A New Way with Carrot Cake

carrot-cake-squares-with-orange-syrup-and-creme-fraiche-icingThere are probably as many versions of carrot cake as there are cooks who make it. Although I’ve been convinced for years that my family’s favorite recipe for this classic cake,covered with cream cheese icing, could never be surpassed, I recently discovered a new interpretation that I like even better.

When my assistant, Emily Bell, returned from a walking trip to the Outer Hebrides, she called to say that she had tasted a fabulous carrot cake at an inn on this Scottish island outpost. I couldn’t imagine that it would be that different. “Try it!” she insisted. I did and was won over with my first bite. Continue reading

Pistachio Brownies—A Hit at the Party!

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Orange Brownies 3 3194x2676One of my favorite parties of the year is the late fall dinner my husband and I host for his freshman seminar class at Amherst College. The students, bright, lively, and engaging, come from around the country as well as from several continents. This year the group hailed from New York to California and from cities in Ethiopia, Uruguay, and Viet Nam. So, I decided to plan a menu with global accents, and offered as openers baked Medjool dates filled with Gorgonzola Dolce and almonds, followed by vegetarian Greek moussaka and French daube de boeuf à la provençale. All-American brownies, prepared with an unexpected flavor combination, made a fine finale.Freshman Party students 1 3648x2736

Freshman Party  Students (boys) 2 3648x2736The dark chocolate, fudgy brownies, studded with chopped pistachios and scented with fragrant orange peel, quickly disappeared and were given a thumbs up by the crowd. I was delighted since I had spent several days tweaking the recipe, replacing traditional nuts with pistachios and omitting vanilla in place of grated orange zest. Extra festive touches included decorating the brownies with a zigzag pattern of ganache and adding a sprinkle of finely chopped verdant pistachios.

These brownies are petite and slim perfect for a holiday indulgence. A single recipe yields 16 squares and can be stored for several days in the fridge. I was so pleased with their popularity that I’m making another batch for a neighborhood potluck this weekend!

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Orange-Scented Strawberry Shortcakes

For my latest version of this all-American classic, I baked these shortcakes with a hearty amount of cream instead of butter or shortening for a rich taste, and used cake rather than all-purpose flour to make the texture extra tender. Orange zest lends a fresh citrus accent to these little cakes, and orange juice is used to season the berries. The whipped cream topping is also scented with a hint of grated orange peel. The shortcakes, the berries, and the cream can all be prepared several hours ahead, so that all you need to do at serving time is to assemble these scrumptious summer confections.

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