Cobbler unbaked
Cobbler baked 2

Chocolate Raspberry Sacher Torte

Chocolate Raspbery Sachertorte
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated dessert for your next dinner party, try this Austrian classic. America’s Test Kitchen updated the recipe and it’s pretty easy to do. I made it recently for a small dinner party and was able to prepare it in the morning and refrigerate it until we were ready for dessert. For the best flavor, it’s important to let it stand at room temperature about an hour before serving.  Use the best bittersweet chocolate you can find, Callebaut, Valrhona, or Ghiradelli.

Download Chocolate-Raspberry Sacher torte


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder

1 ¾ cups (about 7 ounces) sliced almonds, lightly toasted

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (1 1/4 ounces)

½ teaspoon table salt

5 large eggs

¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) sugar

½ cup fresh raspberries, plus 16 individual berries for garnishing cake

¼ cup seedless raspberry jam

2 teaspoons Kirsch (optional)


5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream


1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla and espresso powder.

2. Process ¾ cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses; set aside to garnish cake. Process remaining cup almonds until very finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour and salt and continue to process until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer almond-flour mixture to medium bowl. Process eggs in now-empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Using whisk, gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture until some streaks of egg remain. Sprinkle half almond-flour mixture over chocolate-egg mixture and gently whisk until just combined. Sprinkle in remaining almond-flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined.

3. Divide batter between cake pans and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until center is firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto cardboard rounds cut same size as diameter of cake and remove parchment paper. Using wire rack, reinvert 1 cake so top side faces up; slide back onto cardboard round.

4. TO ASSEMBLE TORTE: Place ½ cup raspberries in medium bowl and coarsely mash with fork. Stir in raspberry jam  (and Kirsch, if using) until just combined. Spread raspberry mixture onto cake layer that is top side up. Top with second cake layer, leaving it bottom side up. Transfer assembled cake, still on cardboard round, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.

5. FOR THE GLAZE: Melt chocolate and cream in medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and gently whisk until very smooth. Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze evenly over top of cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread glaze along sides of cake to coat evenly.

6. Using fine-mesh strainer, sift reserved almonds to remove any fine bits. Holding bottom of cake on cardboard round with 1 hand, gently press sifted almonds onto cake sides with other hand. Arrange raspberries around circumference. Refrigerate cake, still on rack, until glaze is set, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Transfer cake to serving platter, slice, and serve.

Sachertorte batter 
Sachertorte batter streaks 

Sachertorte layers

Chocolate Raspberry Torte 1a

Classic French Profiteroles

Classic French Profiteroles 

It’s hard not to find great food when visiting Paris, but if you’re looking for a truly authentic French experience, book a reservation at Julien Brasserie (  on your next visit. Located a bit “out of the way” in the 10th arrondissement, it’s totally worth the trek. Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis is rather unassuming, but once you step through the ornate brasserie doors, you feel transported through time – to the days of Hemingway, Dali and Picasso – greeted by the restaurant’s Art Nouveau charm. It’s just a beautiful room, with magnificently carved mirrors, a grand mahogany topped bar and an ornately designed mosaic floor. I was first introduced to the restaurant by designer Jean Paul Gaultier, who said it was one of his favorite places and after eating there I can certainly understand his loyalty. The restaurant offers a reasonable prix-fixe menu (about 42 euros) which features several options – including starters like traditional onion soup au gratin, duck Foie Gras with seasonal fruit chutney and brioche bread, or scallops tartar and pink shrimps from Madagascar in lime and ginger; and main courses like Charolais beef tartar, Sole meunière, roasted duck breast from South-West France with Provencal vegetables, or Grilled Chateaubriand in béarnaise sauce.  Desserts are included, but don’t bother with cheese plate, Crème brûlée, or even the Crepes Suzette; there is only one option - Profiteroles with warm Valrhona Chocolate sauce. The puffs arrive at the table filled with a round ball of vanilla ice cream, and the server then covers them with the warm chocolate sauce poured from a silver pitcher.  

These are nearly identical to Julien’s and the cream puffs recipe from Cook's Illustrated is pretty easy to follow. You can use store bought chocolate sauce, but homemade is so much better, and only takes a few minutes to make. Bon Appetit!

Download Classic French Profiteroles recipe




1 recipe Pâte à Choux (cream puffs)

1 recipe Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

1 quart Vanilla Ice Cream (Ben & Jerry’s or Homemade)


Pâte à Choux

(Makes about 24 two-inch puffs)

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

2 tablespoons whole milk

6 tablespoons water

1½ teaspoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon table salt

½ cup (2 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and place the oven rack in the middle position and. Spray a large (12-by 18-inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set aside. Beat eggs and egg white in measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 1/2 cup (discard excess). Set aside.

2. Bring butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When mixture reaches full boil (butter should be fully melted), immediately remove saucepan from heat and stir in flour with heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and mixture clears sides of pan. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using smearing motion, for 3 minutes, until mixture is slightly shiny with wet-sand appearance and tiny beads of fat appear on bottom of saucepan (temperature of paste should register 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer).

3. Immediately transfer mixture to food processor and process with feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With machine running, gradually add eggs in steady stream. When all eggs have been added, scrape down sides of bowl, then process for 30 seconds until smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (If not using immediately, transfer paste to medium bowl, cover surface flush with sheet of plastic wrap sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and store at room temperature for up to 2 hours.)

4. Fold down top 3 or 4 inches of 14- or 16-inch pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip to form a cuff. Hold bag open with one hand in cuff and fill bag with paste. Unfold cuff, lay bag on work surface, and, using hands or bench scraper, push paste into lower portion of pastry bag. Twist top of bag and pipe paste into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch mounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 1 1/4 inches apart (you should be able to fit about 24 mounds on baking sheet).

5. Use dampened fingertip or the back of teaspoon dipped in bowl of cold water to smooth shape and surface of piped mounds. Bake 15 minutes (do not open oven door), then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm (puffs should not be soft and squishy), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven. With paring knife, cut 3/4-inch slit into side of each puff to release steam; return puffs to oven, turn off oven, and prop oven door open with handle of wooden spoon. Dry puffs in turned-off oven until centers are just moist (not wet) and puffs are crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer puffs to wire rack to cool. (Cooled puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen in zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. Before serving, crisp room temperature puffs in 300-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes, or 8 to 10 minutes for frozen puffs.)


Best Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

(Makes about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

4 ounces Valrhona, Callebaut, or Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place butter, cream, milk, sugar and salt in a pan over medium high heat. Stir mixture until it comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth and then whisk in vanilla.

2. Can be cooled to room temperature, placed in airtight container, and refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. To reheat, transfer sauce to heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water. Alternatively, microwave the sauce at 50 percent power, stirring once or twice, 1 to 3 minutes.



1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; freeze until cold, about 20 minutes. Using 2-inch ice cream scoop (about same diameter as puffs), scoop ice cream onto cold baking sheet and freeze until firm, then cover with plastic wrap; keep frozen until ready to serve. (Ice cream can be scooped and frozen for up to 1 week.)

2. When ready to serve, use paring knife to split open puffs about 3/8 inch from bottom; set 3 bottoms on each dessert plate. Place scoop of ice cream on each bottom and gently press tops into ice cream. Pour sauce over profiteroles and serve immediately.

Profiteroles dough

Profiteroles batter

Profiteroles dough balls

Profiteroles baked

Profiteroles open

Profiteroles topped

  Profiteroles final

Brasserie Julien16 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris

Julien Paris

My Favorite Parisian Lemon Tart Tarte au Citron

Lemon tart1

When I was a student living in Paris, one of my favorite rituals was to treat myself to a tiny lemon tart at a local patisserie after class. There were dozens of shops to choose from along my walk from the Sorbonne to my small apartment near the Place des Victoires. If I was feeling extravagant I would stop by Fauchon near the Place de la Madeleine, and leave with a lemon tart boxed in their trademark hot pink packaging and black and white bag; otherwise, there were plenty of other neighborhood shops that offered tasty tarts at a more reasonable price. I still love a lemony dessert, especially at the end of a great meal. This is one of my favorite recipes - very lemony, but with a rich creamy filling. It’s from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham and is the best version I’ve had outside of Paris – the zest in the filling and in the crust gives it a great burst of lemon flavor. Paul Bocuse’s “Simple French Recipes for the Home Chef” calls for crème fraiche, but I find the heavy cream works just as well. This is the perfect finish to a great dinner.

Download Parisian Lemon Tart recipe


1 stick unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

1¾ cup flour

1¼ cup sugar, divided

2 pinches salt

6 large eggs

1 cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup of heavy cream

1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Have ready an 11” tart pan.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of the zest and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Whisk together flour, ¼ cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Pour the butter mixture in a fine stream, stirring with a fork, and continue stirring just until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to the pan and press into sides and across the bottom. Bake tart for 20 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Let cool while making the filling.

4. Process the remaining cup of sugar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of zest and process until zest is finely ground. 

5. Whisk together eggs, zest mixture, lemon juice and pinch of salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

6. Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Whisk the cream into the egg mixture just until blended. 

7. Place a baking sheet in the oven, place the crust on the sheet and pour the filling into the still warm crust. Bake 25-30 minutes or until filling is just set in the center.

8. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar. 

Lemon tart crust

Lemon Tart baked

Lemon tart fauchon box

Individual Pavlovas With Lemon Cream and Mixed Berries

Pavlova Berries

Apparently the origin of this meringue-based dessert is somewhat unclear, but seems to have been created in honor of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova’s visit to New Zealand and Australia. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but according to Helen Leach’s research in her book, The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History, New Zealand is the source of the ethereal dessert. It’s a fairly easy recipe to master, and although the cloudlike meringue shells are somewhat delicate, they are easy to make in large batches, and will keep for a few days in an airtight container. They are usually served with fruit and whipped cream, but I prefer this version that incorporates lemon curd. Because you can make the shells ahead, it’s a great dessert for entertaining, and they can be assembled in minutes. Store-bought Lemon Curd is fine to use in this recipe – look for Wilkin and Sons Tiptree Lemon Curd or Dickinson's. Pavlovas are light and refreshing, making them an elegant Spring dessert, perfect for Easter.

Download Individual Pavlovas With Lemon Cream and Mixed Berries recipe

Serves 12. 

Meringue Shells

4 large egg whites (about 1/2 cup), at room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon white vinegar

Mixed Berries

2cups (10 ounces) raspberries

2cups (10 ounces) blueberries

1 tablespoon sugar

Lemon Cream Filling

1 cup (1 pint) heavy cream, chilled

1 ½ cups Lemon Curd, store-bought or homemade

Powdered Sugar and Mint leaves, for garnish, optional



1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until they are opaque and foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and salt, increase the speed to medium-high, and, watching carefully, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, about 90 seconds. Slowly sprinkle in ½ cup of the sugar and then the vanilla and vinegar and continue to beat until incorporated, about 60 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle in the remaining ½ cup sugar and fold in just until incorporated. Using a ¼-cup dry measuring cup and a soupspoon, place 6 heaping ¼-cup dollops of meringue about 1 inch apart on each sheet. Gently press the back of the soupspoon into the center of the mounds to create hollows. Bake for 1½ hours or until the meringues have smooth, dry, and firm exteriors. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for two hours. Once cool, store the meringues in an airtight container, where they will keep for 3-4 days, until ready to use.


1. Combine raspberries and blueberries in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the fruit, and using a rubber spatula, stir gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until the berries begins to exude their juices, about 30 minutes.



1. Just before serving, beat the cream in a chilled bowl of an electric mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium; continue beating until the beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase the speed to high; continue beating until the cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 60 seconds for stiff peaks.  Beat in the Lemon Curd just until well combined.


1. Place a meringue shell on a dessert plate. Top with ½ cup lemon cream. Spoon ½ cup of fruit over the lemon cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and mint.  Repeat with the remaining meringue shells, lemon cream, and fruit. Serve immediately.

Pavlova Egg Whites bowl

Pavloca scoops

Pavlova Shells

Easter Torrijas - Spanish French Toast

Easter Torrijas

Torrijas, a cross between French Toast and bread pudding, can be found throughout the year in Spain, but they are particularly popular for dessert around the Easter holiday. The tradition of reviving stale bread with eggs and milk dates back to Roman times, and most countries have their own particular version. I first tried this dish at the Palace Hotel in Madrid and was impressed with the subtle flavors of cinnamon, lemon and honey. There are many variations of this treat – some soften the stale bread by soaking it in a sweet wine, while other variations use milk, and honey. The chef at the Palace was kind enough to share his recipe, which I think is just about perfect. In Spain, it’s served cool or at room temperature (frankly almost everything in Spain is served at room temperature) and drizzled with honey syrup. 

Download Easter Torrijas Spanish French Toast recipe

1 baguette, day old (or thick sliced challah, left out overnight)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar plus ¼ cup

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks

4 eggs

1 tablespoon water

2 cups milk

¼ cup sugar

Peel of 1 lemon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1.    Arrange 1” thick slices of day old baguette in a single layer in large glass dish; set aside.

2.    In medium saucepan, combine water, 1 cup sugar, honey, lemon juice and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 7-9 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove cinnamon stick and allow honey mixture to cool.

3.    Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon water in shallow dish and set aside.

4.    Mix together milk, remaining ¼ cup sugar, lemon peel, remaining cinnamon stick and salt in heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved and milk is hot.

6.    Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in large griddle to medium heat (or 350 degrees on electric griddle).

7.    Pour warm milk over baguette slices. Using tongs, dip each slice into egg wash to coat both sides and drop onto hot skillet. Cook until golden brown, adding more oil as needed, about 2-3 minutes per side. Arrange on serving platter. When ready to serve, pour honey syrup over bread slices and serve.