Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Angie's Thumbprint Cookies

Remember Angie? My friend who is stumping to be President of my fan club? (This is all completely unofficial and I am the only judge and voter, by the way). She has been busy! This is the first blog post of fan's pics - so send them to me!

Angie made Thumbprint Cookies and I have to say, she definitely put her own spin on them. She filled some with Strawberry jam and some with Raspberry but then she also filled some with Peach Butter and the green is Jalapeno jelly! With a sparkle of green sugar. I love the twist. What did you fill yours with?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Soft and Silky Whipped Cream

We are all in a baking frenzy this week; it's part of the fun! Mixers whirring, knives chopping, room being made in the refrigerator and freezer. And trips to the Dollar Store for cheap but pretty airtight tins for all of our cookies. (One of my favorite dollar store items).

Many desserts are enhanced by a dollop (or more) of whipped cream. A silky mound on top of chocolate mousse, wedges of flourless chocolate cake or on slices if lemon tart. Sometimes it can be the star on top of a chilled pie, swirled with a spoon. What all of these should have in common is properly whipped cream.

Whether it is the crowning finale or you are folding it into a dessert, the texture of your whipped cream is of prime importance. Take a look at this picture:

The cream on the left is soft and silky. Perfect. The cream on the right was over-whipped. See how it is "curdy" almost looking like cottage cheese? Not good. The inherent silkiness of perfectly whipped cream is lost - what a shame! If we are spending the calories, let's make them delectable in every way.

I do usually reach for my electric mixer when I am whipping a lot of cream. If it is 1-cup or less I do it by hand. When using a mixer I usually stop short of it being "done" and finish it off by hand with a balloon whisk. It allows me much more control. You want the peaks to just softly fall over on the rest.

When you are shopping, look for Heavy Cream (it has the highest butterfat), as opposed to Whipping Cream, and if you can find it buy pasteurized and not Ultra-pasteurized. The Ultra is not only harder to whip, but it has been exposed to super high heat and sometimes you can detect a slightly cooked dairy flavor.

IF you over whip the cream you can add some liquid heavy cream, stir it in and possibly achieve the proper texture. Of course if you needed a certain amount for folding into a recipe, that amount is now skewed a bit, but it is a nice cheat to know about. Best bet is to stop whipping early to check.

In terms of sweetening, you have many choices, but I will simply address plain sugar (as opposed to maple syrup or honey or something of that ilk). Granulated sugar will give you pure sweetening. Superfine sugar will dissolve extra-fast. Confectioner's sugar has a bit of cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping and it can sometimes taste faintly starchy in whipped cream, but the benefit is that it helps stabilize the whipped cream. If I am whipping last minute or folding into a recipe, I use superfine or granulated. If the cream-topped pie has to travel to Grandma's house, I will use the confectioner's. The choice is yours.

Enjoy your cream filled holidays and Happy whipping!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I found a bag of Craisins in the pantry! Time to make Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. This is the week when there can Never be enough cookies. The dough freezes well too. Make a batch, bake some up this week, freeze the rest and bake those up after January 1st to help start the New Year off right.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Working from the Pantry

In an effort to be frugal and use what is at hand, I have been digging in my closet searching for ingredients that have been pushed aside. Ok I know my pantry is a little fancier than most but still, the sentiment is there. I found a can of chestnut purée and make a chocolate chestnut cake yesterday that I put in the freezer for next week. There were also some dried cherries and some almond paste in the frig. With those I made a pound cake. I soaked the cherries in Amaretto and added the almond paste to the batter....all these recipes will be forthcoming.

I can't be the only one with "fancy" stuff lying about. What's in your pantry that you should be using? I really want to know.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Angie....Everyone Needs a Friend Like Angie

I think my friend Angie is angling to be president of my fan club. She is a one woman support system. She has been Facebooking about my Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies and the new site all week. She just posted that tonight her baking frenzy begins. Looking by her pic she is all ready to go!

There is One Cookbook that says "Christmas" to Me

Full disclosure....I own about 2000 cookbooks. I say "about" because I lost count years ago. They are in book cases, stacked properly as well as horizontally. Basically I have to use every available space to squeeze them in. And I keep collecting; iIt is a compulsion. Scratch that. For me they are well thought out research tools...right?

Some never really get used, while others get used a lot and then there are those that signify certain times of my life. Such is the case with Mimi Sheraton's Visions of Sugarplums.

My Mom had this book and while it has no color photos, I was drawn into it as a child. Even just the titles had me dreaming of things I could bring to life in the kitchen: Victorian Coconut Gingersnaps; Swedish Saffron Buns; Chocolate Chestnut Fritters; Boule de Neige; Colonial Virginia Frozen Plum Pudding; Dublin Fruit Cake....and ones with funny names that still appeal as an adult: Bellylaps; Belsnickles; Fire Tong Bowl and dozens more.

There are chapters on yeast breads, cakes, pies, tarts, fritters, crullers, candies and drinks from all over the world - including a gingerbread house.

It is a fabulous book for those who think they have every baking book they need....they need this too. A great gift.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Desserts Named "Best Holiday Desserts" by Bon Appetit

Above: Frozen Chocolate-Peppermint Bûche de Noël - image by Patricia Heal

Bon Appetit has announced their "Best Holiday Desserts" and of the 31 chosen, 4 are mine! I am honored to be in such a smashing assembly of show-stopping desserts. Check them out. I hope one (or more!) will grace your table this year. Email me any questions you might have - and I would love to see your pics! The White Chocolate Tiramisu Trifle with Spiced Pears is on my site. You can find the other recipes at

Above: White Chocolate Tiramisu Trifle with Spiced Pears - image by Con Poulos

Above: White Chocolate Espresso Torte with Hazelnut Praline - image by Patricia Heal

Above: Chocolate Almond and Raspberry Tart - image by Patricia Heal

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homemade Cranberry Liqueur

Recipes for this are all over the internet but I have a tried-and-true recipe that I first published in my Christmas Cooking for Dummies several years ago and I make it every year. It's a great host/hostess gift and this year I found this gorgeous, heavy glass bottle at Marshall's for $6! With some cranberries, sugar, vodka and some time, this will be ready for New Year's celebrations and beyond, keeping you warm all winter long. Check out my recipe for this easy Cranberry Liqueur.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Brand New Coming Soon!

OK folks this has been a LOOOOOONG time in coming. I've owned my URL for a very long time and never really did anything with it. Life got in the way. You know, raising twins, hosting television shows, baking for a living, writing books and then the next thing I knew, I realized YEARS had gone by and frankly, the lack of action on my site, the design, the whole shebang was admittedly pathetic.

And then I sat on my ass some more. And waited for something magical to happen. I don't know what I was waiting for. Maybe the internet would disappear, or maybe the website of my dreams would just come to me on a silver platter. None of that happened.

What did happen was that about a year ago I started to pull my head out of the sand. Big changes were happening at Bon Appetit; big changes were happening with friends and co-horts in terms of work (or rather lack thereof). I really did have a lightbulb moment where I realized that with all my expertise and all my contacts that I still had a lot to say and the best way to get it out to you was through a website.

The lightbulb was probably starting to glimmer a few years ago when I was working on my Unforgettable Desserts manuscript. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that we cut almost half the text and about 40 recipes during the editing process. Things like this happen. The publisher has a budget and a design vision and the author's words get cut away - simple as that.

Simple for them, painful for me. I had written things I wanted to share. Tips and techniques that I thought were important to the home baker and they were not going to see the light of least through that book.

My smart agent Maureen Lasher said "Dede, don't worry. You will find a use for those recipes; they will not go to waste". I did believe her, but still didn't quite see the light.

Now the light is blaring in my face and has been for months. My BIG website is almost ready. I've been driving my web team crazy because I want to launch it with a BANG. I want all the bells and whistles in place. I want you to be as excited about it as I am, and I think you will be when you see it. There are about 155 pages to the site so far, so when it does launch, you will be able to have fun poking around, reading, learning, and hopefully inspired to get in the kitchen.

I have also built a small kitchen studio and will be bringing you original video as often as possible...just today we taped How to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream, a segment on Dark Caramel Sauce and a short on properly whipped cream.

Hang in there folks...I want to get it up and running more than anybody, but I wanted to give you a "tease". Here is a sneak-peak at part of the Home page. The image the partial wedding cake is but one photo in a slide-show of pics that will be on that part of the site.