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Double the Desserts

Sorry again for the delay. My previously-mentioned project that I’m working on plus other responsibilities have me weighed down at the moment. I’m gloriously close to getting fairly back to normal… but not quite there yet. So, as a peace offering, enjoy the last two desserts made here in Mama Goertz’s kitchen.

From a week and a half ago: coffee brandy crème brûlée.

This recipe comes, of course, from my huge desserts cookbook, and I’ve been wanting to try it pretty much since I bought the book. It must be a recipe that likes to make me wait because I definitely had aimed at making it for Tuesday two weeks ago… And didn’t end up finishing it until the following Monday. Whoops.

It was a cool recipe since it’s just your basic crème brûlée with some instant coffee granules (the ONLY use I have for instant coffee, I’m snobbishly sad to say) and brandy mixed in. The biggest difference for me was the top crust – it’s made from brown sugar, not regular ol’ granulated! That definitely made a differently-flavored, more mellow-tasting crust. As with many crème brûlées, make sure to start this one a day early, as it needs to chill overnight to set up completely.

Dessert número dos: cranberry orange scones!

I’d never made scones before and was pleasantly surprised to see how easy they are to make. The recipe I used has you put the dough together by hand, although several reviewers recommend you just use a food processor, but I still found it quick and easy the old-fashioned way. I’m really on a mission to find a recipe I like as much as the one Starbucks uses for their scones, so I don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on silly scones. While this one doesn’t taste like theirs, it sure is delicious anyway, so who cares?

This weekend should be interesting as I’m at a complete loss as to what to make. Chocolate-y? Fruity? Nutty? All three? None of the above? I just can’t decide. I guess time will tell. And we’ll both just have to wait and see what happens. 🙂

Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Many years ago now, I somehow got bamboozled into baking cookies for Christmas. Don’t even ask me the exact details of how it happened. I only know that even back then I was intrigued by baking and had procured a cookbook all about cookies on sale at a local Barnes and Noble. I guess when Christmas rolled around, I figured it’d be the perfect time to prove my baking chops so I came up with a selection of cookie recipes from my book. I do remember enough to advise any aspiring baker that selecting and baking several new recipes at a very busy time of year and when you’re not used to baking is prooooobably not the brightest of ideas. Any old who, everything must have turned out mostly ok because ever since then, I’ve been tasked with the now-traditional baking of Christmas cookies for my family (which in itself is pretty funny considering that cookies are in no way a traditional dessert in Poland, let alone for Christmas. We usually eat cakes and tortes and strudels and such things).

So, naturally, this year was not to be any different, cookie-wise. I was fully expected to deliver on the cookie front, never mind the bouncing, full-of-energy baby boy I now have ruling my house. Luckily for me, I still enjoy baking and super-luckily for me, I thrive when working under pressure.

Pressure, you may ask? What’s so pressurous (um, it’s a word now!) about baking some good ol’ cookies? Well, due to cleaning, present-purchasing and -creating, general baby-ing, and the fact that I couldn’t very well start these cookies two weeks early otherwise you’d probably need a hammer to even break off a piece small enough to eat, I was only able to start baking on Friday afternoon (yes, Friday, the day before Christmas Eve. Now keep in mind that in Polish culture, our biggest celebration is ON Christmas Eve, so everything had to be done and ready to go no later than 5 PM that day.). So what does that mean, friends? I’ll tell you exactly what that means. It means I needed to make six types (not batches, mind you, types) of cookies in 24 hours. Which I did. Because I deliver on my cookie promises. Boo-yeah.

Due to the craziness that occurs around Christmastime in both mine and James’s families, I unfortunately only have one little, teeny, measly picture to share with you. But it’s pretty! Check it out:

Eh, eh? No, I'm not an engineer, and no, I'd never do anything symmetrically. Psshh.

So today’s quick run-down plus accompanying photo of each cookie is brought to you by the magic of zoom.


#1: Raspberry sandwich cookies
– James’s and my mom’s favorite.
– Almond shortbread-y cookies with raspberry jam inside and slivered almonds on top.
– Kind of a pain to make since you have to roll out the dough, cookie-cutter it, bake the cookies, brush them with jam, and assemble. Worth it, though, I think.


#2: Pecan Puffs, a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cookies
– Just about everyone else’s favorite.
– Delicious little nutty spheres.
– Made them with freshly-ground pecans this year (as opposed to pre-purchased pecanmeal, which is what I usually use), since I’m going for the whole intense-baking-for-the-win thing. Totally made a difference, though, so that change is a keeper.

(I just realized I don’t have a picture of these since they were in a separate pan. Shame on me! I guess I’ll just have to fire my photographer.)
#3: Lemon Bars
– Shortbread base with a tangy lemon topping.
– Because every Christmas needs a little citrus?
– Much easier to make, as most bar cookies tend to be. Just bake the shortbread base a bit, throw on the lemony topping, and bake some more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled.


#4: Viennese Mocha Almond Cookies
– Coffee-chocolate-flavored, slightly crumbly cookies dipped in chocolate and topped with a whole almond.
– Used to make these back in the day, then stopped – now I remember why. They’re supposed to be piped so they’re all pretty, but it turns out this is humanly IMPOSSIBLE. It’s not just me. I had James in the kitchen helping me pipe and we both turned blue in the face trying to pipe these cookies out but that dough just would not budge. Turns out rolling them into balls and patting them flat (and marking them with a… n almond) is about 74.8 times easier and faster and results in no less a delicious cookie.
– No clue why they’re called Viennese.


#5: Hazelnut Palmiers
– Named after elephant’s ears, these little cookies are very simple roll-ups of ground-up hazelnuts, cinnamon, and sugar inside puff pastry.
– Nope, didn’t make the puff pastry myself. I’m not that intense. Yet.
– I remembered buying cookies like this when I was little and wanted to throw in an easy but festive cookie into the mix.


#6: Chocolate Orange Biscotti
– SO excited about this one. I have wanted to make biscotti since the very first year I had that cookie cookbook and just now finally got around to it.
– This was the only recipe that came out of my new monstrous desserts cookbook and, as usual, it delivered.
– Biscotti means “twice-baked” and that’s literally what you do – make a loaf, bake it, slice it, bake the slices. Boom. Done. Easy, yet impressive dessert.

And there you have it! My Christmas baking in a nutshell. It was an intense time (um, yeah. Mama? The reason we were late for Wigilia? Definitely waiting for the biscotti to get out of the oven.), but it was fun and everything got done so all’s well that ends well.

And, as a bonus, check out the flourless chocolate cake I made for New Year’s Eve:

Again, I wanted to make something that was easy yet impressive and decadent. Does six eggs, a bunch of butter, and a pound of chocolate qualify for decadent? I’m going to go with yes. But we served it with whipped cream and raspberries! That’s gotta count for some of your daily intake of calcium and fruit. So when you think about it, this cake was actually healthy for you. Yes. Yes it was.

So that’s it folks. I should be pretty much caught up now, except for a quick celebratory post I’ll put up tomorrow. Yep, I’m making you wait again. So y’all come back now, y’hear?

(Sorry about that last line. James and I are sitting here exchanging travel-dealfinder-site ditties, such as Expedia and Kayak, and that made me think of yokel-ish talk and other ditties such as the Yahoo! one from back in the day and then I got very yokel-y while ending my post. It’s always a party around here.)

When life gives you desserts, part dos

Ok, let’s just put it this way. Holidays tend to seriously, seriously mess with my schedule. I can honestly offer no justification for my long absence (one about which I have been reminded by several people now… Sorry!) except that around here, we tend to go absolutely nuts around the holidays. Between the cooking and the cleaning and the BAKING and oh yeah, that baby kid, I just found all my free time being quickly gobbled up. My new pastime of making Maciek’s food from scratch, as well as a project that was supposed to be done by Christmas Day but that’s still in the works (can’t say more here – the wrong eyes might see it!), and the far-away rumblings of a potential job (more on this later!) may, just may, have contributed to my recent absence as well. Unfortunately some of these things may keep me scarcer than usual for a couple more days yet, but hopefully not for long.

Anywho, as a peace offering, please accept my last post which was still in the pipeline (from many, many weeks ago), a promise that Christmas baking shall be thoroughly covered soon, and some cute pictures of Maciek. Because, hello, babies make everything better. Enjoy!

During his photo shoot for his Grandpas' Christmas gifts.

Enjoying his new toy from his Aunt Becky and Uncle Michael.

With his cousin Kacio. Gaaaaah, I'm dying of cuteness!!!

Last time, we talked about repurposing your leftover dessert into yet more dessert. It seems pretty straightforward to take the bits and pieces you’re left with and combine them into something interesting and new, no?

But what if you have two perfectly good, simple, standalone, classic dessert favorites? You could eat them separately I suppose.

Or you could SMASH THEM TOGETHER.

A-like so:

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, Brooksters. No, I’ve never heard of them before, yes, they make a complicated dessert out of two very simple ones, but you know what WHO CARES because they were totally worth it.

I was tipped to the idea of these by my lovely brother who found a specialized Brookster pan at a kitchen store and immediately thought of yours truly (thanks, Matt!). He had good timing, too, because I was sort of stumped as to what I should try out this weekend. Silly me, not thinking to just throw two desserts in a pan together. So I pulled out my trusty desserts cookbook to find some good, simple recipes.

The Brookster starts with some basic brownie batter and some basic chocolate chip cookie batter. Actually I suppose you could use whichever brownie and chocolate chip cookie batter you like, the instructions just say to have some of each. Speaking of which, I’ve made CC cookies from scratch plenty of times before, but I am ashamed to say that for the looooooongest time, I was convinced brownies were one of those things you just HAD to make out of a box. I mean, for me there was just no way you could recreate the ooey, gooey richness of a brownie without trusting the masterminds at Ghirardelli and Betty Crocker. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make any of my desserts out of boxes, but for some reason brownies-out-of-a-box just held their own special magic with me. Come to think of it, this is actually the first time I’ve made brownies from scratch. Huh. Well, bye-bye box! Honestly, these Brooksters ended up being most valuable to me in showing me how delicious a good, homemade brownie can be.

Once you’ve got your recipes lined up, Brooksters are fairly straightforward, just sort of time-consuming. You can pretty much only make one batch at a time, since you spoon brownie batter into the wells of the Brookster pan (which, if you’re interested in making this, looks like a shallower version of a jumbo muffin pan. And trust me, these things would be just as delicious even if they weren’t as huge, so use regular muffin pans, too) and let that chill for an hour, then make chocolate chip cookie dough disks, press them on top, bake the whole thing, and let the Brooksters cool in the pan. So you see, your pan ends up being tied up for quite a while, but it’s a fun dessert for when you only need to make a few of them/you have several Brookster/muffin pans.

So try these next time you want a classic, no-frills dessert that’s still a little different. You’ll be glad you did!

Adieu for now, friends, until next time when we talk about the annual Christmas baking that goes on around here. I’ll leave you with this teaser for now: 6 types of cookies in 24 hours. And I mean baking them, not eating them (although that happened too, shh). Aw yeah. Ciao!

When life gives you desserts

Ok, folks, I really dropped the ball on this one. Today I write about not this week’s dessert, but last week’s, with the hope that I might write about this weekend’s dessert much sooner and be all caught up. Hopefully. I’ll just blame the rush of the holiday season. Yeeeeah, that sounds good.

Anywho (or as I saw someone spell it on Facebook recently, “newho,” and sat there for about five minutes trying to figure out what that word was supposed to be and how to pronounce it), last weekend we celebrated my wonderful mother-in-law’s birthday, so it was time for more birthday cake! If it seems like I write about a lot of birthday cakes on here, by the way, I do. That’s what happens when you’ve got parents, parents-in-law, four siblings, four siblings-in-law, three siblings-in-law-in-law, four nieces and nephews, a beloved hubby, and a wee babe. Notice I don’t count any extended family here, either…

When thinking of a cake for Mom G, my first thought went to something with ginger (Mom G loves ginger), but to go with something a little more universal, I went with one of Mom G’s next favorites – dark chocolate. Gotta love those antioxidants!

During my perusal of my awesome cookbook, I stumbled upon this little gem:

Raspberry Whipped Cream Truffle Cake

Really hard to get that ganache perfectly smooth.

I wish all pieces of cake were this big!

The dark brown and pink contrast as well as the chocolate and raspberry flavors. How's that for artsiness?

This decadent, delicious cake really is like a truffle in cake form. I was especially proud of the way this dessert turned out – it’s probably the most even-looking, cake-shop-window-worthy (hopefully!) cake I’ve ever made! AND it didn’t even slide apart once it was finished! YAY! Anyway, the cake was comprised of moist layers of chocolate cake sandwiched between a rich ganache and raspberry whipped cream. Yum. Check it out here – it’s definitely worthy of a special occasion, but just give yourself enough time to work ahead. You’ll be aptly rewarded for your patience.

So, the next question is, what DO you do when life gives you desserts? Why, make more dessert of course! The truffle cake recipe only called for three out of the four layers that you end up with, so the fourth cake layer went to this:

Chocolate cake parfaits with raspberry whipped cream. Like a little cake in a glass. Although I think the whipped-cream-to-cake ratio may have been a little skewed. Delicious nonetheless. And in fact, not all of the leftover cake went into this. Half of it currently lives in my freezer, waiting to be turned into – you guessed it – more dessert.

So that’s how it’s done, folks. You apparently can never have too much dessert. Or maybe it’s just me who can never have too much dessert. In any case, stay tuned for this weekend’s creation. Here’s a hint: there will be more dessert(s).

Takin’ a breather

As you may or may not know, there’s a big holiday coming up this week. One of my favorite ones, actually. The food, the family, the conversations, the DESSERTS (oh come on, like you’re surprised), with no pressure. By no pressure I mean, Thanksgiving is one of those rare holidays where you don’t have to decorate, don’t have to dress up, don’t have to send cards, don’t have to go somewhere to see fireworks, it’s just a fabulous excuse to spend time with family and eat a bunch of good food. I have such good memories of Thanksgiving so I’m really looking forward to this week.

HOWEVER, due to the aforementioned desserts, I will be very busy this coming week. Between all the family get-togethers, I’m looking at baking approximately FIVE desserts this week. Yikes! So partly due to that and partly due to the fact that I just needed to take a breather from all these intense cakes I’ve been making, I decided to take it easy this weekend.

And still ended up making two desserts from my favorite cookbook.

Sigh. ‘Tis the life of a serial baker, I guess.

To be honest, it all sort of happened by accident. James and I were sitting around, enjoying our lazy Friday evening, when all of a sudden, I wanted to make a dessert. I just ached to create something. It was that moment that reassured me that I’m not crazy for wanting to make all these desserts and write about them on a blog and everything. The moment I relaxed, the first thing I turned to was dessert-making! It’s just a comfort to me.

So here’s my impromptu, what-can-I-make-with-what’s-already-in-my-pantry dessert:

Loving' me some coffee.

Chocolate Espresso Pudding with Espresso Whipped Cream. I had never made pudding in any way than from a box or package before, and I was so surprised to find how easy it was to make it from scratch. You honestly just need basic pantry ingredients for a basic pudding, and you can just dress it up from there.

The next thing that surprised me was how delicious it was. There are times that you just can’t beat the combo of coffee and chocolate, and I am not exaggerating when I say this five-minute dessert was better than some of the cakes I’ve labored over for hours. Fantastic. Try it here, and don’t skimp out on the instant espresso. I think it probably gives a much more interesting flavor to the pudding than regular ol’ instant coffee would.

The second “dessert” I baked this weekend wasn’t a dessert at all. It was actually breakfast. A Dutch Baby is a kind of baked pancake, and I felt like I’d kept seeing or hearing about it everywhere recently, so I just decided to try it. This, again, was one of those things you can make out of typical ingredients you already have. Unfortunately, we dove into this thing too quickly to take any pictures, but essentially it looked like this:

Plain and simple.

Simple. Low-key. Fast. I think I liked it better than a regular pancake. Try it out next time you want to try something new.

So that’s it for this weekend. Baking and dessert-making continue to be my hobby of relaxation, and I’m hoping I can channel that relaxation to this weekend’s dessert marathon. Eep! Keep your fingers crossed, or, as we say in Polish, hold your thumbs!

Zut alors!

There comes a point in every baker’s life where you just have to cover up a mistake you made. This has, of course, never happened to me before. Ahem.

I was all kinds of excited about this weekend’s dessert because I felt like I was so clever in choosing it. You see, my beloved husband asked me to buy him a large amount of apples for our recent Halloween get-together so we could bob for apples. So I happily grabbed a five-pound bag and brought it home the day before the party. Where it sat for the next week, unopened.

Sssoooo, I needed to find a use for five pounds of red delicious apples. Lo and behold, my monster of a cookbook did not disappoint, and I found a recipe for Tarte Tatin, which is apparently a fairly common French pastry. I already had all the ingredients on hand, and I was going to get to try some new techniques.

This pastry is unique in that you cook the apples in a simple caramel sauce, first on the stovetop, and then in the same pan, covered with a delicious crust, in the oven. When the tart is finished, the whole thing gets flipped upside down and you have beautiful caramel-y apples atop a gorgeous crust.

That is, if you don’t burn your caramel and apples first.

*Sigh*

Long story short, due to rushing around and trying to do too many things at once, I let my beautiful caramel apples cook just a touch too long on the stovetop. James came into the kitchen and wondered why there was steam coming out of our hot water kettle until he realized it was actually smoke coming from our cast iron skillet on the stove. Some quick thinking and salvaging of unruined apples later, we had a makeshift, semi-Tarte-Tatin baking in a pie dish in the oven, at least covered with that delicious crust.

And you know what? It actually wasn’t too bad. We took the tart to a family gathering where they all commented on its deliciousness. I either have a really awesome family who loves me and wanted to make me feel better or the tart was actually edible. Probably both. I’d say the biggest problem ended up being the tart’s diminished size, so it’s a good thing we’d thought ahead and brought some homemade oatmeal cookies since it was supposed to be a fairly sizable gathering.

All in all, everything turned out well. You might even consider my adventure totally appropriate, considering the origins of the Tarte Tatin.

And now, the incriminating evidence:

Prior to flipping.

Action shot!

All flipped over and ready to go.

Apples ready for their close-up.

Served with fresh cinnamon whipped cream.

The always-dependable oatmeal cookie.

A very similar Tarte Tatin recipe can be found here (just add in some cinnamon to the crust!), and as for the surprisingly amazing whipped cream, just add two tablespoons sugar and a quarter teaspoon cinnamon to a cup of whipping cream before you start beating it. I would imagine it would be a wonderful addition to holiday baking!

And, because we can hardly let a dessert post go by without some painfully adorable pictures of my own sweetums, prepare to be pained:

Mama, I disapprove of your mistakes.

Sometimes your desserts taste funny.

But it's ok because I'm flying!

Until next time!

Today’s blog post: A novel

Phew. So after several days of not much to write about, I have an overabundance of things to share, not the least of which is this week’s dessert. But you’re going to have to wait for that because I’ve got other things to say first (*laughs malevolently*).

First, this week was kind of tough. Between Maciek still taking his short catnaps during the day and James working crazy-long hours because of a big push a work and me not getting enough sleep because I’d try to do as much as I could in the evenings after Maciek went to sleep, I was starting to go a little nuts. I’ve really dedicated myself to staying at home (or at the most, venturing out to one Grandma’s house or the other) as much as I can so Maciek could have a stable sleeping environment – and I have to say, it’s definitely paid off. Since I’ve last written about his sleeping habits (which is no true indication of how often I actually think about his sleeping habits, seeing as how I eat, sleep, and breathe thinking about how he sleeps), we’ve made progress. I can now put Maciek to sleep and then set him down (gasp!) in his crib, every time. This has given me a little more time to get things done, although it really is just a little bit – he won’t sleep longer than 35 minutes at a time. It’s INSANE. I’ve often wondered how wee little Maciek would do in the wild; he doesn’t even have the basic instinct to sleep. How is that? I thought every living creature knew to regenerate itself when needed! No. Not Maciek. But like I said, I can now set him down. I have to remind myself we are constantly making progress.

But then, today, he did something WONDERFUL. You see, when he wakes up after 35 minutes, he’s never actually fully rested. I always try to coax him back to sleep but somehow it fails every time. Even if I pick him up and put him to sleep, he’ll wake up a few minutes after I set him back down. Sad times. However, this morning I set him down for his morning nap as usual and he slept his usual 45 minutes (his one morning nap is somehow longer than his other naps. Go figure.) and then woke up. The difference was that *this* time, two of my coaxing tries were enough to get him to go back to sleep. FOR ANOTHER 45-50 MINUTES. I couldn’t believe it! It was très exciting and literally made my whole day.

Who, me? Not sleep? Bah!
Cute kid.

At this point I should say that I realize that probably NO ONE else finds this as exciting as I do, but to a sleep-deprived, at her wits’-end Mama, this kind of stuff is golden. And it’s my blog, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo and all that.

Secondly, I am so super excited to have purchased two wonderful, glorious new dessert cookbooks. One is all about pretty and special cakes (although the author clearly uses that term loosely, seeing as how the book has cupcakes and tarts also) and the other has got to be the mother of all dessert cookbooks. Honestly. I’m pretty sure this thing is heavier than my college circuits textbooks, and that’s saying something. If I get my act together, I’ll definitely post a picture of it. It’s crazy. In any case, I’m so excited because these books represent an endless abyss of new dessert ideas. I’m pretty sure that between the two of them, I could bake for the rest of my life and never run out of recipes. Awesome.

Aaaaaand that’s about it. So it’s been a pretty good weekend to cap off a sometimes-frustrating week. ‘Til next time!

What? What dessert? Oh, you mean the dessert I make every weekend? What? That dessert? Ok, fine. 🙂 Here it is. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with… Bananas Foster!

James helping me spoon up deliciousness.

Served over vanilla ice cream.

So delicious you have no idea.

I was tipped off to this week’s dessert when my mother-in-law sent me a link to a blog she and my sister-in-law absolutely love. I’d never checked it out before, but I clicked on the link to see what it looked like – and the Bananas Foster caught my eye. I immediately found myself thinking, “Man, I wish I had an excuse to make this dessert some time. Oh WAIT. I write a blog about desserts. Sweet! (no pun intended (ok, maybe a little)).” In an effort to cut down on the novel I’ve already written today, I’ll let you check out the full recipe here, but suffice it to say that this thing has copious amounts of butter, brown sugar, pecans, and rum (and fire!) and is absolutely scrumptious.

Next week, however, I think I’ll go back to baking. As awesome and low-key as these last two desserts have been, I’ve really missed getting my kitchen all floury and spiking up my AC bills by leaving the oven on and really getting into some good old-fashioned baking. So stay tuned for next week’s BAKED dessert. I hope you’re as excited as I am!