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."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apple-Cranberry Pie

 No clever prose for this one, my dears.  This one was requested for Thanksgiving, and while I'm skimming it by the hair of my chinny chin chin, I hope you will still be able to make it.  Because cranberries and apples, always excellent.  And this comes from last year's pie night winner, and she seriously knows pies.

Apple-Cranberry Pie (print recipe)
8 oz. (2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 c orange juice
1 c plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 1/2 lbs Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored,and sliced 1/4 in thick
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Bring cranberries, orange juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp salt to boil in medium saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally and pressing berries against side of pot, until berries have completely broken down and juices have thickened to jam-like consistency, about 10-12 minutes. Off heat, stir in water and let cool to room temp., about 30 min. Can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 days.

2. Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and cornstarch together in large bowl. Add apples and toss to combine. Cover and microwave, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10-14 min. Let cool to room temp., about 30 minutes. Can be stored in fridge up to 2 days.

3. While fillings cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Roll 1 disk of dough into 12 in. circle on lightly floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-in. pie plate, letting excess dough hang over edge. Leave any dough that overhangs in place. Wrap dough-lined pie plate loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Roll other disk of dough into 12-in. circle on lightly floured counter, then transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 min.

4. Spread cooled cranberry mixture into even layer in dough-lined pie plate. Place apple mixture on top of cranberries, mounding in center. Loosely roll remaining dough round around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto filling. Trim overhang to 1/2 in beyond lip of pie plate. Pinch edges of top and bottom crusts firmly together. Cut four 2-in. slits in top of dough. Brush surface with egg white and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.

5. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake until crust is light golden brown, about 25 min. Reduce oven temp. to 375, rotate baking sheet and continue baking until juices are bubbling and crust is deep golden brown, 25-30 min. Let pie cool on wire rack until filling has set, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temp.

Recipe from the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Salted Almond Praline Tart

 Here's the creation that WON "Pies & Tarts" night at Dessert Club, which is no small feat.  But it was pretty awesome.  I think the Salted Almond Praline, that went on as a garnish, and was both addictive and super easy to make, was the kicker that pushed it over the edge.  Stunning with creamy almond-scented filling, fresh raspberries, and spicy-salty crust and praline, I humbly admit it did stand out. 

Better Homes and Gardens teamed up with the Almond Board of California for a "Crowd-Pleasing Almond Dishes" contest, and you guessed it, this was one of the winners.  So now it's a two-time award winner.  So you should make it this week.  And maybe every week after.  Definitely for your next recipe contest.  Yum.
Salted Almond Praline Tart (print recipe)
Makes 12 servings

Almond Crust:
2 1/2 cups broken cinnamon graham crackers (or cinnamon Teddy Grahams)
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter

Almond Tart Filling:
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 1/2 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 egg and 1 egg yolk

Salted Almond Praline:
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 T melted butter
1 T water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Whipped cream
Fresh raspberries

1.  Preheat oven to 325F.  Prepare crust:  In food processor, combine grahams, almonds, and sugar.  Cover; process until finely ground.  Add butter.  Pulse to combine.  Press into bottom and sides of 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.  Chill 15 minutes.  Place on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned; cool.

2.  Prepare filling: In saucepan combine 8 oz. cream cheese and white chocolate.  Stir over low heat until melted.  In bowl beat remaining cream cheese on medium to high for 30 seconds.  Beat in sugar until smooth.  Beat in melted mixture until combined.  Beat in sour cream and extract until combined.  Beat in egg and yolk until combined Pour into crust.

3.  Bake in 325F oven 35 minutes or until center is nearly set when gently shaken.  Cool on rack 30 minutes. Loosen crust from side of pan, but do not remove.  Chill at least 2 hours. 

4.  Make Salted Almond Praline: Heat oven to 325F.  Line a baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  In bowl combine 1 cup sliced almonds, the sugar, melted butter, water, cinnamon and salt.  Spread evenly in pan.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely on rack.  Break into pieces.

5.  Remove tart from pan.  Top with whipped cream, Salted Almond Praline, and raspberries.  Serve.
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, July 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crustless Cranberry Pie (a.k.a. "Cranberry Awesomeness")

I'm deeply sorry I don't have a "slice" picture for this pie.  It came a little later than the others, and I forgot to "slice-and-shoot" before we gobbled it all up.  But this was one of my favorites of the night.  I asked her, "What's this called, Cranberry Awesomeness?"  She said she liked that and wouldn't tell me the real name.

Which led to a DC discussion of how I say "awesome" way too much, and even my iPhone signature says, "Sent from Awesomeland."  While it is anything but true, it conveys what I want it to.  Then someone said that she recently said, "awesome" in a conversation and got called out on it, and told "awesome" is dated and not on conversational trend anymore.  To which I reply, whatevs.  It's a classic that has not gone the way of rad or gnarly, but risen in the colloquial ranks to rub shoulders with the likes of cool.  To which my brother, who lived in England for three years, said, when a Brit wants to sound American, they always say, "Awesome!"  Which proves my point.  I think.

Regardless, I mean to bestow my highest praises on this cake-ish pie when I call it awesome.  Awesomeness.  I envision having it for a light breakfast Thanksgiving morning, snacking on it with a bit of milk or herbal tea while the heavy cooking gets underway.  Or as a dessert the same day, with a dab of cream, letting the tart berries burst on your palate surrounded by sweet almond-scented crumbs.  I've just done such a good job describing it, I might have to go make me some right now.

Crustless Cranberry Pie (a.k.a. "Cranberry Awesomeness") (print recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 inch pie pan.

2.  Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the cranberries and the walnuts, and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, beaten eggs, and almond extract. If you are using frozen cranberries, the mixture will be very thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

3.  Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Recipe from

1 year ago:  Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
2 years ago:  Mini Frittatas
3 years ago:  500 Kinds of Popcorn

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Banana-Caramel Coconut Creme Pie

 This pie was Dave's contribution to Pies & Tarts night.  He's a big Cook's Illustrated fan, so almost anything he makes is time-consuming, multi-step intensive, and very, very delicious.  This was no exception, as you can tell even from the title.  Bananas, coconut, and caramel altogether = a truly spectacular idea.

Banana-Caramel Coconut Creme Pie (print recipe)

Graham-Cracker Crust:
8 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 Tbs sugar

Caramel Layer:
3 Tbs water
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs heavy cream
pinch salt
2 Tbs unsalted butter

2 slightly underripe bananas

Coconut Filling:
1 (14oz) can coconut milk (they make a point of saying to avoid 'light' coconut milk)
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Topping:
1.5 cups heavy cream, chilled
1.5 Tbs sugar
.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs unsweetened shredded coconut; toasted until golden brown

1.  Make the crust:   Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325. Process graham cracker pieces in blender or food processor to fine, even crumbs; about 30 seconds. Sprinkle melted butter and sugar over crumbs and pulse to incorporate; about 5 pulses. Sprinkle mixture into 9-inch pie plate. Using bottom of measuring cup, press crumbs into even layer on bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake at 325 for 13-18 minutes until crust is fragrant and beginning to brown. Allow to cool.

2.  Make the Caramel: Add 3 Tbs water to small saucepan, then pour in 1/2 cup sugar. Gently stir sugar with clean spatula to wet thoroughly. Bring to boil and cook until sugar mixture turns dark amber, 5 to 8 minutes, swirling pan occasionally once sugar begins to color. Off heat, add 3 Tbs heavy cream (caramel will bubble vigorously) and pinch salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in 2Tbs unsalted butter. Pour caramel into crust, tilting pi plate to coat evenly; set aside to cool.

3.  Banana Layer: Once the caramel is cool, peel 2 slightly underripe bananas and slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick. Arrange slices in a single layer on top of the caramel. 

4.  Coconut Filling: Bring coconut milk, whole milk, 1/3 cup sugar, shredded coconut, and salt to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally.  As milk mixture begins to simmer, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk 1 cup of simmering coconut mixture into yolk mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture back into remaining coconut milk mixture. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until mixture is thickened and a few bubbles burst on the surface; about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Let mixture cool until just warm, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Pour warm filling on top of bananas. Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface (to avoid 'film' forming) and refrigerate until pie is chilled and set; about 4 hours. 

5.  Whipped Topping: Before serving, using stand mixer with whisk, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla together on medium-low speed until frothy; about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and continue to whip until soft peaks form; 1 to 3 minutes. Spread whipped cream attractively over top of pie and garnish with toasted coconut. 

6.  Devour.

Recipe from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook p. 726

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dessert Club - Pies and Tarts

We interrupt the regularly programmed queue of Herbs & Spices recipes because Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  And you need to know about Pies and Tarts night!  Seriously, last year's was so good, I wondered how we could do another.  But yeah, we did.  And it was amazing.  And we outdid ourselves.  Like we always do.  And my brother came.  Like he does, once a year, for Pie Night.  (There he is, in the back, eating part of my lineup.)

FYI, this post is gonna have a lot of pictures.  I starred some of my favorites, but honestly, there wasn't a bad one in the spread.

Sweet Potato Pie

Cranberry-Apple Pie

Brown Butter Tart with Raspberries and White Chocolate

Spiced Blackberry Custard Pie

Peanut Butter-Apple Pie

Dreamy High Chiffon Pumpkin Pie

*Banana-Caramel Coconut Creme Pie

*Lemon-Lavender Pie (mine)

*Chocolate Caramel Hazelnut Tart

*Pear Croustade with Lemon Pastry

*Cranberry Awesomeness

...and the winner of the very own...

Salted Almond Praline Tart

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much!  What a night!  The winner won this and this for future pie-making endeavors.

I will work to get you some of these recipes by Pie Weekend; in the meantime, what are you making for Thanksgiving dessert?  It's just so hard to choose!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fresh Ginger Cake

This was another intensely delicious contender at DC: Herbs & Spices.  And not the first from David Lebovitz!  I wonder if he would like to come be our guest sometime...or at least our theme.  Hmm, something to consider.  In the meantime, this ginger cake of his is so simple and so fabulous, he says he's given it to so many people he sometimes finds it on menus when he eats out.  And yes, he orders it.  

Fresh Ginger Cake (print recipe)
Serves 10 to 12

4 ounces fresh ginger
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature

1.  Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. 

2.  Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater). Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. 

3.  Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger. 

4.  Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking. 

5.  Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

Recipe form David Lebovitz on Epicurious, November 1999

1 year ago:  Blackberry French Toast Casserole
2 years ago:  Chocolate Turtle Cake
3 years ago:  Yeasted Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon-Pecan Swirl

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Coconut Ginger Pudding

This one got my vote at Herbs & Spices Night.  I loooooved it.  You know, ginger and coconut can both be strong flavors, and you don't want them too overpowering.  In this recipe, they are perfectly balanced - both present, neither too strong.  And, I mean, pudding is sooo good.  Everything is right about this treat.  Plus it's easy.  My favorite part of making pudding is stirring in the butter at the end.  Talk about oh-so-right...

Coconut Ginger Pudding (print recipe)

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1.  Bring the milk and ginger to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, and immediately take the pan off the heat so that it doesn't boil over.  Let the ginger steep in the milk for 15 minutes, then pour the milk through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl.

2.  In another small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and about 1/2 cup of the strained milk.  Add the sugar and cornstarch, and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  While whisking, slowly add the coconut milk and the rest of the milk.

3.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, and place the pan over medium heat.  Whisk constantly until the pudding begins to boil.  Continue whisking for 2 minutes.  Add the butter, and whisk until it is melted.

4.  Pour the pudding into a bowl, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap so a skin doesn't form.  Chill the pudding for at least 2 hours before serving.

Recipe from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

1 year ago:  Derby Pie
2 years ago:  Garlic-Slathered Stretch Bread (a.k.a. Pizza Dippers)
3 years ago:  Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Topping

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Poached Pears

My one fan has spoken.  She wants every single recipe from Herbs & Spices night.  I will try to oblige.  It may mean a little more brusque, and less witty, writing from me.  The world will survive.

These poached pears come straight from the charming David Lebovitz - while I give you the recipe here out of courtesy, I direct you to his blog which has more pictures, and more details, if you're actually going to make these delicious and versatile pears.

Poached Pears (print recipe)

Makes four servings

I’ve offered a few variations at the end of the recipe. You can also poach the pears in halves (cored) or whole. Note that the poaching time will be longer if the pears are in larger pieces than quarters. The best way to test if the pears are done is by poking one with a paring knife; if it meets no resistance, it’s done.
You can serve these pears alongside a favorite cake, like the chocolate pain d’épices, below, from The Sweet Life in Paris, or even a slice of regular Pain d’épices. Of course, they go very well with gingerbread, and I’ve even swapped them out for the quinces in Quince tarte Tatin.

1 quart (1l) water
1 1/3 cup (265 g) sugar
4 Bosc pears; peeled, cored, and quartered

Additions: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices

1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add any of the additions that you wish.
2. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center.
3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears.
4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.
Optional: After poaching the pears, while the liquid is still warm, add approximately 1/2 cup (120 g) dried sour cherries, cranberries, raisins, or dried currants and let them plump.

Serve the pears warm or at room temperature. Accompany with perhaps a scoop of Vanilla ice cream and some dark chocolate sauce, a spoonful of crème fraîche, Milk chocolate & black pepper ice cream, fresh raspberries, or alongside a wedge of spice cake or gingerbread.

Store the pears in their liquid in the refrigerator, in a covered container, until ready to use. Remove the pears from the refrigerator a few hours prior to serving, and re-warm them gently in the liquid, if you wish. The pears will keep for up to 5 days.

In place of the water, you can add 2 cups (500 ml) water and 2 cups (500 ml) white wine (sweet or dry) or sparkling cider, or 3 cups (750 ml) red wine and 1 cup (250 ml) water
In place of the sugar, you can use 1 cup (320 g) honey or 1 1/4 cups (275 g) dark, unrefined sugar, such as turbinado or cassonade.

Recipe taken shamelessly word for word from David Lebovitz

1 year ago:  Blueberry-Cherry Pie
2 years ago:  Pumpkin Donut Muffins
3 years ago:  Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Orange & Coriander Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl

Here is the insanely good, truly deserving winner of Dessert Club - Herbs & Spices night.

Orange and Coriander Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl (print recipe)

Coriander Cheesecake Ice Cream:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground roasted coriander
3/4 cup whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz crème frâiche
3/4 cup sugar

Combine the coriander and milk in a small sauce pan. Bring to a light simmer, turn off the heat, and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes.

In the food processor or blender, pulse the cream cheese, crème frâiche, sugar, and milk together until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. 

Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream:
2/3 cup sugar 
Peel of 3 oranges (peel oranges with vegetable peeler and scrape the pith off with a paring knife) 
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (from 4 or 5 large oranges) 
1 cup sour cream 
1/2 cup half-and-half

In a blender, pulverize the sugar and orange peel until the peel/zest is fine. Add the orange juice, sour cream, and half-and-half and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. 

Blackberry Sauce:
2 cups (16 oz) blackberries
3/4 cups sugar

Place blackberries and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat, mashing with a potato masher when they are really soft. Simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. Strain the fruit and juices in a fine mesh sieve until most of the liquid is separated. Put the solids into a blender and blend to make a thick sauce. If you don't want seeds (I didn't) put back through sieve into a separate bowl. Add back the liquid to the solids until it is about the consistency of melted sorbet (I still had about a half cup of the liquids left that I didn't use - which was great on pancakes).  Cool completely if it's not already, then chill for at least 1 hour.

To Assemble:
Churn the coriander ice cream in your machine according to manufacturers instructions. When it is finished, transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer. Strain out the zest from the orange creamsicle ice cream then churn in your machine according to manufacturers instructions until it is the consistency of soft serve. If you have two ice cream makers you can churn both flavors at the same time, just make the coriander as thick as you can get but leave the orange just a little soft. 

To swirl both flavors with the sauce, gently fold scoops of coriander ice cream into the orange ice cream. Then scoop BIG scoops, a few at a time, of the two flavors together into a large airtight container and pour blackberry sauce over to cover, then more scoops and more sauce, repeating until all ice cream and sauce is used. Cover with plastic wrap and container lid then freeze until solid.

Adapted from and The Perfect Scoop via
by Dessert Club member S.W.

1 year ago:  Cranberry Cream Pie
2 years ago:  Marmalade Nut Brownies
3 years ago:  Chocolate-Pumpkin Marble Cake with Chocolate Glaze
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