Typically, at this time of year, we’d be entertaining nonstop—hosting an end-of-semester party for my husband’s students, inviting friends and neighbors for some holiday libations, or welcoming guests to a large open house. None of that will take place in 2020 because of the pandemic. Our socializing this season will be primarily through Zoom or Face Time, and we’ll only need appetizers for two! Because many other families, like ours, will be scaling down this year, I’ve chosen two easy yet delicious treats (both featured on my blog in earlier posts) perfect to serve at small gatherings. A wheel of Camembert stuffed with a glorious mélange of fruit and nuts as well as bowls of spiced orange pecans are on my list.
A round of Camembert is halved horizontally, filled with a colorful fruit Continue reading →
For New Year’s Eve this past year, I prepared a hearty soup supper and ended it with luscious little dark chocolate and orange pots de crème. After posting photos of the evening’s menu on Facebook, many of my FB friends commented enthusiastically about this simple dessert. So, as Valentine neared this month, I thought why not make them again for Cupid’s Day!
Pots de crème, French for little pots of cream, are one of the easiest confections for home cooks to prepare. They take only minutes to assemble, and then typically need less than half an hour of unattended time in the oven. After chilling, they can easily rest in the fridge overnight for serving the next day. Oh, and most of the ingredients called for are easy to find in a Continue reading →
While culling my files for a dessert to use up the cranberries remaining in my fridge, something fortuitous happened. I was tagged on Instagram by a person whose handle is #bakerynerd. The writer posted that they had recently baked a cranberry orange upside down cake created by me! It took a few minutes to locate the recipe that had originally appeared in 1999 in my former syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining.” I was thrilled that this mystery baker had enjoyed the cake, and pulled out the recipe to try it 20 years later.
Nothing could have be simpler. Cranberries, quickly simmered with sugar and orange juice along with a pat of butter, were spooned into a cake pan Continue reading →
Earlier this month when it was my turn to host book club, I was at a loss for what to serve. We always have a generous offering of seasonal appetizers and sweets, but this year in New England spring has brought cold temperatures and even snow to us. Finally, I came up with a menu: a hearty and savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with grapes, apple slices, and crisp crackers, plus a creamy fresh crab dip with orange-scented toasts, and caramel almond squares accompanied by a bowl of berries and whipped cream.
The crab dip, my nod to warmer weather, was a big hit with my fellow readers. Its creaminess comes from cream cheese whipped with Parmesan, and then seasoned with spring accents of tarragon and chives, plus a hefty citrus note of orange. Served atop Continue reading →
There 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 →
One 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.
The 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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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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