Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Double Chocolate Pudding

Despite my love of baking, one of my favorite desserts requires no baking at all – homemade chocolate pudding. You may initially think that’s a pretty boring choice. But, I assure you it’s one of the dessert world’s best simple pleasures.
Chocolate pudding is soft and cold and creamy and chocolate-y. Plus, you can make it simply and quickly with a handful of ingredients. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

This is an easy recipe to master, especially if you follow a couple of important tips. First and foremost, you really must have everything measured and ready to go before you start. The term for that is mise en place, which simply means putting in place. It’s a good habit for all of your baking and cooking, but it’s especially important here. Having all your ingredients and equipment ready just makes the process go much more smoothly.
My other tip isn’t so much about the actual process as it is about your ingredients. Long-time followers of Bake or Break will know my staunch stance on quality ingredients, especially chocolate. This pudding has both cocoa powder and solid chocolate. Your pudding will only be as good as the chocolate you put into it. With the flavor focus being so heavily on chocolate, this is the time to break out the good stuff.
If I have one complaint about making pudding, it’s that it really needs to chill for a couple of hours before you eat it. There’s no chance of instant gratification, but just plan ahead a bit and you’ll be enjoying a bowl of amazing chocolate goodness.

Chocolate Pudding Pie with Peanut Butter Filling

Remember yesterday when I touted the virtues of homemade Double Chocolate Pudding? Oh, but it’s good. But, it seems I might have had an ulterior motive for sharing it. This pie.
If you aren’t familiar with it, a pudding pie is exactly what it sounds like. It’s pie + pudding. But, it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. This, my friends, is the kind of dessert that should come with an addiction warning because it’s just that good.

It starts with a cookie crust made from vanilla wafers. You can use any kind, but I’m partial to Trader Joe’s. Next, for a fun variation, add a thin layer of peanut butter on top of the crust. It just gives you a little flavor surprise that goes so well with the rest of the pie. You can use another spread flavor (like chocolate-hazelnut! or cookie butter!) for some variety, or omit it for a more traditional pudding pie.
The filling is that same Double Chocolate Pudding I shared with you yesterday. Just fill up the crust with your freshly made pudding, cover it, and try very hard to wait a couple of hours before digging into this glorious pie.

Hummingbird Oatmeal Cookies

I’m not blessed with an abundance of patience. I just have a hard time waiting for things. Anyone else have this problem?
You see, the plan was to share these cookies with you later this week when it’s officially spring. They just seemed like such a lovely way to usher in the new season.
But, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and I just couldn’t wait any longer. So, sure, it’s a couple of days shy of spring. If you don’t mind, then we’ll just go with it.

One of my favorite cakes is Hummingbird Cake. I’ve made it in both cupcake and Bundt form. I’d never thought of translating those flavors into cookie form until I came across this recipe in a recent edition of Southern Living. I knew that I’d be moving these to the top of my to-bake list.
If you aren’t familiar with the whole Hummingbird idea, it’s a wonderfully delicious combination of bananas, pineapple, cinnamon, and nuts, all topped off with cream cheese frosting. And, it is so, so good.

These cookies are a great variation on those flavors with a soft oatmeal cookie with banana and cinnamon and dried pineapple. Then, each one is topped with its own dollop of cream cheese frosting. You can dress them up a bit with toasted nuts or banana chips.
No matter the season, I encourage you to make these delicious cookies. They’re a perfectly lovely sweet treat for most any occasion. In fact, this very moment may be deemed worthy of one of these for me.

Lemon Almond Crumb Bars

Lemon bars have never been a favorite for me. That may seem odd to read that underneath a photo of lemon bars, but it’s nonetheless true. Most of the ones I’ve tried have been a bit too sweet and lemon-y for me.
I should say that my tastes have changed a bit over the years. I used to shun most citrus desserts, but I’ve come to like them far more. Still, lemons and limes and oranges and such aren’t the first things I consider when it’s time to bake.
However, I have now met these wonderfully delicious lemon bars, and I would gladly take one of these any time for dessert.

So, what makes these different? It’s the whole package, really, but we’ll start with the crust. It’s a pretty standard buttery crust, but a bit of lemon zest adds a bright flavor to it.
The filling is more or less what you’d expect from lemon bars, but with the addition of crystallized ginger. I am a big believer in the power of lemon plus ginger. The ginger emphasizes the wonderful flavor of an already delicious filling and adds just a little extra zing.
Finally, instead of the standard dusting of confectioners’ sugar, these lemon bars have an almond crumb topping to make them even more irresistible.
These bars are a lovely way to usher in spring. Their bright flavor is just perfect for the promise of warmer, brighter days.

Salted Caramel Pots de Creme

Quinn’s birthday was this past weekend, so you can always count on my making a special dessert. He historically picks out some ambitious desserts with multiple components or large amounts of chocolate, but this year we changed gears a bit.
A while back I made Chocolate Pots de Crème and became completely enamored with them. When I was thinking of options for Quinn’s big day, I remembered how much we loved those little pots and decided to give that idea another go.
Neither of us is likely to turn down salted caramel, so I felt quite confident that we’d both be quite pleased with these little guys. I was so very right.

There are so many things we love about this dessert. These beauties are creamy and rich and flat-out delicious. They’re such a wonderful, pure expression of caramel. If you’re a big fan of caramel, I think you’ll love these as much as we did.
You know I love that sprinkling of salt on top. But, if you don’t have that same affinity for sweet and salty, you can skip the extra salt and opt for a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Citrus marinated grilled fish

This citrus marinated grilled fish recipe is great dish for those who love fish marinated with citrus and spices. The marinade is made with sour orange juice, orange zest, chipotle powder, garlic powder, cumin seeds, and oregano. I used cod for this recipe, but the marinade will work well with other types of fish, you can try it with halibut, rockfish, mahi mahi, tilapia, and more.

Sour oranges, called naranja agria in Spanish, are also known as bitter oranges or Seville oranges. We had sour oranges growing everywhere in Ecuador, as their names implies they are very sour and full of seeds, but have this amazing fragrance that hits you the minute you cut one open. In Ecuador, we mainly use them in ceviche, in jam, and in drinks. They’re very popular as a citrus addition to fresh sugar cane juice (jugo de caña or guarapo), since they contrast very well with the sweetness. I love cooking with them; they work great for any dish where you would add orange or lemons, and of course, make great marinades.

Until recently I had no idea it was even possible to find sour oranges in the US. Then, thanks to a Persian friend, who invited us to celebrate Norooz, the Persian New Year, I discovered that they’re very common in Persian cuisine – and the best place to find them in the US is that Persian or Middle Eastern groceries stores. They are seasonal, like most citrus, so are mainly available in winter/spring months. It’s funny because every time I go to the Persian store to buy them, they look at me and warn me: “You know those aren’t regular oranges, right?”. Apparently many people buy them without knowing and then return them or complain that the oranges were bad. In case you can’t find sour oranges or want to prepare this citrus marinated grilled fish during the summer, you can replace the sour orange juice in the recipe with a mix of half regular fresh orange juice and half lemon/lime juice.

I use an indoor panini style grill to make grilled fishes when it’s cold outside, and sometimes even if it’s not cold I still do so. Grilling fish to the right point can be very tricky, but the indoor grill heats very evenly. Personally, this is the best way to grill perfect fish, it’s very fast, and you end up with beautiful grilled fish that is not overcooked. I also sometimes use the flat grill, a la plancha style, to cook the fish. You can also use a stove top grill or sear it in a pan with some butter if you don’t have an indoor or outdoor grill.
I served the citrus marinated grilled fish on soft corn tacos and/or with crunchy tostadas. I also added either homemade guacamole or avocado slices, and topped it with my citrus habanero salsa. Other side dishes that work great with this citrus fish include Latin style ricefried ripe plantains, and cebollas encurtidas (lime pickled red onions). You can also use the citrus grilled fish as a topping for a lunch salad entrée: add a layer of salad greens, some avocado slices, the grilled fish, the citrus habanero salsa, and an extra squeeze of fresh lime with a drizzle of olive oil.

Tangerine or mandarin mojito

Mandarins are great for making cocktails (and mocktails), it is a little bit of work to juice them – especially the small ones, but fresh mandarin or tangerine juice is so crisp and refreshing, which makes it perfect to use in a cocktail. The juice can be made ahead of time, but probably no longer than overnight or 6-8 hours so that it’s still very fresh.

The traditional mojito is usually made using sugar cane juice, known as jugo de caña or guarapo in Spanish. I love freshly made sugar cane juice, in my hometown there are several little stands that have small mills to press sugar cane into juice, and it’s a very popular weekend drink. I found canned sugar cane juice at one of the Latin grocery stores and decided to try it in these mojitos. The flavor of the canned juice doesn’t come close to the fresh jugo de caña that I love, so I wouldn’t drink it alone. However, in the cocktail it actually works very well and you have that hint of guarapo taste in the mojito.

In Ecuador, and many other countries, we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th. We would usually have a special program at school and most guys usually give women a rose or a flower on this day. Of course, in the US (and probably in France based on my husband’s lack of flower giving) it’s just another day. Last year we had a discussion about Women’s Day with some friends; one of them was very opposed to the idea of celebrat ng it with flowers/drinks because she felt that so many women still don’t have equal rights. I understand that, however many of us are lucky enough to live in a time (and place) where we have rights that women could have only dreamed about several decades ago. So, I think we should raise a glass to what we have achieved so far, but also not forget about to support those are still fighting. Cheers to all the amazing women in our lives!

Tangerine or mandarin mojito
Yield: For 6-8 people
Refreshing and easy tangerine or mandarin mojito recipe, this citrusy Latin cocktail is made with fresh mandarin juice, lime juice, sugar cane juice or sugar, mint leaves, sparkling water, and rum.
  • 2 cups of mandarin or tangerine juice, from about 8-10 mandarins (depending on the size)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup sugar cane juice (guarapo), or ½ cup simple syrup/sugar, adjust to taste
  • 8 oz of mint leaves
  • ~1 ½ cups of chilled sparkling water or club soda, adjust more or less based on your preference
  • 1 to ½ cups of rum, adjust to taste
  • Ice
  • Garnishes:
  • Mandarin or tangerine slices
  • Mint leaves
  • Sugar to decorate rims, optional
  1. You can make the mojitos in individual glasses or in a pitcher. I make them in a pitcher and only add a bit of sparkling water. Then in each glass, I place ice cubes, mint leaves and fruit slices, pour the drink into the glasses and then top it off with some sparkling water.
  2. Gently muddle or crush the mint leaves with the sugar cane juice (or sugar or simple syrup).
  3. Add the rum, lime juice, and mandarin juice, mix well and taste. Add sugar or rum if needed – remember than you will still add sparkling water. Add a few ice cubes and some mandarin slices. Then top off with the sparkling water and mix gently.
  4. As mentioned above, to serve in each individual glass: put ice cube in the glass, then add some fresh mint leaves and mandarin slices, and pour the drink into the glasses. Top off with additional sparkling water or club soda if needed.
  5. Serve immediately.
Mocktail variation: To make this as a mocktail variation, leave out the rum and replace it with additional sparkling water or sparkling lemonade.

How To Make Lemon Sheet Cake

I’ve decided I don’t want to make round layer cakes any more. Everyone always says, “Oh, that piece is too big, give me half of that.” Seriously? Have you ever tried to cut an inch-wide sliver of a three layer cake and not have it fall over. It can’t be done!
Sheet cakes, on the other hand, you can bring it to the party in the same pan you baked it in, you don’t have to worry about it tipping over in the car, you can cut pieces as small as you want … sheet cakes are the bomb.
And a lemon sheet cake with chocolate ganache and lemon glaze? Ehrmagerd.



130706-1446442½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cup white sugar
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, softened
4 large eggs

Chocolate frosting

Go check out the recipe from Ree’s Texas sheetcake recipe.
Simple and delicious, it’s what I used in the pictures below.

Lemon glaze

Follow the directions for my lemon drop candies.


Before you start mixing the ingredients, prepare a sheet pan and pre-heat the oven to 325° F.
I’ve got to get up on my soapbox for a minute here. There’s no reason the kitchen needs to look like a war zone after baking a cake. The easiest way to clean up the mess is not to make one. So when I measure the flour, I do it right in the bowl I’m going to put the flour in.

Thanksgiving Special: Cranberry Cheesecake

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, and always hated pumpkin pie. I think most people don’t really like pumpkin pie all that much. If they did, why would they only eat it once a year?
This year I wanted to incorporate a traditional Thanksgiving food, but in a new way. I knew I wanted to do something with fresh-made cranberry sauce, and first thought of making it just like a cherry pie.
Wait, brainstorm … Cheesecake!



6 graham crackers
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter (melted)


2½ packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
½ cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
1½ tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Crumb topping

1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1 stick butter (cold, in small pieces)
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup roasted almonds, chopped

Cranberry sauce

1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water


I usually do the step-by-step photos, but this was just going to be an experiment. It came out too good not to share in time for Thanksgiving.
If you’ve ever had cheesecake with strawberries or cherries on it, this is a similar idea except that the cranberries are prepared according to my cranberry sauce recipe.
Since I wanted the cranberry sauce to gel up on top rather than spreading it on afterwards, it was going to still be hot when I put it on. That meant I was going to need a layer in-between the cheese and the sauce. The crumb topping is adapted from a cranberry crumble recipe that I might make for turkey day.


For the crust, follow my directions for making a cookie crust. Crush the crackers, melt the butter, mix everything together and press into the bottom of a spring-form pan.
One update I made this time is I used the Ninja to crush the crackers. Way quicker and easier, but not at all necessary.

Crumb topping

Make the crumb topping before you do the cheese. Combine the flour, ginger, salt and sugar in a food processor and mix well. Add the butter and pulse just until it forms into large lumps.
You could also do it with a pastry cutter, like I did when making blueberry coffee cake.
Fold in the oats and almonds.
Set aside in the refrigerator until the cheese is ready.


Pre-heat the oven to 325° F. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, flour and vanilla and mix well. Use an electric mixer … unless you’re multi-tasking and want to get in a workout at the same time.
Once it’s mixed, add the eggs one at a time mixing after each until just blended. Pour into the pan with the crumb crust. It’s very thick, so you’re going to have to spread it out. Pour it in the middle and spread to the outside. If you start from the outside you’ll get streaks of cheese going up the sides of the pan and it won’t separate as cleanly after it’s cooked.
Top with the crumb topping. Cover it well from edge-to-edge, but don’t feel compelled to use all of it if it looks like it’s getting too thick. You don’t want the cranberry to separate and fall off when you cut it. (Foreshadowing? We’ll see, I’m writing this part before the cake has cooled.)
Put the pan in the oven for at least 30 minutes. It’s done when it’s nearly set up in the middle. Check with a knife, it should come out just a little wet. (It will keep baking for another 10-15 minutes after you take it out.)

Cranberry sauce

As soon as you put the cake in the oven, start on the cranberries. Follow the directions for old-fashioned cranberry sauce. Set it aside, still in the pot you cook it in, to cool a bit until the cake is ready. If you time it just right the sauce will be done simmering just when the cake comes out of the oven.
Loosen the spring-form and run a sharp knife around the edge to separate it, but leave the form on.
Set the cake and the cranberry sauce both aside — not in the fridge — to cool for about 15 minutes, then re-tighten the spring-form and pour the cranberry sauce over the cake. Pour everything right in the middle and spread it out from there. Any juice that runs past the edge of the crumb topping will run down the side of the cake. Be prepared to move the pan onto a baking sheet if it starts leaking. (Mine has taken some abuse … it doesn’t fit so tight any more.)
Put the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight.
When it’s time to serve, loosen the spring-form, run a hot knife around the edge to make sure it’s not stuck, and lift it off.

Thanksgiving Super-roundup

Looking for tips on how to make the Thanksgiving classics? How about some new ideas you can try? Look below for a roundup of some of the best dishes we’ve done, all hand-picked as sure-fire winners at the Thanksgiving feast.
  • Main Dishes
    • Roast Turkey
    • Rotisserie Turkey
    • Rotisserie Chicken
    • Slow Roasted Chicken
  • Classic Side Dishes
    • Cranberry Sauce
    • Smooth Cranberry Sauce
    • Roasted Squash
    • Glazed Carrots
    • Potatoes au Gratin
    • Fried Green Beans with Bacon
    • Giblet Gravy
    • Potato Buns
  • Desserts
    • Tarte Tatin
    • Sorghum Pecan Pie
    • Cranberry Cheesecake
    • Frozen Chocolate Truffle Pie
  • Alternatives
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Corn Casserole
    • Sauteed Cabbage
    • Baked Mac and Cheese (two versions)
    • Baked Fauxtatoes
    • Creamy Cheesecake
  • Leftovers
    • Turkey Hash
    • Turkey Soup
    • Clarified Turkey Broth
  • Other
    • Classic Kids’ Thanksgiving Feast
    • Industrial Food-like Products
    • Cooking Safety
    • Pie Crusts (And one topping)

Main Dishes

The perfect bird.

Roast Turkey

The classic centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner.

Rotisserie Turkey Breast

If the weather holds up, and you don’t need the whole bird, this method is great for getting all-around crispy skin and not much fat.

Rotisserie Chicken

You don’t need a whole turkey, but you still want drumsticks.

Slow Roasted Chicken

This method doesn’t get you the beautiful, camera-ready skin, but it’s moist and delicious and nearly foolproof.

Classic Side Dishes

A few things you’re just expecting to see.

Cranberry Sauce

If your mother-in-law just refuses to serve the stuff from a can, this grown-up version is the real thing you never knew you were missing.

Smooth Cranberry Sauce

Just like the stuff in the can, but without the rings around it.

Roasted Squash

This might not be a classic in your family, but there’s a good bet they had it at the first Thanksgiving.

Glazed Carrots

Not the mushy, syrupy pieces of sad that you remember from your high school cafeteria. They’re a little sweet, a little salty, and still have a bit of texture to them.

Potatoes au Gratin

Just a bit less boring than the traditional mashed potatoes.

Fried Green Beans with Bacon

Say it with me, kids: “Everything’s Better With Bacon!”

Giblet Gravy

You know that bag of “stuff” you have to take out of the turkey before you cook it? You don’t just throw that out, do you?

Potato Buns

These have a softer texture than most other dinner rolls I’ve made. And they’re just the right size for making turkey sammiches.


You can find apple, pumpkin and cherry pie recipes anywhere. Why not try one of these instead?

Tarte Tatin

A classic French twist on the classic American pie.

Sorghum Pecan Pie

If you think you don’t like pecan pie, have you ever had it made from scratch? What a difference.

Cranberry Cheesecake

Save some of that cranberry sauce you made to top this classic cheesecake recipe.

Frozen Chocolate Truffle Pie

So crazy chocolatey it will satisfy the most intense cocoa craving.


These don’t usually show up on Thanksgiving menus, but they should.

Brussels Sprouts

One great thing about these, besides the taste, is that they’re ridiculously easy to make. Always a plus when you’re doing a bunch of dishes for a large crowd.

Corn Casserole

A little more work than just heating up a bag of frozen corn, but easy to do ahead.

Sautéed Cabbage

This is a crossover from my St. Patrick’s Day lineup, but it earns its place here with great flavor, and quick prep.

Baked Mac and Cheese

I picked this recipe up on my honeymoon, and it’s been a favorite at big get-togethers ever since.

Baked Mac and Cheese, Take 2

This is a more traditional version than the one above.

Baked Fauxtatoes

If you’re trying to cut back on carbs but still want some mashed potatoes, this is a pretty good alternative.

Creamy Cheesecake

This is usually a summer treat with seasonal berries, but if you’ve got access to good ones, go for it.


Turkey Hash

Every year I heard this in The Movie — you know which movie I mean, right? I finally made it … totally worth it.

Turkey Soup

This version of the recipe shows cooking the turkey just for the soup. You’ll be doing it with leftovers.

Clarified Turkey Broth

I’ll admit this is a bit of work, but do it once and tell me it isn’t worth the time.


A couple of odds and ends to consider.

Classic Kids’ Thanksgiving Feast

If you watch the holiday specials on TV every year, you’ve seen a dog serve this to a bird.

Industrial Food-like Products

There’s never been an industrial simulation of a real food that wasn’t a chemical and biological horror show.

Cooking Safety

Make sure the battery is good in your smoke detector, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. Just in case.

Pie Crusts (and one topping)

If you follow all of those pie recipes above you’ll see these links included within. But if you’re just looking for a crust recipe for some other pie, you can try: basic pie crustsweet pie crust;cookie pie crust (like Oreo™); graham cracker crust (great for cheesecake).