Summer Fruit Recipes

It’s summer! Whether you’re in or outdoors, hopefully for all of you there are beautiful summer fruits and berries to be had, and I hope that you’re able to get your hands on as many of them as you can. I am loading (actually, overloading…) myself up at the market. While a good portion on the fresh fruit gets eaten just as-is, some of it…

It’s summer! Whether you’re in or outdoors, hopefully for all of you there are beautiful summer fruits and berries to be had, and I hope that you’re able to get your hands on as many of them as you can. I am loading (actually, overloading…) myself up at the market. While a good portion on the fresh fruit gets eaten just as-is, some of it goes into the following dessert recipes that I continue to make year after year. Others go into jam, which is a great way to preserve all those summer fruits and berries, and make them last through fall and winter.

Cherry season is behind most of us (sniff…sniff…), but if they are still lingering where you live, you can type “cherry” or “cherries” into the search engine at the top right corner of the page to find cherry recipes. (And we don’t get a bountiful array of fresh raspberries and blackberries here, so I don’t have many recipes that use them on the blog.) But for nectarines, strawberries, peaches, plums and other summer fruits, here are some of my favorite recipes on the blog…

Summer Fruit Galette with Frangipane

I’ve seen so many galettes this year on social media, that it’s tempting to already call galettes The Dessert of the Year. (Okay, there were plenty of Banana Breads as well. And it’s hard to knock Banana Bread, even my low(er) fat one.) But for the bang-for-the-buck, it’s hard to beat the silly-easy galette, made with a fail-safe dough that gets rolled out, topped with fresh fruit, and baked until ripe ‘n ready. Mine has a layer of frangipane under the fruit to keep some of those juices away from the bottom crust, so it stays crisp. It also tastes good, too! Apricots work especially well in this one but you can use nectarines, plums, peaches, or…

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

…rhubarb and strawberries! Yes, the classic combo works well as a galette, too. But don’t let tradition stand in the way of deliciousness and you can swap out cherries, raspberries, or blackberries for the strawberries.

Apricot Jam

When I was a cook in upstate New York back in the 1980s (!) I remember someone brought us a (as in 1) basket of fresh apricots from California, which I’d never seen before. I made a simple tart with them and only eight lucky customers could get a taste of it. (Or maybe I cut it into ten?) Fast-forward to today, summer brings a cavalcade of fresh apricots to the markets and toward the end of the season, I don’t have time to shed any tears as I’m piling apricot jam into pots, to save them for the coming months. It’s Romain’s favorite jam so I make sure there’s enough to keep him happy, because I’ve learned what happens when I don’t : 0

Summer Fruit Tart (with frangipane)

Another summer fruit favorite, yes, with more almond cream than the galettes above, this is that classic French tart that you’ll find in many pastry shops all year round, using everything from pears to pineapple. Don’t love almonds, or want to take it in a different direction? Replace the almonds with hazelnuts for a special treat.

Plum-Strawberry Jam

While apricots are Romain’s favorite for jam, I am 100% on team plum. The luscious tang of juicy plum, and the high natural pectin content, makes this one of the easiest jams to make. And it’s not too difficult to eat, either.

Plum Sorbet

While I miss the purple Santa Rose and Elephant Heart plums we got in California, France has its own special selection of delectable plums, including Mirabelles, quetsches, and even wild plums. While the wild plum trees that we used to pick/glean from have been pruned by the absentee owners (phooey!) we found another source last summer. And the only thing better than free plums is free wild plums, which come in an array of snazzy colors and are extra tangy, perfect for those of us that like some pucker in our pastries.

Plum Flaugnarde

The cousin of clafoutis, this flaugnarde features a jumble of plums baked in a silky custard. They’re so pretty I almost hate to bake them. But then, when I pull it out of the oven, I’m happy to have a beautiful baked gratin dish of custardy plums for dessert on a warm summer night.

Plum-Rhubarb Crisp

Two tart fruits come together, baked under a buttery blanket of streusel. If these two bedfellows are available at the same time where you live, you’re doubly lucky!

Mirabelle Jam

The elusive Mirabelle plums have a cult-like following and while some mistakenly think they aren’t available in the U.S. (they were briefly banned a few years ago), if you’re lucky, you can indeed find them. They’re intensely flavored and sweeter than other plums, and make a wonderful confiture with jewel-like fruits suspended in a shimmering jelly, which are lovely heaped on toast in the morning. (If you want to get a taste of Mirabelles but can’t find them, Bonne Maman makes a golden plum Mirabelle jam that’s exported from France.)

Angel Food Cake

While I wasn’t a fan of Angel Food Cake growing up, which my mother usually made to accompany strawberries, I became a convert as a grown-up. Perhaps it had to do with writing an ice cream book and having an overload of egg whites to use up. (And Angel Food Cake is an express route to doing that.) Nevertheless it’s a treat along with summer fruits and berries, either baked as a compote or fresh, tossed in a little sugar and perhaps a dash of crème de cassis. The spongy cake is an ideal way to make sure you get every drop of the fruit syrup that’s surrounding the airy slab. It’s French cousin, Gâteau de savoie, is equally enjoyable, and doesn’t require an Angel Food Cake pan.

Roasted Strawberry Miso Ice Cream

Roasting strawberries is lesser-known way of coaxing out their flavor, but works well when making ice cream as it concentrates them and reduced the water, so the ice cream stays creamier. Adding a touch of salty miso provides a curious contrast to the berries juicy sweetness, and a little umami to boot.

Strawberry Spritz

Once you make the (very) easy base for this Strawberry Spritz, you can use it to make Strawberry Margaritas, too. (And if you’ve got a hankering for a classic Spritz, I’ve got you covered there, too.) But this Spritz is a great, light apéritif to enjoy all season long. I was drinking lots of these a few weeks ago when strawberries were at their peak. If they available where you live, go infuse some in vermouth blanc for a great spring/summer sipper.

Spiced Plum Cake with Toffee Glaze

Toffee glaze is one of those things you could put on an old sneaker, and it would make those dilapidated Reeboks taste great. Even better (and more recommended) is this spiced plum cake, which isn’t too rich or too sweet. Crunchy toasted almonds on top are a nice contrast to the buttery glaze.

Peach Shortcakes with Butterscotch Sauce

Speaking of buttery sauces, butterscotch with peaches is a natural. Grammar-correct keeps asking me: A natural what? But I think you can figure that out. If not, give them a try together and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Vin de pêche

If you’re fortunate enough to have a peach tree or can get some of the leaves, they lend a delicate almond-like flavor to this intriguing apéritif wine. I try to make a few bottles every year and serve chilled glasses as the season’s change, reminding me of summer, and reminding me that the light almond flavor of peach leaves in wine is something to put on my calendar for the following year.

Bourbon Peach Cooler

Peaches and bourbon are natural partners, and they don’t mind sharing space in a tumbler with the classic French apéritif, Bonal. But not to worry if you don’t have it; I offer some substitutes that you might already have on your liquor shelf. This cocktail isn’t just pretty, it’s also a pretty effective way to beat the heat. (Yup, nectarines or plums could replace the peaches, if you’re so inclined.)

Nectarine-Berry Popsicles

A vintage metal popsicle mold that was a find at a flea market prompted these summer ‘sicles. You can load ’em up with berries and since I used white nectarines, the popsicles were extra-pretty in pink. But anyone would say “yes” to them in yellow, if you go with standard nectarines.

Mixed Berry Shortcakes

Mixed berry anything automatically makes something my favorite dessert. I love, love, love the juicy tumble of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, red currants, or whatever else you’ve got. Bring the berries on!

Blueberry Cobbler

While I am nostalgic for the overload of blueberries that I grew up with New England, when I do find myrtilles, I try to keep them as close to their pure state as possible. Topped with crumbly drop biscuits, all that’s needed is a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete the picture, but white chocolate-fresh ginger ice cream would also be welcome…and appreciated, on this cobbler.

Mango Frozen Yogurt with Blueberry Compote

While everyone’s mind is on peaches and nectarines, don’t forget mangoes, their tropical counterpart, which go just as well with summer berries. Blueberries particularly come to mind but raspberries and strawberries could fill in for them.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

With pretty swirls of crispy meringue, this tangy frozen yogurt can be part of a composed dessert, which I like to serve in the summer, being generous with the fresh fruit…and filling in the blanks with frozen yogurt and meringues.

Blueberry Buckle with Lemon Syrup

I don’t know if blueberries get any better than in this buckle, which do indeed “buckle” under the weight of almost too many blueberries…if that’s even possible. A dousing with tart lemon syrup keeps things moist and tangy. You can skip the cream with this one. It’s great on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

paris restaurants (new updates)

I’ve been featuring some new and revisited favorite restaurants in Paris, writing them up in my newsletter. You can find a list of my Favorite Restaurants in Paris on my website but here are links to the posts in my newsletter of places I’ve eaten at lately… To get more Paris tips (and stories and recipes) sent right to your Inbox, subscribe to my newsletter…

I’ve been featuring some new and revisited favorite restaurants in Paris, writing them up in my newsletter. You can find a list of my Favorite Restaurants in Paris on my website but here are links to the posts in my newsletter of places I’ve eaten at lately…

To get more Paris tips (and stories and recipes) sent right to your Inbox, subscribe to my newsletter here:

Cherry Compote

I think I have something wrong with me. I seem to be afflicted with a particular malady that forces me to buy way too many summer fruits when they’re in season. It gets particularly dire when faced with apricots and cherries, two fruits whose seasons are much shorter than the others. The first fresh apricots I saw were back in upstate New York, around the…

I think I have something wrong with me. I seem to be afflicted with a particular malady that forces me to buy way too many summer fruits when they’re in season. It gets particularly dire when faced with apricots and cherries, two fruits whose seasons are much shorter than the others. The first fresh apricots I saw were back in upstate New York, around the 1980s, and I’d never seen them before. Someone brought us a basket of the tender, squishy little orange fruits to the restaurant that I worked at, and I remember being completely taken off guard, as the only apricots I’d ever seen were the dried ones. And while I loved the crinkly dried specimens, those fresh beauties with a red blush were a whole other taste entirely.

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe

Then, when I moved to California, I discovered how abundant fresh apricots are (or can be), as they are in France. But no matter how abundant – or not – cherries are when the season is in full swing, I always consider them extra-special fruits and give a prominent place in my kitchen. At the beginning of the season, they’re incredibly expensive and rarely good. Then, as the season moves along, they start showing up in larger mounds at the market, and the prices get gentler, coaxing me to buy as many as I can heft.

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe-3

This week, I was helpless when faced with an overload of summer fruits at the market. And in addition to a giant bag of apricots, two bulging sacks of tomatoes, and eight white nectarines, I bought 2 kilos (about 4 1/2 pounds, give or take a few cherries) of fresh cherries — and from the looks of the other shoppers, it was more than any normal person would buy. (Although I think I made the vendor’s day.) But I couldn’t help it. They were Burlat cherries and I’d bought a small bag from the same vendor last week at the market, and there he was again, tempting me with more. Once I got home, I got my cherry pitter out, and pitted half of them, saving the others to eat fresh. (Except I almost polished off the fresh ones I was reserving as I was pitting these!)

Fresh cherries are, of course, great fresh. But cooking them can deepen, and even improve their flavor, especially nice if you get home and find yourself with a bag of rather wan ones. Or ones that you might snag at the end of the market, when the vendors are trying to get rid of any extras that might not keep until the next market day.

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe-4

In addition to being the answer to what the heck you (or I) are going to do with all those cherries, this recipe also deftly answers that age-old question: Can I freeze that? And the answer is a big, resounding, “Heck, yeah!” Once the compote has cooled, it freezes perfectly in zip-top freezer bags or other containers that you prefer to use, and will last up to a year. (You can also freeze pitted fresh cherries on their own as well.)

And let me tell you, it’s great to stumble upon a bag of cherry compote that may have moved to an unfavorable position in your freezer as summer shifted into fall – or winter, when they can become quickly forgotten. Once defrosted, and perhaps rewarmed, they’re terrific served with vanilla ice cream, plain yogurt, or alongside a cake, such as almond cake, gâteau de savoie, or angel food cake.

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe-5

I like to boost their flavor with a handful of dried sour cherries, added midway during cooking, so they plump up and absorb the cherry juices, which add another dimension of cherry flavor. A shot of kirsch also dials up the flavor nicely.

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Cherry Compote

Be sure to use a larger pot that you think. For 2 pounds (1kg) of cherries, I used a 6-quart (6l) pan. Since the cherry juices will foam up as they cook, using a larger pot – and removing the lid from time-to-time – will keep your from having to clean up a sticky mess. I’ve didn’t use much sugar here, so you can add more to taste, if your cherries aren’t as sweet as mine were. If you can get sour cherries, feel free to add some in place of the sweet cherries. If so, you may need to increase the sugar a little, to taste as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1kg) fresh cherries
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • cup (40g) optional: 1/3 dried sour cherries
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch (or another fruit-based liqueur, or eau-de-vie)
  • 1-2 drops pure almond extract

Instructions

  • Stem and pit the cherries. Put them in a large, nonreactive pot or saucepan and stir in sugar. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring them frequently, to encourage juicing and to make sure the liquid the cherries exude doesn’t foam up and overflow.
  • After 10 minutes of cooking, add the sour cherries, if using, and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the cherries are wilted and completely cooked through.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the kirsch and almond extract. Let cool before storing or serving. The juices will thicken as the compote sits.

Notes

Storage: The cherry compote can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It can be frozen for up to one year.

Related Recipes

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Cherry Mess

Quick-Candied Cherries

Cherries in Red Wine Syrup

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Apricot-Cherry Compote

Coconut Chocolate Macaroon Recipe

Many people tell me this is one of their favorite recipes from my cookbook, Ready For Dessert. In addition to these fantastic Coconut-Dipped Chocolate Macaroons in it, you’ll find the much-loved recipe for Fresh Ginger Cake, which makes a fantastic dessert served with sliced, juicy peaches or flavorful strawberries and raspberries in the summer, or tangy lemon cream in the winter, as well as my other most frequently…

Chocolate coconut macaroons

Many people tell me this is one of their favorite recipes from my cookbook, Ready For Dessert. In addition to these fantastic Coconut-Dipped Chocolate Macaroons in it, you’ll find the much-loved recipe for Fresh Ginger Cake, which makes a fantastic dessert served with sliced, juicy peaches or flavorful strawberries and raspberries in the summer, or tangy lemon cream in the winter, as well as my other most frequently requested recipes.

I’m often asked about the different between Parisian macarons and American-style macaroons, like these. Both are egg white-based, however the European version (which was invented in Italy) uses almonds whereas the American ones use coconut. There’s some dispute about how the American ones came to be made of coconut; one theory is that European immigrants who came to the United States couldn’t get almonds, or they were too expensive, so they used coconut.

Another theory is that European companies wanted to ship their macarons over longer distances, so swapped out coconut for the spoilage-prone nuts. Others credit Franklin Baker, an American flour miller, who found the then-exotic shredded coconut more interesting (and less-expensive) to use than nuts. Either way, I like all kinds of macaroons…or macarons.

Coconut macaroon recipe

The French do make coconut cookies, which are called Congolais or Rochers à la noix de coco, usually shortened to Rochers coco, or coconut “rocks.” I’ve not seen them dipped in chocolate in any French bakery – but why not?

Chocolate coconut macaroons

I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years and tested them with flour alternatives, which I’ve noted in the headnote in the recipe, and they come out great. You can even skip swiping the bottoms in bittersweet chocolate if you wish. No matter how you make them, I hope they become one of your favorite cookies, too.

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Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons

From Ready for Dessert
I invariably make these cookies when I have extra egg whites on hand. The dough freezes beautifully if I don't plan to make the macaroons right away. These coconut macaroons can be made without the flour by substituting 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch or potato starch for the flour. Readers have told me the recipe works well with 1/4 cup matzoh meal substituted in place of the flour.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword coconut, cookie, macarooon
Servings 30 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups (200g) unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (35g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3 ounces (90g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped

Instructions

  • In a large skillet or wide saucepan, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, and honey.
  • Over low heat on the stovetop, stir the egg whites and sugar together until the mixture is tepid, but not warm or hot. You don't want to cook them; just warmed slightly so they are looser.
  • Add the coconut, flour, and vanilla. Continue to stir the mixture over medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens to a cohesive mass. (It'll be like very thick oatmeal and the bottom will very slightly start to scorch.) Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
  • When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and preheat the oven to 350º F (180ºC).
  • Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch (4cm) rounds in your hands, squeezing the dough to coax them into rough rounds (remember, the French call them "rocks," so they can be a uneven - for smoother rounds, dampen your hands), then place them evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Bake the macaroons until deep golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
  • To dip the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the baking sheet. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate is set.

Notes

Unsweetened shredded coconut is available in most natural food shops or you can purchase it online. Flaked coconut is larger and I haven't tried these macaroons with the flakes but if that's all you have, I would pulse the flakes in a food processor a few times until they're finely shredded.
Storage: The baked macaroons will keep for up to three or four days if stored in an airtight container. If dipped in chocolate, store the cookies in a cool place. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for at least two months.

Strawberry Spritz

Recently I started reaching for my bottle of Vermouth Blanc more and more. I had opened it to make an El Presidente cocktail, but during an interview on my IG Live channel with Pierre-Olivier Rousseaux, owner of Dolin distillery in France, he remarked that their Chambéryzette apéritif, made in the French alps, could be made at home, anywhere, with fresh strawberries and white vermouth. So…

Recently I started reaching for my bottle of Vermouth Blanc more and more. I had opened it to make an El Presidente cocktail, but during an interview on my IG Live channel with Pierre-Olivier Rousseaux, owner of Dolin distillery in France, he remarked that their Chambéryzette apéritif, made in the French alps, could be made at home, anywhere, with fresh strawberries and white vermouth. So I took the plunge and made a batch myself.

It’s very easy to make. Just slice or quarter a few fresh strawberries and within 24 hours, you can be enjoying your very own batch of strawberry apéritif!

White vermouth (vermouth blanc) is different than dry vermouth. For one thing, the botanicals used are different. Dry vermouth leans into its bitterness with wormwood, quinine, or other flavorings that keep it decidedly dry. White vermouth celebrates its sparkling-clear color with floral aromas, which can include elderflowers and citrus. While you could make this with dry vermouth, I do prefer it with the white vermouth, which in Italy is referred to as vermouth bianco.

When I took a sip of the strawberry-infused vermouth the next day, it seemed like it’d be a perfect candidate for a summery Spritz. So I mixed it with a splash of tonic water, and found it was just perfect as-is, with a handful of ice and some berries and maybe a slice of citrus in it. If you want to go full-on summer, you could replace the citrus with a slice of peach or nectarine, or maybe a few other types of berries.

Tonic water has become more of a topic of conversation lately. Brands like Schweppes are popular and readily available (and you can make your own tonic water, too), but some like to fine-tune their cocktails and apéritifs with a premium brand of tonic water. Fever-Tree, Q, and Fentimen’s are popular, but I kept mine French using Archibald, which uses gentian in place of quinine, to keep it resolutely Made in France. (Quinine doesn’t grow in France, but gentian does.) As far as I know, it’s not available outside of the country but feel free to find your own favorite where you live, and use that.

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Strawberry Spritz

For this spritz, I use white vermouth to infuse the strawberries which is more aromatic, and more floral than dry vermouth. In French, it's called vermouth blanc and in Italy, it's referred to as bianc. If you buy a bottle, you can also use it to make yourself an El Presidente cocktail.
You can toggle the flavors of this lively spritz in a different direction by using a flavored tonic water, such as one aromatized with pink grapefruit, pink peppercorn, or elderflowers.
Course Drinks
Keyword cocktail, spritz,
Servings 1 drink

Ingredients

For the strawberry-infused vermouth

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) vermouth blanc or dry vermouth
  • 8 medium-sized strawberries sliced or quartered

For the strawberry spritz

  • 2 ounces strawberry-infused vermouth
  • 2 ounces tonic water
  • quartered or sliced strawberries for garnish
  • slice of orange, lemon, lime wheel, or slices of nectarines or peaches for garnish

Instructions

  • To make the strawberry-infused vermouth, pour the vermouth in a clean jar. Add the strawberries, cover, and shake gently to encourage the strawberries to lend their flavor to the vermouth. Let stand 24 hours at room temperature out of direct sunlight, giving it a shake every so often.
  • To make the spritz, measure the infused-vermouth and tonic water into a footed goblet. Add a handful of ice and stir gently. Garnish with berries and citrus.

Notes

Storage: The strawberry-infused vermouth will keep for a few days at room temperature. After you can store it in the refrigerator where it'll keep for a few weeks. I left the strawberries in since I used mine within a few days, but if planning on storing it longer, you can remove them. (They're delicious to eat!)

Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake

Whenever I’m looking through a new cookbook, what never fails to make me bookmark a recipe is when I come across something that has caramelized nuts on it, or in it. Whether it be Honey-Almond Squares or Swedish Almond Cake, you can be sure you’ll find me in my kitchen within the next 24 hours, and baking it. This Caramelized Peanut Cake that takes very…

Whenever I’m looking through a new cookbook, what never fails to make me bookmark a recipe is when I come across something that has caramelized nuts on it, or in it. Whether it be Honey-Almond Squares or Swedish Almond Cake, you can be sure you’ll find me in my kitchen within the next 24 hours, and baking it. This Caramelized Peanut Cake that takes very little effort to make, but yields big rewards. Big, crunchy, peanutty ones, with a bonus of moist, buttery cake underneath, holding it all together.

The good thing about this cake (aside from it being covered with a generous pile of caramelized salted peanuts, as if it can get any better than that) is that you likely have most of the ingredients already on hand. That was my case, so I was able to make it right away. The only ‘technique’ you need to master is boiling butter, honey, cream and sugar, then stirring in the roasted peanuts. The topping couldn’t be easier.

This recipe is adapted from The Joys of Baking, an unabashedly sweet ode to baking by Samantha Seneviratne that riffs off stories and situations in her life, ones that inspired the recipes. Gingered Cashew Nut Brittle showered with sesame seeds, a Roasted Plum Cloud Cake topped with swirls of snowy meringue, bittersweet Amaro Stracciatella Ice Cream, and Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels are the kinds of things that I’d agree are a joy to bake, and to eat.

So how could I resist cake topped with SALTED CARAMELIZED PEANUTS? Sorry for shouting, but this cake is something to shout about. I mean, just look at it…

The only difficulty you might encounter is getting the cake neatly out of the pan. Mine got a little dark around the edges (why, oh why, wasn’t I born a food stylist, to make mine as neat as the one in the photo in the book?) I found that letting the cake rest for about 5 to 10 minutes after it comes out to the oven, then using a sharp paring or utility knife that’s either sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray, or lightly greased, to separate the sides from the cake pan while it’s still warm, is your best bet for easy (or easier) removal of the ring of the springform pan. Any pieces that fall off can be reaffixed to the cake.

Or let them cool…and eat them yourself.

Which is what I did with the missing chunk in the photo, above. (Why, oh why, wasn’t I born with photo editing skills?) But honesty is the best policy, and I hope you’ll trust me when I say this cake is as good as it looks. And if a few pieces go missing, here and there, well – you only have yourself to blame. But unlike me, you don’t have to tell anyone about it.

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Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake

Adapted from The Joys of Baking: Recipes and Stories for a Sweet Life by Samantha Seneviratne One tip: If you have low-fat milk on hand, you don't need to go out and buy whole milk just to make this cake. Since the topping only calls for 1/4 cup (60ml) of cream, you'll likely have some leftover cream if you've gone out and bought a carton or bottle. So you can mix some of that cream in 50:50 proportions with low-fat milk to approximate whole milk. Another tip from a reader, who used a silicone cake mold (which I don't own) and said the cake slipped out of the mold easily and the sides didn't get too dark.
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

For the peanut topping

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (60g) honey
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces, 195g) roasted, salted peanuts

For the cake

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter cubed, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (280g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder preferably aluminum-free
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk at room temperature

Instructions

  • Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan very well. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
  • To make the peanut topping, warm the unsalted butter, sugar, honey, and heavy cream in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook at a low, but steady boil, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanuts. Set aside, stirring every once in a while to cool it down, while you make the cake batter.
  • In a small bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl mixing by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. (You may want to stop the mixer during the step, and scrape down the sides if using a stand mixer, to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.)
  • Stir half of the flour mixture into creamed butter (with the stand mixer set on low speed), then add the milk, then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Spoon the peanut mixture over the top of the cake. It will have thickened up but do your best to make sure it's relatively even, and avoid pushing it right up to the sides of the pan, as it'll stick to the pan and make it a little difficult to release later.
  • Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Do not touch the top of the cake to check for doneness as the caramel is hot and sticky, and it can burn. (Trust me...) Let the cake stand 5 to 10 minutes, then lightly grease a paring or utility knife and run it around the outside of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Then remove the outside ring of the springform pan. If any bits of caramelized peanuts stick or come off when removing the outside ring, either reunite them with the cake, or let them cool and eat them yourself.

Notes

Serving: Serve the cake just as it is, or with lightly whipped cream or a favorite flavor of ice cream.
Storage: The cake is best the day it's made but can be kept at room temperature for up to three days either well-wrapped or under a cake dome.

Panettone French Toast

I’ve been pondering what, if anything, I should close out the year with. In the past, I’ve written down my thoughts here, which I spent the last couple of days pondering. Reading and re-reading what I wrote, I realized that I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say. And if I couldn’t figure it out, I didn’t feel like I should inflict that on…

I’ve been pondering what, if anything, I should close out the year with. In the past, I’ve written down my thoughts here, which I spent the last couple of days pondering. Reading and re-reading what I wrote, I realized that I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say. And if I couldn’t figure it out, I didn’t feel like I should inflict that on you. But I knew one thing for sure: I had a lot of panettone on hand.

It’s been a great year in a lot of ways. The book I’d been working on for nearly two years came out, and a revised and updated cookbook that’s turning ten years old in March will be released in the spring. I also got to spend time with family members that I haven’t seen in a while. And doing so in 90ºF weather, in November, ain’t bad either.

One of the best articles I’ve read this year was How to Beat Decision Fatigue. It’s estimated we make 35,000 decisions a day, 226 of which are about food. And I can safely say that I could probably multiply that number by four or five. (Don’t even get me started on how many times I agonize over just buying a plane ticket.) All the thinking, and overthinking that we do – is it worth it?

I don’t know, but I’ve decided to do what I can to make fewer decisions in the upcoming year. This year ended with a flurry of travel on book tour. Not only was I struck by how great it was to meet many of you, but so were the people at the venues hosting my events.

During a podcast interview, I realized that I’ve been blogging for nearly twenty years. It started off as being a place to share stories and recipes, some goofy (haiku about Italian candy), to thoughts after I lost a good friend. Things have changed, such as I finally got someone to set up a printing option for recipes (thanks, Emily!), but most of the tech stuff that needs to be added, or that needs to be updated every year, sails right over my head. So I have to hunker down and figure it out.

But I consider myself fortunate. When a recipe I’m testing doesn’t work, or I make a goof in the kitchen or screw up the tech stuff, I think about how many people don’t even have food to eat or electricity. And here I am, worried about a lopsided tart crust or a missing apostrophe. So I’m ending the year being thankful for having food on my table, and to everyone in my life, including you, my readers, for sticking around.

French Toast, which the French call Pain perdu (lost bread), doesn’t involve that much decision-making. But when I got an unexpected gift of several types of panettone, I made French toast with some of my bounty. So I’m ending this year on a simpler note than I thought.

Recently heard something while idling through tv stations in a hotel room on my book tour. It was from the great Judith Sheindlin, otherwise known as Judge Judy. She was presiding over two people who had a problem with each other, which they carried over into social media. As the two people resumed bickering in front of her, she quickly cut them off (as she famously does), and said, “And I thought social media was supposed to bring people together!?” In spite of all the noise, and sometimes disagreeing, I’m glad we’re still together, after all these years.

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Panettone French Toast

If you don't have panettone, substitute thick slices of another egg-enriched bread, such as brioche or challah.
Course Breakfast
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 4 slices panettone about 1 1/4-inch (4cm) thick)
  • butter for frying the French toast

Instructions

  • In a wide, shallow bowl, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together with a fork until well-combined. Place the slices of bread in the custard and gently press them down to help the bread absorb the custard, then turn them over the do the same to the other side of the bread.
  • Heat a good-sized pat of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the custard-soaked slices of bread to the pan and cook until they're browned on the bottom, about a minute. Turn the slices of bread over and fry on the other side until browned on the bottom.

Notes

Serving: Serve the French toast warm from the skillet with maple syrup, agave nectar, or your favorite topping for breakfast. (Blueberry compote or sauteed apples are also nice.) A little pat of butter could also go on top as well. It can be served for dessert, as the French do, which is called pain perdu (lost bread), along with a scoop of ice cream and some caramel sauce.

Far From the Tree: Apple-Pear Cocktail

The other day I was thinking of cocktails that were fall and winter-friendly. Calvados (apple brandy) of course is always in season, but I also had a bottle of spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits in California on hand that has a lovely pear flavor mingled with a bouquet of spices, that I’ve been meaning to incorporate into a cocktail. I had a hunch…

The other day I was thinking of cocktails that were fall and winter-friendly. Calvados (apple brandy) of course is always in season, but I also had a bottle of spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits in California on hand that has a lovely pear flavor mingled with a bouquet of spices, that I’ve been meaning to incorporate into a cocktail.

I had a hunch that it would be well-paired with French apple brandy, and that hunch proved correct in this Far From the Tree cocktail, a nod to the expression that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” as the apple brandy – and the sparkling apple cider – fell into my kitchen, which are quite far from any trees. But happily, they all made it into my glass.

(And I’m hoping that all made sense. I’ve been trying to translate some American expressions for my French partner, especially “They drank the Kool-Aid,” which I’ve decided just isn’t translatable.)

The Spiced Pear Liqueur is made by St. George spirits, a distiller in my old stomping grounds of Alameda, California. I knew the founder, Jörg Rupf,  who started distilling European-style spirits in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982. At the time, few knew what eau-de vie was.

Jörg was a wealth of knowledge and I always learned something when I spent time with him, and was surprised when he told me one day that it took around 50 pounds (23kg) of Bartlett pears to make just one bottle of pear eau-de-vie, and he laughed that his biggest restaurant account sold only a half bottle of eau-de-vie every two months. He reveled in the bounty of excellent produce in California, making eau-de-vie from everything, including kiwifruit, apples, raspberries, pears, and even holly berries.

One day while at the distillery he gave me a sip of apple brandy which he’d made but promptly forgot about, which was similar to Calvados, but without the terroir. (To be called “Calvados” the apple brandy has to be made in Normandy with only certain varieties of local apples, with a few pears added for their aroma, and must be aged in wooden barrels for at least two years.) His apple brandy had been sitting in a barrel for ten years and when he discovered it, it was delicious.

Jörg eventually retired from distilling and sold the company, which is still going strong, and St. George Spirits under master distiller Lance Winters, continues to make excellent liqueurs that include gin and other distillations (they now call their eau-de vie “brandy”), absinthe, vodka (including a green chile one), shochu and Bruto Americano, a botanically-rich alternative to Campari that I particularly enjoy, with no artificial colorant, made with an expressive blend of local botanicals and other ingredients.

But even if you’re not in Normandy, or Northern California, and far from an apple (or pear) tree, you can still enjoy these fall and winter flavors in a cocktail.

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Far From the Tree

If you can't get the spiced pear liqueur, you could use a good-quality triple sec, orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier) or another good fruit-based liqueur. Allspice Dram (homemade or store-bought) is another possible liqueur to use, which has spicy notes.
Be sure to use a slightly larger coupe glass if you have it, since depending on the size of your ice cube, you want there to be enough room for the sparkling cider on top.
Course Drinks

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Calvados
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce St. George spiced pear liqueur
  • sparkling hard cider or sparkling wine

Instructions

  • Add the Calvados, sweet vermouth, and pear liqueur to a cocktail mixing glass.
  • Fill the glass two-thirds full of ice and stir briskly until well-chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add an ice cube and a splash of sparking cider.

Cranberry Chutney

Have you ever gone away for a few weeks and found out that you’d left the freezer door ajar? Well, I did. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Before traveling, since I’m anti-gaspillage (against food waste), I jammed whatever I could into my already-stuffed freezer, including a half-eaten tomato tart, which I thought would be nice to have ready-and-waiting upon my arrival home,…

Have you ever gone away for a few weeks and found out that you’d left the freezer door ajar? Well, I did. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.

Before traveling, since I’m anti-gaspillage (against food waste), I jammed whatever I could into my already-stuffed freezer, including a half-eaten tomato tart, which I thought would be nice to have ready-and-waiting upon my arrival home, partially-used blocks of butter, and the miscellaneous leftover ends of bread that one collects when one constantly buys too much bread. When I returned, I realized that one of those bread pieces had been caught in the door and kept it from sealing closed.

Oddly, the fridge doors have an alarm, which beeps if they’re not completely shut, but the freezer door doesn’t. Coming home to an array of items that were half-frozen, half-defrosted (with gloopy liquid oozing out of them), possibly defrosted and then refrozen, and a few that were unidentifiable, was a bummer.

Some things I knew had to go – like sausages, stock, and a rather moldy half-eaten tomato tart, that I was sure could be reheated when I returned from my travels. (I won’t share a picture of that, but it looked like it needed a good shave.) But I also had several precious bags of cranberries that I’d stashed away for Thanksgiving and while they weren’t completely defrosted, I didn’t want to (or know if I could) refreeze them, so I decided to make chutney…and a whole lotta it.

Fortunately, all my candied and dried fruits were in fine condition and since I was cleaning my freezer, I also did a little purge of my drawers of things that weren’t sparking joy in my kitchen, and cooked them all up with some spices, some honey, orange juice, and vinegar, to make this tangy-tangy condiment.

(Just a note that dried fruits always spark joy in me. But a drawerful of little crinkled up cellophane bags with thirteen raisins or two dried apricots in them, don’t.)

To share my joy with you, I whittled my catastrophe-size recipe down to a reasonable recipe, but you’re welcome to double, triple, or quadruple it. Although it’ll keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, I had so much that tightly sealed the overload into freezer bags and placed them back in the congélateur. However next time I’m headed out of town, I’m going to make sure my freezer is tightly sealed, because I’d be a bummer to lose those.

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Cranberry Chutney

Feel free to use any type, or combination, of dried fruit. Dates, figs, raisins, apricots, candied ginger, dried cherries, cranberries, pineapples, or other favorites, work well. (Of course, there's no need to chop the raisins or dried cranberries or cherries, if using.) You could also include chopped candied orange or lemon peel in the mix. Any tart apple is fine to use, but if using Golden Delicious apples, make sure to chop them very fine (unless you like chunks of apples in your chutney) as they don't break down as other apples do. If using frozen cranberries, no need to thaw them in advance. Just add them frozen and cook as directed. An interesting addition is to cook the chutney with a very small branch of rosemary. It'll lend an herbaceous note to the chutney. Remove it after the chutney is cooked. Or a tipple of whiskey (or an anise-based spirit, such as pastis) added right before the end of cooking could also be nice.
Course Side Dish
Keyword chutney, cranberry, sauce
Servings 3 cups (750ml)

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (340g) cranberries fresh or frozen (if using frozen, no need to defrost before using)
  • 1 cup (125g) diced dried fruit (see headnote)
  • 1 tart apple cored, and finely diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 2/3 cup firmly-packed (140g) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) orange or apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) apple cider vinegar plus more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch red chile flakes
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large saucepan.
  • Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and begin to break down and release their juices, and the apple pieces are cooked through. Time will vary but it'll take about 10 minutes or so.
  • Remove from heat and when the chutney is cool enough, taste and add 1 (or 2) tablespoons additional vinegar, if desired.

Notes

Serving: Serve with turkey (at Thanksgiving or another holiday), or with poultry, pork, roasted vegetables, or even cheese.
Storage: Store in jars in the refrigerator until ready to use. The chutney should keep for at least a month. It can also be frozen for up to six months. If you wish to can it, you can find guidelines at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
 

Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta

Two of my favorite flavors come together right here, in this Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta, which offers up the rich flavor of caramel with a few strong shots of espresso. I seem to have good caramel karma and when I baked professionally, the executive pastry chef at one restaurant told me that I was the one she wanted to make the caramel desserts since I…

Two of my favorite flavors come together right here, in this Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta, which offers up the rich flavor of caramel with a few strong shots of espresso. I seem to have good caramel karma and when I baked professionally, the executive pastry chef at one restaurant told me that I was the one she wanted to make the caramel desserts since I had a knack for getting caramel just right.

While I was flattered, in reality, caramel isn’t that hard to make. Like riding a bike, or when you wake up one morning and they upgrade the software on your phone for whatever reason, there’s a learning curve. (However, I still haven’t figured out how to use my photo editing software. Someone recommended a book that’s a whopping 533 pages long, but honestly, can’t they just make these things more intuitive?)

Unlike unintuitive tech, once you get the hang of making caramel, you know the pitfalls and issues that can arise, and you’ll feel like a pro when you take a taste of the finished caramel dessert and realize – whether a chef tells you so or not – that you’ve done a good job. You are a good person, and I know you can do it, too!

Here I use a dry caramel with no liquid added; it’s just sugar. The picture above may look scary, as in “What do I do wrong?” But dry caramel is pretty foolproof. I’ve given tips on making caramel here, but the basic action starts with spreading the sugar in a wide pan or deep saucepan (use a good-quality one for best results as thin pots and pans don’t heat evenly), heating it until it starts to liquify, then stirring it gently as you go, until it’s completely liquified.

Once it’s liquified, keep gently stirring it, and start watching carefully as things will now move quickly and you want to pay close attention to what’s going on in the pan. Don’t let anything distract you as a few seconds can make all the difference. Make sure the warm cream ready to go.

The caramel quickly goes from what it looks like above, to what it looks like below. When the caramel is bubbly, amber-colored (the color of an old penny), and smells just slightly smoky – as in, if you let it go a few more seconds, it’ll burn – turn off the heat and immediately add the warm cream to stop the cooking.

You want to get it to just the right color, aroma, and flavor where it’s cooked enough so it’s in the middle ground between being not sugary sweet, but not burned either. (I recently did a caramel video tutorial on Instagram that you might find interesting where I explain and demonstrate it in detail.)

Once the caramel is done, and the cream has been added, it’s hard not to want to pour the caramel below in a bowl and spoon the whole thing up. Right?

I made this Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta recipe a few times the past week, playing around with different amounts of espresso and caramel. The caramel made with 3/4 cup (150g) sugar is more caramel-forward and made the coffee flavor a little less-prominent in the finished panna cotta. So I gave you a range to choose from in the recipe.

Panna cotta is different than its custardy counterparts as it’s made with gelatin rather than eggs. There’s no water bath or constant checking in the oven to check for doneness. Although the name in Italian means “cooked cream,” the dessert has a relatively light profile since whole milk is used, rather than all cream. Here I use just enough cream to ‘stop’ the caramel (whole milk can curdle in caramel) then I add whole milk later, although lowfat will work, too. I’m not against lowfat milk. Nor am I against decaf if you want to use that.

When I had to give up coffee for a while, I turned to an instant roasted grain-based substitute, which can fill in for coffee in baking, too. Just make it as strong as espresso. Most natural food stores and well-stocked supermarkets carry different brands of them. If anyone gives you a hard time for not drinking coffee, which happened to me when I had to give it up, many espresso bars in Italy offer caffè d’orzo made with roasted barley. And anyone who wants to argue with Italians about anything coffee-related, let me tell you, it will not end in your favor.

Once you’ve mastered caramel, chocolate curls are always fun to try, which you can make by either scraping a chef’s knife down a bar of milk or dark chocolate. If using dark, use one that’s not too cold or the curls will shatter. Pastry chefs will sometimes rub a chocolate bar briskly up and down with their (clean and dry) hands to warm it up a bit before trying to make curls.

Place the block longwise at the edge of the counter you’re standing at and, holding the bar in place against you with your waist, holding the handle and the top of the blade, scrape curls toward you with the knife at a near 90º angle, angling the blade just a bit away from you as you drag it down. You don’t have to press down very hard and after few tries, you’ll find the angle and pressure that works best for you. Of course, be careful dragging the knife toward you and make sure the blade is facing away from you. You can also use a sharp swivel-bladed vegetable peeler and make shorter curls by running it down the long side of a chocolate bar. Once again, milk chocolate is softer and easier to use than dark if you want more cohesive curls. But there’s no shame in shards, either.

As mentioned, I made a few batches of this Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta before settling on the proportions here. I know some of you may have questions about using gelatin and gelatin substitutes, which I answered here. In Europe, sheet gelatin is more prevalent but sheets vary in size and in strength, ranging between five different strengths. The best approximation here would be to use two sheets of gelatin: a general rule is 3 sheets of gelatin equals one 1/4 ounce (7g) envelope gelatin. To use sheets here, soften them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes then wring them out and add them to the warm (not boiling hot) caramel mixture after you’ve added the cream.

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Coffee Caramel Panna Cotta

If you want a fuller caramel flavor, use the 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar to caramelize in step 2. The caramel flavor will be a bit more pronounced than the coffee flavor but I tried it both ways and like it, for different reasons. And you can use lowfat milk rather than whole milk, although it'll be less-smooth, but I wouldn't call this an overly rich dessert.
It goes without saying that the stronger the espresso, the more forceful the coffee flavor will be. I tried it with a few long (allongé or lungo) shots of espresso as well as espresso made in a moka pot, and both were good. If you don't have an espresso maker, use good-quality instant espresso powder dissolved in hot water. Taste and make sure it's quite strong as it'll be diluted later with the other ingredients. I've mentioned some coffee alternatives in the post.
I've not had experience using agar-agar, but fish-based gelatin is available and is said to work the same as standard gelatin. For more on gelatin, including using sheet gelatin, check my post on how to use gelatin. If you do try sheet gelatin, or another type, feel free to share how they work out in the comments.
When done, because these aren't baked, you can simply pour the finished mixture into coffee or espresso cups or other decorative glasses. The number of servings will depend on how large or small you make them. The recipe plug-in I use to write up recipes so they're printable doesn't allow me to add a range of serving sizes (which I learned when they kept disappearing after I added them...) but this recipe will make 4 to 6 servings.
Course Dessert
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk (lowfat can be used)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup (130-150g) sugar (see headnote)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream warmed
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) liquid espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Pour 1/2 cup (125ml) of cold milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin granules over it in an even layer. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
  • Spread the sugar in an even layer in a medium skillet or wide, deep saucepan. Warm the sugar over medium heat until it starts to liquify. (Generally it'll start to liquify in certain spots, depending on your pan.) When it starts to melt, gently stir the sugar with a heatproof utensil so it liquifies evenly. It will get grainy as you stir it, but as you continue to cook it, it should smooth out as it begins to take on a light amber color.
  • Continue to cook the sugar, swirling the pan more than stirring it, until the caramel starts to smoke and is a deep amber color. Smell the caramel and when it just starts to smell smoky, turn off the heat and add the warm cream gradually, stirring, until it's incorporated into the caramel. If there are any lumps, continue to stir the mixture until the lumps are melted. (You may need to rewarm the mixture over very low heat to get them all melted.)
  • When the mixture is cooled down a bit, until it's the temperature of a very warm cup of coffee, add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved, then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup (125ml) of milk, espresso, vanilla, and salt.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large measuring cup so it's easier to pour, and divide it into custard cups or glasses. Depending on the size of servings you want, choose whatever cups or glasses you'd like to use. Chill until firm, about 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Notes

Serving: Serve the custards cold, on their own or with a dollop of whipped cream. They can be decorated with chocolate shavings, a sprinkle of cocoa powder, or toasted sliced almonds.
Storage: The custards will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator.