ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Moving to Awesomeland

New season, new blog.  After 6 years on DMTotW, and 4 on VGP, I'm consolidating and giving my web presence, such as it is, a fresh face.  Both former blogs will stay up, but all personal and culinary content going forward will be at This is Awesomeland.  Come on over, at your leisure, and check it out.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dessert Club: Toppings

This theme was DC member Andrea's brainchild.  So much of what we make in Dessert Club has a topping, or two, or more - something to drizzle, sprinkle, crumble, spoon, spread, or shake on top of our creations to give them that extra special oomph.  So Andrea's idea was to showcase our toppings - those unsung, minimalist ingredients that make something sweet, something extra-special.

The very sad thing is, Andrea couldn't make it.  She'd had to go out of town unexpectedly, and tried desperately to make it back in time, but traffic was against her, and it just didn't happen.  We were so sorry she - and her Dessert Nachos - missed it, but we loved what we had to share.

Dessert Pizza with Custard, Berries, White Chocolate and Granola

Chocolate Truffle Cake with Raspberry Sauce

French Chocolate Bark (wow, yum)

Hawaiian Butter Mochi with Chocolate Banana Jam

Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies 
with Chocolate Finishing Salt (mine)

Citrus Semifreddo with Berry Sauce & Crushed Gingersnaps

...and the clear, landslide winner...
Nectarine Mascarpone Tart with Candied Ginger

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dessert Club: Tropical

And just in case you were wondering, yes, I have updated the Dessert Club page with current links.  I am an animal of updatedness this week!

In May, our Dessert Club theme was "Tropical."  In case you need to know exactly what this means,

trop·i·cal  (trp-kl) adj.
1. Of, occurring in, or characteristic of the Tropics.
2. Hot and humid; torrid.
trop·ic  (trpk)  n.
1. Either of two parallels of latitude on the earth, one 23°27 north of the equator and the other 23°27 south of the equator, representing the points farthest north and south at which the sun can shine directly overhead and constituting the boundaries of the Torrid Zone.
2. Tropics or tropics The region of the earth's surface lying between these latitudes.
Luckily, everything that came, qualified.  Yummily.
Mango-Glazed Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla-Coconut Sorbet

 Tahitian Starfruit Creams (so good!)

Mango Kumquat Magic Cake with Tropical Jelly & Coconut Glaze

Coconut Pie

Maharani Cupcakes
Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Curry Lemon Curd and Sweet Basil Cream (mine - quite delicious if I do say so)

Kona Mango Cream Pie

Tutti Frutti Ice Cream

Atlantic Beach Pie with Calamansi

Macadamia Fudge Torte with Coconut Caramel Sauce (mine)

...and the winner was...
White Chocolate Key Lime Cake

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dessert Club - American Regions

Alright, jokers.  There are procrastinators, and then there's me.  Time to belly up to the counter here in the kitchen and get some posts knocked out.  Since we just had a killer Dessert Club tonight, and now I am THREE months behind on posting those, let's start there.

In April, our DC theme truly rocked.  It was "American Regions."  Each member was delegated a different part of our great country to represent through a dessert.  The variety was beautiful, but I think the conversation was the real winner.  As we ate, we told the stories we'd discovered about our regions, or the story behind our dishes, and I think we all learned a few things we didn't know before.  Like, have you heard of Mackinac Island, Michigan, to which tourists flood for the fudge (and other diversions), so much that the locals call visitors Fudgies?  Or how about Tennessee Stack Cake, a traditional wedding confection to which each guests brings a layer to contribute?  We learned about these and more at Regional night.  We're definitely going to have to do that one again. 

(All regions were assigned but not everyone came.)

Northwestern Ice 
Pacific Northwest

Avocado Pound Cake with Lime Crème Fraîche (mine)

Cherry & Chocolate Fudge
Great Lakes


Martha Washington's Jumble Cookies 
and Buttermilk Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Apple Brown Betty

Mountain Stack Cake

...and the truly, deeply deserving winner...
Vanilla Pain Perdu with Banana Cashew Praline

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Elder Hangen's Borscht

This just in.

My nephew Thompson is serving as a missionary in Samara, Russia.  He's been there almost 9 months - the time goes so fast!  His letters home are, as you might imagine, always fascinating and full of cultural and personal observations.  When you become so immersed in a foreign place, it changes you, and it's fun to see that happening to him. 

In this week's email, he sent his much-anticipated recipe for homemade borscht.  I went to Russia once, right after my own mission to Toronto.  I think it was the only time I'd had borscht, but I had it several times that week.  So awesome.  Can't wait to try this one...just need to add beets to my shopping list - definitely not a veg I usually buy!

Elder Hangen's Borscht (in his own words)

Cut up two chicken breasts into cubes and cook them with a little oil in the bottom of the borscht pot. 
Add a few cups of cut cabbage and a few cubed potatoes and a cut up onion. And add a couple (2?) liters of water. Bring to a boil and let simmer, but don't forget to add:
a few bay leaves, 2 boillon cubes (i'll never spell that right), and some dill and other greenish herbs.
Then grate into a frying pan two medium sized beets, and two large carrots. Add enough oil so that they look a little wet (1/3 to 1/2 cup? I don't measure, just pour) and fry them up on the stove.
Slice a tomato into wedges and add them to the frying pan, along with a large spoonful of tomato paste, and a squirt of barbeque sauce. Stir this all together, and when the potatoes in the pot are soft, add the "borscht mash" in the frying pan to the soup. You'll notice the brilliant red color immediately stain everything. Yum. 
Let boil for a while, like 35 minutes, and then let it sit and cool for an hour. Serve in a large bowl with a dollop of sour cream!

Traditionally you'd eat it with black bread. But personally I choose my borscht bread based on it's ability to absorb liquid. Good absorptivity = good borscht bread.

I don't think I forgot any ingredients, but I probably did. A pot this size (3 - 4 liters of borscht) would last a long time, so you could probably half the recipe. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Honey Wheat Rolls

Here's the only wheat roll recipe you'll ever need.  These are soft and flavorful with a nice high rise I love out of pan rolls.  Butter-and-jelly them, sop them in gravy, use them as slider buns, or really just eat them plain.  If you happen to have any left (unlikely), they're also really delicious with sausage and fruit for breakfast. 

Honey Wheat Rolls (print recipe)
Makes 16 rolls

1 packet "highly active" active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup instant mashed potato flakes or 1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

1.  If you're using active dry or "highly active" yeast, dissolve it with a pinch of sugar in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.
 2.  Combine the dissolved yeast with the remainder of the water and the rest of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take about 5 to 7 minutes at second speed. In a bread machine (or by hand), it should form a smooth ball.

3.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, till it's quite puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Rising may take longer, especially if you've kneaded by hand. Give it enough time to become quite puffy.
4.  While the dough is rising, lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, or two 9" round cake pans.

5.  Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 16 pieces, or 24 pieces, depending on whether you want larger or smaller rolls.

6.  Shape each piece into a rough ball by pulling the dough into a very small knot at the bottom (think of a balloon with its opening knotted), then rolling it under the palm of your hand into a smooth ball.

7.  Place the rolls in the 9" x 13" pan, or put eight rolls in each of the round cake pans, spacing them evenly; they won't touch one another.

8.  Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the rolls to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They'll become very puffy, and will reach out and touch one another. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
9.  Bake the rolls for 15 minutes, and tent them loosely with aluminum foil. Continue to bake until they're mahogany-brown on top, but lighter colored on the sides, an additional 10 to 13 minutes.

10.  Remove the rolls from the oven, and after 2 or 3 minutes, carefully transfer them to a rack. They'll be hot and delicate, so be careful. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lemon-Yogurt Cheesecake Bundt

Hello, I love anything made with lemon and olive oil.  So it was a good start with this recipe. 

My sister was swinging through town for just a few hours, around dessert time, so I needed a crowd-pleaser that we could linger over.  Not too rich or too sweet, but it couldn't be boring!  I flipped through one of my favorite cookbooks and I couldn't believe this cake had never caught my eye!

The pictures really speak for themselves.  Gorgeous, high-rise lemon bundt with a tender crumb, brushed with lime syrup for extra ZOW-ZING, and drizzled with a thick and creamy lemon-lime cream cheese glaze.  I would say it did the trick.  My sister walked in, whipped out her iPad, and Instagrammed a photo of my cake before saying anything to anyone.  Then we could sit down and chat over lemony slabs with tall glasses of milk.
Lemon-Yogurt Cheesecake Bundt (print recipe)
Makes 12 to 14 servings

1 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups white sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
4 large eggs
2 cups plain yogurt
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Lime Syrup:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp lime oil

Lemon-Lime Cream Cheese Glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 to 3 T lemon and lime juice, mixed

Finishing Touches:

Lemon and lime zest
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch fluted tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place pan on it.

2.  In a mixer bowl, beat oil, butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until well blended, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, yogurt, juice, and vanilla; blend well, about 2 minutes.  Fold in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend well, making sure no uncombined ingredients cling to bottom of mixing bowl.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3.  Bake until cake is set and tests done with a cake skewer that comes out clean, about 60 to 80 minutes.  Cake will have fine cracks on the surface.  If cake is brown on top but doesn't seem done inside, reduce oven temperature to 325 and let bake at lower temperature until done.  Cool in pan 15 minutes before unmolding onto a serving platter.

4.  Meanwhile, for Lime Syrup, in a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.  Let simmer 5 minutes.  Cool.  Poke holes all over cake with a cake skewer.  Drizzle some of syrup over cake.  Let set.  Repeat several times over a 30-minute period.

5.  For Lemon-Lime Cream Cheese Glaze, blend all ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk or in a food processor to make a drippy glaze.  Put glaze in a measuring cup with a pouring spout and drizzle over cake.  Garnish with citrus zest and edible fresh flowers or dust with confectioners' sugar.

Recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Asparagus-and-Potato Flatbread

 This amazing thing hails from my favorite oh-why-oh-why-did-they-discontinue-it?!! food magazine, Everyday Food.  Seriously, every time an issue would arrive, I would flip through, loving every page, and ripping over half of them out for my files. 

I made this flatbread a couple months ago with a dinner swap meal.  It could be a side dish, as I used it, or a summery main, in which case it probably serves more like 4.  It is very easy, but maybe not as easy as it claims.  Have you ever shaved asparagus with a vegetable peeler?  You get a couple shaves in, and it breaks.  A little frustrating, and a little wasteful.  But then you can kind of chop/peel the rest in bits, and throw them on.  Maybe you don't get all those beautiful ribbons Martha Stewart promises, but it still tastes the same, which is super duper awesome. 

You can use store bought or homemade pizza dough - because I was making so many, I used Trader Joe's dough, which is $1/lb.  Hard to beat.  The potatoes add a sweet-salty-starchy-ness that's really nice under the earthy asparagus and tangy chevre.  Next time, I would use less goat cheese.  The amount called for overpowered things for me.  I might cut it in half.  But if you love goat cheese, go for it. 
Asparagus-and-Potato Flatbread (print recipe)
Makes 2 flatbreads; 6 servings

All-purpose flour, for rolling
1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen, divided in half
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), trimmed and shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (1 cup)

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees, with racks in middle and lower thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into two 6-by-16-inch ovals and transfer to two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Brush each with 1 tablespoon oil. In a medium bowl, toss potato with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes on dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Bake until edges of crusts are golden and potatoes are beginning to crisp around edges, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

2.  Meanwhile, toss asparagus with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to 450 degrees, remove sheets from oven, and top flatbread with asparagus. Return sheets to oven and bake until asparagus is crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Top with cheese and bake until cheese is warmed through, 3 minutes. Drizzle each flatbread with 1 teaspoon oil, then cut into wedges to serve.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rich Coffeecake with Sweet Cheese Filling

 If you're wondering where I've been the last 8 days, and really the last two months, I've been typing up this recipe.  It's that long.

Despite major time constraints and setbacks, like feeding my family and sleeping at night, I have persevered, because I think it's really important that this recipe be freely available on the internet.  It is freaking amazing.

I think I may have just found our new Christmas or maybe Easter or maybe birthday breakfast tradition.  Gorgeous amazing yeasted butter dough.  Cheese danish filling with the slightest hint of lemon.  Streusel and icing, natch.  Do most of the work the day before, then finish it on Day 2.  Really worth it.  Plus it makes two so you're getting your time's worth.  Freeze one for a friend, or for another day.  This was the winner of Dessert Club - Cheese night. 

Rich Cheesecake with Sweet Cheese Filling (print recipe)
Makes 2 cakes, each serving 8 to 10

The finished cakes freeze beautifully, so you can make the full amount of dough, bake two cakes, and freeze one for later.  Or the recipe can be halved.  Between rising, shaping, and proofing, preparing these cakes is time-consuming, though not at all labor-intensive.  An early morning start will let you make, rise, shape, proof, and bake the dough all in one day.  Alternatively, you can refrigerate the shaped, proofed loaf overnight and bake it the next morning for breakfast.   

Rich Coffeecake Dough
2 envelopes (about 4 1/2 tsp) instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup (3.5 oz.) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 T milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/4 cups (21.25 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces and softened but still cool

Sweet Cheese Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened but still cool
1/4 cup (1.75 oz.) granulated sugar
2 1/2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 tsp finely grated zest from one lemon
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Streusel Topping
1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 cup (2.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
5 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Coffeecake Icing
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Egg Wash
1 large egg
1 tsp heavy cream (preferably) or whole milk

1. For the Dough:  Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer; stir to dissolve.  Add the sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla; attach the paddle and mix at the lowest speed until well combined.  Add 3 1/4 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing at low speed until the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter pieces 1 at a time, beating until incorporated, about 20 seconds after each addition (total mixing time should be about 5 minutes.)  Replace the paddle with the dough hook and add the remaining 1 cup flour; knead at medium-low speed until soft and smooth, about 5 minutes longer.  Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough tightens up slightly, about 2 minutes longer.

2.  Scrape the dough (which will be too soft to pick up with your hands) into a straight-sided lightly oiled plastic container or bowl using a plastic dough scraper.  Cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 3 to 4 hours.  Press down the dough, replace the plastic, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 or up to 24 hours.  Alternatively, for a quick chill, spread the dough about 1 inch thick on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours.

3.  For the Filling:  Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer at high speed until smooth, 2 to 4 minutes.  Add the lemon zest, egg, and vanilla.  Reduce speed to medium and continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and chill thoroughly before using.  (The filling can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.)

4.  For the Streusel:  Mix the brown and granulated sugars, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.  Add the butter and toss to coat.  Pinch the butter chunks and dry mixture between your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.  Chill thoroughly before using.  (The streusel can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.)

5.  For the Icing:  Whisk all the ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.  (The icing can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.  Thin with a few drops of milk before using.)

6.  When you are ready to shape the coffeecakes, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, scraping the container sides with a rubber spatula if necessary.  Divide the dough in half for 2 cakes.  Roll into a 12 by 8-inch rectangle (dough should be about 1/3 inch thick).  Straighten with a bench scraper to keep the sides even.  Place the dough rectangle on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Spread a 3-inch wide strip of filling (use half the filling) down the center of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border at each short end.  Using a knife, cut a 1 1/2 inch square out of each corner of the dough, so it looks like an elongated + sign.  Using scissors, make 5 equally spaced snips , 1 1/2 inches deep, along each long side of the dough.  Fold the ends over the filling, pinching the corner edges together to seal.  Bring the flaps of dough from the long sides together in the center, overlapping the ends and pinching tightly to secure.  Repeat with the second half of dough.  Cover lightly with plastic and proof until slightly puffed, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

7.  For the Egg Wash:  Beat the egg and cream in a small bowl until combined. 

8.  Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Working with and baking one coffeecake at a time, brush the egg wash evenly on the exposed dough.  Sprinkle evenly with half the streusel topping, if using.  Slide the baking sheet onto a second baking sheet to prevent the bottom crust from overbrowning and bake until deep golden brown and/or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the cake reads 190 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes.  Slide the parchment with the coffeecake onto a wire rack and cool at least 20 minutes.  Drizzle the cake with half the icing and serve.

Recipe from Baking Illustrated

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ode to Dessert Club

Ode to Dessert Club 

By Jeff Y***


Wednesday, blessed Wednesday,

Usually the third Wednesday, but sometimes the second, of the month.

The weeks and days before, recipe books piled up.  Experiments in the kitchen.  Wrinkled brow.  Please taste this?  It just needs 5 more minutes.  Stay here, I need to run to the store.  Well, I dunno, honey, maybe more chocolate?

Waiting at the oven, thinking, wooden spoon against the mouth, hmm, what are those crafty M's - McNair and McMullin - dreaming up this month?

They are so sweet and nice but they are trying to beat my wife.

And then, 8:20-ish, out the door, carrying her dessert.  Always perfect of course.  But she is still grumbling that it needs something extra.

Daughter is in bed and I wait.  Reading, surfing, exercising, but mostly waiting for the sound of the screen door.  She's home!  It's like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and a Leprachaun appearing.  A cute one with short brown hair and lipstick.

Pour a glass of milk for proper palate cleansing, grab a fork and take a look.  Oh, yum and yum and yum and yum.  And yum.

Mm-hmm, I'll bet this is a Stratton special.  What's this?  Hickman?  Ah, yes, should have known, so creative.  Pause while we all praise Kari Hickman, the genesis.  Okay, done.  Mmm, yum, Jonny Jacobs will like this one.  And this?  Sheri, so perfect as usual.  Ah, yes, Bowman, amazing, but maybe Bowman squared?  Ah, this must be Joelle's, it's as wonderful as her husband.  How about Michelle?  Delightful.

What, you did not win?  How is that possible?  You were robbed.  I'm sure you came in second by maybe one vote, honey.  You'll have to try again next month.

Next third Wednesday, blessed Wednesday.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dessert Club - Cheese!

I found my headphones I thought I lost on my trip last month.  Which means I'm listening to more music.  Which means I'm in a good mood.  A sassy mood.  A creative mood.  A blogging mood.  Here's last month's Dessert Club.

The theme was Cheese, and we specified this was a sweet cheese challenge.  When I suggested we open it to sweet or savory, everyone exclaimed then they would have to make two things, so we stuck to sweet this time around.  The offerings were truly incredible.  

Pear Caramel Tart with Walnuts and Gorgonzola Dolce

Hazelnut Crunch Chocolate Cake with Orange Marscapone 
(one of my favorites!)

Carrot Cake with Marscapone Lime Frosting
(another of my favs)

Gorgonzola Caramels

Triple Ginger Blue Pear Tart

Brie-Stuffed Dates

Cannoli Pie
(OK, I had a lot of favorites - this was another)

Chocolate Cottage Cheese Cookies

Quark Cookies

Italian Ricotta Cake

Blue Cheese Ice Cream with a Poached Pear Reduction

And amazingly, I actually won this time (!) with my...
Rich Coffee Cake with Sweet Cheese Filling
 I was proud of this win - the pastry for this coffee cake was a several-day affair.

But just as good, if not even better, than all the cheesy desserts we sampled, was a surprise.  DC member Rebecca brought...what shall I call it?...a poetic essay, written earlier that day by her husband Jeff, one of Dessert Club's biggest fans.  It is called Ode to Dessert Club, and it deserves its own blog post.  Watch for it.
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