Banana Upside Down Cake

In the winter, we often turn to the tropics to get our fruit fixes. Bananas are the most popular fruit in America, and they’re quite popular elsewhere, too. I’m happy with oranges, grapefruits, and chocolate (yup, cocoa beans are fruit – great news for fruit-lovers!) but sometimes it’s nice to throw something else in the mix, and I’ll grab a pineapple, some kiwifruits, a few…

Banana upside down cake recipe

In the winter, we often turn to the tropics to get our fruit fixes. Bananas are the most popular fruit in America, and they’re quite popular elsewhere, too. I’m happy with oranges, grapefruits, and chocolate (yup, cocoa beans are fruit – great news for fruit-lovers!) but sometimes it’s nice to throw something else in the mix, and I’ll grab a pineapple, some kiwifruits, a few avocados, or a bunch of bananas, when doing my food shopping.

Banana upside down cake recipe

While I was waiting for my yellow bananas to ripen, a few days later I came across these red bananas at the market. I love red bananas, which have a more pronounced flavor than yellow bananas, but are hard to come by in France, and elsewhere. (They should be dead-ripe when you use them. The skin will turn quite dark when they’re ready.) So jumped at the bunch when I saw it, and put those in my fruit bowl to see who would ripen first.

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Strawberry Jam

I was recently gifted an overload of strawberries: I bought four baskets from a vendor at the market, whose booth I shop at often, and he threw in two extra baskets for free, the equivalent of a carte de fidelité (loyalty card) in Paris. So I’ve spent the past few days washing, hulling, cutting and cooking my unexpected bounty. I’ve been making a number of…

Strawberry Jam recipe

I was recently gifted an overload of strawberries: I bought four baskets from a vendor at the market, whose booth I shop at often, and he threw in two extra baskets for free, the equivalent of a carte de fidelité (loyalty card) in Paris. So I’ve spent the past few days washing, hulling, cutting and cooking my unexpected bounty.

I’ve been making a number of things with the gorgeous strawberries. But I also realized that while I have a Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam recipe on the site, I didn’t have a strawberry jam. So here it is.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt with Summer Fruits and Italian Meringues

I was once on a panel about food blogging and everyone was surprised when I said that at any given time, I have seventeen posts started, either sitting on my kitchen counter or partially written on my computer. With the focus on blogs being a little more spiffy than they used to be, back when you could – for example – write a haiku to…

The best of the season in a bowl! Icy-cold strawberry frozen yogurt and ripe summer fruits and berries, accompanied with a crisp meringue.

Strawberry meringue and frozen yogurt recipe

I was once on a panel about food blogging and everyone was surprised when I said that at any given time, I have seventeen posts started, either sitting on my kitchen counter or partially written on my computer. With the focus on blogs being a little more spiffy than they used to be, back when you could – for example – write a haiku to a espresso-filled chocolate candy, now you’ve got to me a bit more alert as to what you put online.

I never really thought of this space as a bijou, as the French might say, a jewel. It’s unpolished and casual, more so than a cookbook, and a place to share stories and recipes in a freestyle fashion. I love taking pictures and writing stories, but I worry about flaws, goofs, and that kind of stuff. But back in those days, it was kind of fun to share kitchen disasters and things that I wouldn’t put on the blog today. (Which some of you are probably grateful for.)

Strawberry meringue frozen yogurt Sometimes I look back at posts from ten years or so ago, with pictures taken with a point-and-shoot camera, which at the time, was cutting-edge, breakthrough technology. Seeing them now is like looking at pictures of myself wearing bell-bottoms in the 70’s. (And every time I see young men wearing their trousers halfway down their thighs now, I want to yank them up and say, “Dude, I’m doing you a favor. Trust me, you’ll thank me in twenty years when you see the photos.”)

So occasionally I’ll go back and revisit a recipe and a post, like the one for strawberry frozen yogurt, which is one of my favorite frozen dessert recipes, but the old photos were the size of a postage stamp and looked like I shot them in an airplane bathroom. Looking at the photos on the blog right now, I wonder if I’m going to have to update them in ten years as well. But for now, when I see such beautiful fruits at the market, I try to do the best I can, which is really all we can do, isn’t it?

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Favorite Chocolate Snack Cake

I have a new favorite chocolate cake. Like it is really good and the frosting … Oh my. I took one bite and immediately knew I was in trouble. In a good way, that is. This cake recipe found an instant place on my forever baking list. And I hope you will love it as […]

Happy Snack Cake

I have a new favorite chocolate cake. Like it is really good and the frosting … Oh my. I took one bite and immediately knew I was in trouble. In a good way, that is. This cake recipe found an instant place on my forever baking list. And I hope you will love it as much as I do.

(more…)

Double Chocolate Pudding with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

I’ve been a bit out of sorts recently, getting a little buried under things that are less-fun than cooking and baking. Fortunately, I gotta eat. And I also have to have chocolate, frequently. (As in, daily.) Otherwise I turn into some kind of crazed person. It’s a little strange, but I guess there are odder things to be addicted to. But if I don’t have…

Chocolate pudding recipe

I’ve been a bit out of sorts recently, getting a little buried under things that are less-fun than cooking and baking. Fortunately, I gotta eat. And I also have to have chocolate, frequently. (As in, daily.) Otherwise I turn into some kind of crazed person. It’s a little strange, but I guess there are odder things to be addicted to. But if I don’t have a tablet of chocolate in my kitchen (or living room, or bed room, or…), I go a little mental and find myself wandering around wherever I am, searching for a bar to break the end off of and nibble on.

Which is why unsweetened chocolate is so vexing. While it’s great for baking, and giving things like chocolate pudding an especially intense bitter chocolate flavor, it’s hard to keep my hands off the little chunks when I can chopping it up for a recipe.

Double Chocolate Pudding

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Celery Root Soup

I’ve always dreamed of writing a soup cookbook. A book of recipes where there’s no need to carefully measure or weigh things, variations are not only allowable…but encouraged, and cooking times are not cast-in-stone instructions to be followed like the ten commandments. It’s no wonder the French love les soupes so much! The word “supper” comes from soup, and in parts of France, the verb…

I’ve always dreamed of writing a soup cookbook. A book of recipes where there’s no need to carefully measure or weigh things, variations are not only allowable…but encouraged, and cooking times are not cast-in-stone instructions to be followed like the ten commandments. It’s no wonder the French love les soupes so much!

The word “supper” comes from soup, and in parts of France, the verb souper means having dinner, or supper. Being French, there are a multitude of ways to conjugate the verb, such as Nous avons soupé, or We had soup…or We had dinner, and Ils eurent soupé (the passé antérieur), which is even more of a mouthful. I’m not going to try to teach you French verbs, because I have a ways to go before I master them myself (although it’s a relief to know that even the French have difficulty with them too.

While French verbs may be a challenge, soup is easy. And the French don’t complicate those. Most homemade soups are purées, or véloutés, enriched with cream, so they’re velvety. (See? French isn’t that hard to understand…)

In addition, soup recipes can be successfully multiplied or divided, and made in advance and frozen. They’re also not that finicky; if someone adds an extra bit of leeks, or an additional clove of garlic, to the pot, the world won’t open and swallow us all up and life as we know it won’t end. What’s not to like about that? It’s certainly something worth writing about.

However, the soup cookbook likely won’t happen. Still, that’s not going to stop me from making soup, which, aside from clutching our hot water bottles, Parisians use to keep warm during the winter by eating lots and lots of hot soup.

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Soft Sugar Cookie Bears

  It’s been too long since I last made these sugar cookies. They are so soft and sink your teeth worthy. I’ve made them several times now and love to decorate them for different occasions so obviously I had to dress them up a little for Valentine’s Day since it’s right around the corner. You […]

 Sugar Cookie Bears

It’s been too long since I last made these sugar cookies. They are so soft and sink your teeth worthy. I’ve made them several times now and love to decorate them for different occasions so obviously I had to dress them up a little for Valentine’s Day since it’s right around the corner. You can decorate them two ways: with quick and easy big buttercream hearts or with candy and sprinkles to make adorable teddy bears.

Shaping Sugar Cookie Dough

I started making this recipe from my blogging friend Maria’s Two Peas and Their Pod’s Cookbook and immediately fell in love and added it to my forever baking list. If you want to see some other fun designs based off this recipe, check out these cuties:

Darling Duckling Sugar Cookies

Frosted Frostys Soft Sugar Cookies

Little Deer Sugar Cookies

Werewolf Sugar Cookies

 

This time I tinted the sugar cookie dough with pink icing color to make them a little more festive. When ready to bake, scoop the dough, roll into balls and then gently each press with a clean, flat surface coated in granulated sugar.

Soft Pink Sugar Cookies

They only need to bake for 8 minutes, so even if you don’t decorate or add buttercream, you can enjoy these cookies in no time. Easy to prepare and too easy to eat.

Sugar Cookie Bears

But let’s get into how to decorate these cute teddy bears. Start out by making buttercream frosting and tinting it brown, or make chocolate buttercream frosting depending on your preferred flavor combination.

Decorating Sugar Cookie Bears

Scoop buttercream using a 1.5 inch scoop and place on top of cookie. Then press into a bowl of decorative white sanding sugar to shape into a smooth mound. Reshape if necessary – the sanding sugar creates a barrier to aid in shaping and helps keep your fingers from getting buttercream all over them.

Place two brown M&M’s in position for ears.

Use a toothpick to remove some of the buttercream where the nose goes and then pipe on a cute little snout. Then sprinkle sanding sugar right on top this time.

If you try to pipe the buttercream directly over the sanding sugar, it won’t really stick. That’s why it’s helpful to remove the buttercream where you want to pipe – so that it attaches.

Now press a tiny heart sprinkle in position for the nose and jumbo heart sprinkles in position for cheeks. You can totally use other shapes, I just had these hearts handy for Valentine’s Day. 

Finish off the face with two black sugar pearls in position for eyes and use a toothpick to gently draw lines through the buttercream to emulate stuffed animal seams.

Sugar Cookie Bears

Thank you for coming to my teddy talk. : )

For a much faster decorating approach, just pipe hearts on the cookies using an Ateco 864 decorating tip. Pipe a dollop with pressure, gently releasing the buttercream to a point and then do the same motion creating a v-shape and slightly overlapping the bottom of the first piped section.

That’s it. 

Buttercream Hearts

Pretty in pink … and red!

Sugar Cookie Bears
Yield: 24-28 cookies

Soft Sugar Cookie Bears

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes

Ingredients

SUGAR COOKIES

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus another 1/4 cup to use for flattening cookies
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pink icing color
  • nonstick cooking spray

FROSTING

  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Brown icing color
  • White sanding sugar
  • Black sugar pearls
  • Brown M&M's
  • Jumbo red heart sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Make the Cookies:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, oil, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, and the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the egg, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low. Add pink icing color, continuing to mix until just combined.
  4. Scoop the dough using a 1-1/2 inch scoop and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart for evenly sized cookies. Roll the dough into balls. Not all the cookies will fit on the sheet for one batch.
  5. Pour the reserved 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into a small bowl or dish. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with nonstick cooking spray. Press the bottom of the glass into the sugar to evenly coat. Press the sugared glass bottom on top of each cookie dough ball and press down gently. Repeat for each cookie and reapply cooking spray as needed.
  6. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Don't overbake. Let cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Note: I slide the parchment paper and cookies off my flat cookie sheet and onto the counter to cool just a couple of minutes after they come out of the oven.
  7. Repeat with remaining dough.
  8. Make the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and one teaspoon of milk at a time for desired consistency.
  9. To Decorate Bears: Tint buttercream brown. Scoop the buttercream using a 1-1/2 inch scoop and place on top of a cookie. Gently press the cookie and frosting into a small dish filled with white sanding sugar. Very gently rock and rotate to coat the surface. Use the palm of your hand to reshape into a nice mound.

    Place brown M&M's in position for ears. Pipe a buttercream nose and sprinkle with more sanding sugar to coat. (You'll need to remove any sanding sugar where you will be piping to allow the buttercream to stick.) Place a miniature heart sprinkle on top of the nose, two jumbo red heart sprinkles in position for cheeks, and black sugar pearls for eyes. Press firm, but gentle so they are secure. Decorate one cookie at a time to make sure the sprinkles attach. Use a toothpick to draw lines on the face to mimic stuffed animal seams.
  10. To decorate hearts: Reserve some of the buttercream to tint red. Use an Ateco #864 tip to pipe a short line on the cookie with more pressure at the beginning and tapering pressure as you pull away to create a pointed end. Then pipe another section to create a V shape that slightly overlaps the first section.
  11. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Notes

Recipe adapted from the Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook by Maria Lichty.

Sugar Cookie Bears

Hugs and hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Snow Cute Snack Cakes

It’s a winter wonderland in a sweet snackable size. These small red velvet cakes are perfect for gifting or sharing. The recipe makes four. That’s enough for you to enjoy and to make a few others smile, too. Divide the cake batter evenly among four disposable 23 oz. foil snack cake pans and bake. Let […]

Snow Cute Snack Cakes

It’s a winter wonderland in a sweet snackable size. These small red velvet cakes are perfect for gifting or sharing. The recipe makes four. That’s enough for you to enjoy and to make a few others smile, too.

Red Velvet Cake Batter

Divide the cake batter evenly among four disposable 23 oz. foil snack cake pans and bake.

Let cool completely and then you can get to decorating.

Decorating Snowmen Snack Cakes

Tint half of the frosting a light blue and the remaining frosting leave white. Start out by frosting about 2/3 of each cake with light blue frosting. Fill in the remaining area with white/vanilla frosting and sprinkle white sanding sugar on top to give the ground a snowy effect.

To help guide where to place your snowman, you can use two circle cutters about 2.25 inches and 1.5 inches in diameter to make impressions in the frosting. Then just pipe inside the lines. 

Decorating Snowmen Snack Cakes

Start by piping the larger circle for the snowman body and sprinkle more white sanding sugar on top. I held the cutter in position over the frosting and sprinkled through the opening of the cutter to help keep it from going everywhere. Then repeat with the smaller cutter for the snowman’s head.

To make the faces, you can use orange coated sunflower seeds for carrot noses, brown or black jimmies for the mouths, brown rainbow chip sprinkles or black sugar pearls for eyes and buttons. Then press in some m&m’s candies for colorful earmuffs. 

Use the remaining frosting to tint green and then fill in the sides of the snack cake with some sweet little trees, too. Pipe them using a a Wilton #18 decorating tip.

IMPORTANT: as you are frosting and decorating, place the lid on periodically to make sure your frosting doesn’t get too high. If it does, the lid will flatten your design. You can also slice and remove any excess dome from the cake before decorating if you are worried about it.

Snowman Snack Cake

Snow cute! To fill in the rest of your frosted canvas, pipe two curved lines using the green frosting and place pastel coated sunflower seeds in position for colorful lights. 

You can also sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar on top if the trees for an extra little snowy effect. Wait just before gifting to sprinkle because the sugar will eventually absorb into the frosting and disappear.

But, you can also get your hands on some non-melting sugar that won’t disappear. Yay!

Snow Cute Snack Cakes
Yield: four individual snack cakes

Snow Cute Snack Cakes

Ingredients

RED VELVET CAKE

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1.5 oz. red food coloring

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar

DECORATIONS

  • blue gel icing color
  • green gel icing color
  • white sanding sugar
  • red M&M's
  • pastel coated sunflower seeds
  • orange sunflower seeds
  • brown or black jimmies
  • black sugar pearls
  • brown rainbow chip sprinkles

Instructions

  1. For the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then grease and flour four 23 oz. foil pans.
  2. Lightly stir eggs in a medium bowl with a wire whisk. Add remaining liquid ingredients and stir together with whisk until blended. Set aside.
  3. Place all the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl and stir together really good with another wire whisk.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high for about a minute or until completely combined.
  5. Pour batter evenly into prepared foil cake pans (about 1-1/4 cups batter for each) and then drop the pans on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Allow cakes to cool completely and then make the frosting.
  8. For the frosting: Sift confectioners' sugar and set aside. In a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on high until creamy. Add vanilla. Then, add the confectioners' sugar in batches, scraping down the sides in between each addition.
  9. To decorate: Frost the top two-thirds of the cakes with light blue tinted frosting. Frost the bottom third with white frosting and sprinkle white sanding sugar on top to look like snow on the ground. Use a 2.25 inch cutter to make an impression for the snowman's body in the frosting and then a 1.5 inch cutter to make an impression for the snowman's head. Then pipe the body first and sprinkle white sanding sugar on top. Pipe the head overlapping the body a bit and sprinkle more white sanding sugar on the head, trying your best not to get it on the rest of the cake. To decorate the faces, place an orange coated sunflower seed in position for the nose, black sugar pearls for the eyes, brown or black jimmies for the smile, rainbow chip sprinkles for the buttons and M&M's for the earmuffs. You can also pipe trees on either side of the snowman with green tinted frosting. Use the same green to pipe two curved lines above the snowman and place pastel coated sunflower seeds in position for lights.

Notes

Use these individual foil containers to bake the cake in.

Keep checking as you are frosting and decorating and place the lid on periodically to make sure your frosting doesn't get too high. If it does, the lid will flatten your design. You can also slice and remove any excess dome from the cake before decorating if you are worried about it.

Snowman Snack Cakes

Snowman Snack Cakes

Enjoy alone or with family and friends!

Flan Parisien

When people inquire about recipes from the pastries on offer in Paris pastry shops, I look at the recipes we used when I went to pastry school at Ecole Lênotre and it’s hard to imagine cutting down a recipe that makes a hundred canelés into a recipe that makes six or eight for a home cook, who likely doesn’t want to go out and buy…

When people inquire about recipes from the pastries on offer in Paris pastry shops, I look at the recipes we used when I went to pastry school at Ecole Lênotre and it’s hard to imagine cutting down a recipe that makes a hundred canelés into a recipe that makes six or eight for a home cook, who likely doesn’t want to go out and buy a hundred copper canelé molds at 35 dollars (or even €10-15) a pop. Professional bakeries don’t make a single gâteau Opéra or eight éclairs; it’s might be a dozen cakes, five or six dozen éclairs, and hundreds of caramels. So paring down a recipe that won’t overwhelm the oven, kitchen…or budget…of a home baker can be a challenge

Professional bakeries also make components separately as part of their schedule, and in large quantities, and will start the puff pastry or make the pastry cream for a cake or tart in advance, then assemble them over the course of several days. Often recipes depend on techniques learned over a period of time, such as macaronage, the proper stirring and folding of macaron batter, and aren’t just a list of ingredients. So as wonderful and generous as bakers tend to be, not all professionals can share (or in some cases, are willing to part with) the secrets of their success.

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“World’s Best” Mac & Cheese

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I need to get off my chest. One is that I can’t think of any time when I don’t want Mac & Cheese. And two, long before the advent of the internet recipe (and food blogs), words like “world’s best” weren’t considered clickbait. They were a declaration by magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks that whatever…

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I need to get off my chest. One is that I can’t think of any time when I don’t want Mac & Cheese. And two, long before the advent of the internet recipe (and food blogs), words like “world’s best” weren’t considered clickbait. They were a declaration by magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks that whatever dish that was being presented really was the best version they came up with.

Back in the day, when you said it, you meant it. (Even if, as everybody knows, there isn’t just one “best” way to cook or bake anything. Whatever exists, there’s always something that comes along that’s better, cheaper, faster, slower, etc.) But nowadays recipe headlines scream “Life-Changing Cauliflower,” or “Help! I can’t stop eating these Oreo-stuffed Red Velvet cupcakes,” or my least-favorite, “Top Ten Brownie Recipes…According to Amazon Reviews.” I’ve eaten a few life-changing foods in my life, and I’m not stuffing anything into something else and deep-frying it (unless it’s fried chicken stuffed with more fried chicken), nor do I have a lot of faith in a curated selection of anonymous online reviews.

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