christophe’s apple tart


This is a recipe for tarte aux pommes, the classic French apple tart with a base of apple sauce. Christophe made it for us one night at dinner; it was so delicious I asked him for the recipe. I translated it from the French–with a little help from a French-English dictionary. I tweaked it somewhat, adding lime juice because I like a tart apple sauce. I left out the vanilla/cinnamon in the apple sauce, too. The result is lightly sweet with the tart fresh taste of apple on a buttery crust.

Christophe’s Apple Tart

Prep time: 50 minutes (includes refrigerator time)
Baking time: 30 minutes
Makes 2 x 7-inch tarts

For the Pâte Brisée:
200g all purpose flour (Type 55)
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar

5 medium green apples, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 small lime, optional
4 tablespoons water
Vanilla or cinnamon, optional

Prepare the pâte brisée. Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter in small pieces. Mix in up to a 1/2 cup water, a tablespoon at a time, or just enough to make a ball, and let rest about 30 minutes in refrigerator wrapped in plastic to firm up the dough.

Baker’s Note: If you’re in a hurry, put the wrapped dough ball in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Make the apple sauce. In a small saucepan put 2 apples cut up into small pieces with the sugar, lime juice (if using), a tablespoon of water, cinnamon or 1 teaspoon vanilla (if using), and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes on low heat (8 minutes in an oven-proof casserole in the microwave), then mix the sauce. Add more water if it seems dry. Set aside to cool. Makes about 1 cup apple sauce.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut up the remaining apples into thin slices. Set aside.

Preheat the oven 200˚C.

Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and roll it out onto a lightly floured board into a disk. Press dough in the tart pan. Prick the dough with a fork.

Baker’s Note: Lightly flour the board and the rolling pin. First pat the ball into a disk and turn it over to flour the other side. Roll out evenly, turning the dough over now and then to make it a circle about 2 inches wider than your tart pan. The easiest way to get the dough into the pan is to roll up the dough circle onto the pin and then roll it out on top of the tart pan. Don’t worry if it breaks apart. Just use the extra dough to patch it.

Spread the cooled apple sauce over the base of the tart. Arrange the apple slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles on top of the apple sauce. Sprinkle the top with sugar to taste. (I used demerara sugar. ) Bake 30 minutes or until the apples are cooked through and slightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.



mocha hazelnut chiffon cake


This chiffon cake is lightly sweet, and because of the egg whites, lower in calories. It’s the perfect dessert  because you can have your cake and eat it too. I enjoy chiffon cakes. They are light and airy, and also fun to bake. What I don’t like about them is the amount of egg yolks wasted.  But I wanted to try this recipe just because there would be leftover yolks– I plan to use them to make a buttercake. You have to plan ahead when you make these chiffon cakes. So my next cake project is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Downy Yellow Buttercake.

Mocha Hazelnut Chiffon Cake (adapted from Woman’s Day)
Serves 18-24 slices
Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours.

2 1/4 cups (225g) cake flour
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided (169g, 112g)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cold water
1/3 cup canola oil
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur/Frangelico (I used hazelnut syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
10 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 oz semisweet chocolate, broken up
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half

GARNISH (optional)
Toasted chopped hazelnuts

1. Heat oven to 325˚F. Place oven rack at position just below center. You’ll need a 10 inch tube pan with removable bottom. Whisk flour, 3/4 cup sugar (169g), baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk cocoa and espresso with boiling water in a large mixing bowl until dissolved. Add cold water, oil, yolks, liqueur or syrup, and vanilla. Stir cocoa mixture into flour mixture. Beat until smooth and blended.
3. Beat whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl with mixer on medium high speed until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar (112g(. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.
4. Stir 1/4 of beaten whites into cocoa-flour batter to lighten it. Gently fold batter into rest of whites until no white streaks remain. Scrape into ungreased pan. Run a skewer zig zag through the batter to eliminate air bubbles.
5. Bake 60-65 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted into cake comes out clean. Invert pan onto neck of a bottle or funnel if your pan doesn’t have feet. Cool completely, 1-2 hours. Insert a long thin blade in an up and down motion all around the outside of cake; remove pan side. Repeat with bottom of cake. To loosen centerpiece, use a skewer. Invert onto wire rack. Remove pan bottom. Brush crumbs from cake. If desired, trim the top to level it. Put cake in serving plate bottom up.
6. Glaze. Melt chocolate in a microwave on high about 1 minute, stirring every 15 seconds. Whisk in half-and-half. Let sit a few minutes to thicken. Pour glaze over cake, spreading top with spatula and letting it drip down the sides. Sprinkle top with hazelnuts, if using.





lettuce wraps with chicken


This is a great accompaniment for the Soba with Pork in Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce. It’s salty sweet and crunchy. Crisp fresh lettuce leaves make this dish a side or an appetizer.

Lettuce Wraps with Chicken (adapted from South Beach Diet)

1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil
1 chicken breast, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup meat)
1/2 cup finely chopped Chinese celery, leaves removed and discarded
1/4 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or mirin)
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
12 medium and small leaves romaine lettuce
Whole salted peanuts

Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Add Chinese celery, peppers, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Return the chicken to the wok and add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and tamarind concentrate. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through.

Evenly divide the chicken mixture among the lettuce leaves. Garnish with the peanuts.



scott’s bread



As bread recipes go, this one is rather forgiving. I tried adding just 5 cups flour but found that after 15 minutes of kneading time as stated in the recipe,  the dough was still tacky. So I added 1/2 cup more flour and kneaded the dough for an additional 5 minutes. This time the dough cooperated and came out of the bowl without any problem. The texture of this bread is dense, chewy, and satisfyingly spongy. It’s definitely a Do-Again. Note that this bread can be vegan by leaving out the egg wash and brushing the top with olive oil.

Scott’s Bread Recipe
Prep time: 50 minutes
Resting time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes

1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour plus more, if needed
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 c water (110˚F)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup warm water (110˚F)

1. Mix sugar, salt and 2 cups flour together in a large mixer bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, sprinkle yeast on 1/4 cup water. Let stand until foamy, about 10-15 minutes. Pour 1 tablespoon oil on 1 3/4 cup warm water. Pour oil and water mixture into yeast and water. Pour liquid into dry ingredients. Mix well in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium low speed, until there are no lumps, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add 2 more cups flour. Mix well. Add another 1 1/2 cups flour. Knead well, about 15 minutes, using the dough hook on medium-low speed (2). It should clean the sides of the bowl, and the dough will gather itself into a ball, and release from the bowl without any stickiness.
3. Grease a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, turning to coat thoroughly. Cover with a warm damp towel and leave in a warm dry place for 2 hours until doubled in bulk.
4. Punch down the dough and roll into a fat log. Separate into 3 portions. On a lightly floured board, roll into 3 ropes about 2 to 2 1/2 feet long. Braid and form a circle. Pinch ends together. Line a baking tray with parchment  and place braid on top. Cover with warm damp cloth. Let rise one hour.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven 350˚F/175˚C.
6. Break 1 large egg into a small bowl. Beat with 1 tablespoon water. Brush onto top of dough. Bake 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve warm. Best eaten the day it is made. Wrap leftover bread airtight and refrigerate.

jamaican sunday breakfast: bully beef and johnny cakes


This is the breakfast we ate on Sundays in Jamaica, especially at the beach house, when the morning was fresh and cool. We’d eat bully beef–corned beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, and to wake up the mouth, scotch bonnet pepper. Bully beef is actually colloquial Jamaican patois for tinned corned beef. A popular accompaniment to bully beef was johnny cakes, a kind of fried biscuit–in the American sense of the word biscuit; a savory but light round of wheat dough fried and best eaten when it is warm. Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own recipe for johnny cakes; my mother used to make hers with lard. Johnny cakes are also an accompaniment for another Jamaican favorite, ackee and saltfish. They can also be enjoyed with butter and jam.

Bully Beef
Servings: 6-8

1 tin corned beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1/4 to 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped, with or without seeds (optional)

Heat a teaspoon vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the tomatoes and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the corned beef to the tomato mixture, breaking up the large pieces, until softened. Mix in the scotch bonnet pepper, if using. Serve at once.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from a Grace recipe)
Makes 18-24 cakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for flouring the board and rolling pin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
9-10 tablespoons ice water
oil for frying

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (1) until the butter and shortening are incorporated the size of small peas. With the machine on, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour mixture comes together in a ball and the sides are clean. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low to medium speed (2) until the dough is smooth and elastic. Switch off the machine and remove the dough ball.

On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds.

Fill a 10 inch skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom and come 1/2 inch up the sides. Heat the oil.

Cook’s Note: My sister-in-law Lorraine showed me this trick how to tell the oil is hot enough. The oil will be hot enough to fry when a wooden chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, when inserted in the middle of the oil, gathers bubbles around the stick.

Fry the dough rounds in batches until they are puffed and lightly golden. Remove with tongs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Serve warm.

new york revisited: soba noodles with pork and sweet ginger scallion sauce


The last time I made this dish we were living in New York City. For old times’ sake and all that, I made it again, this time without sirloin steak. I used pork tenderloin for tender juicy bites to go with the sesame-soy-ginger-scallion sauce.

Soba noodles with sweet ginger scallion sauce (Modified from Simply Reem)

8-9 oz. dry soba noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons chili oil (substitute 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic and 1 teaspoon oil)
Coarse salt, optional
Fresh ground black pepper, optional

Mix the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Cook the noodles.

Cook’s Note: To cook soba, rinse the dried noodles first. According to Food 52, this reduces the gumminess of the noodles and they won’t stick together in cooking. Like rice grains, I rinsed the noodles until the water was clear. Bring pot of water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook in simmering water 5-8 minutes or until cooked through. If al dente, cook a few minutes longer. Rinse and drain in cool water.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. If too sour, add up to a teaspoon sugar. Serve at once.

OPTIONAL: To make the pork, I thinly sliced about 1 cup of pork tenderloin and marinated it for 10-15 minutes in soy sauce and pepper. Then I stir-fried the pork in a 2 teaspoons of hot oil until cooked through. Toss with the noodles.

ina garten’s apple cake “tatin”


This recipe is unusual in that it is the rare recipe of Ina’s that I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The sugar syrup became hard candy as the cake cooled, and was not at all the effect I was expecting.

6 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pie plate
1 1/4 Granny Smith apples peeled and cut into 12 wedges each about 1 1/2 inches at the width (I used Fuji apples)
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs (I used large eggs)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used lime)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used 1/8 teaspoon table salt)
Confectioner’s sugar (I say this is optional; the cake is sweet enough)


Preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C.

Generously butter one 9-inch pie plate and arrange the apples in the plate, cut side down. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup sugar with 1/3 cup water in a saucepan and heat on high heat until the sugar becomes a warm amber color. About 360˚F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Use a silicone brush dipped in water to clean off the sugar from the sides of the pot. Watch the sugar because you don’t want it to burn. When it becomes brown, pour the sugar mixture over the apples in the pie plate.

Use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. You may need to stop the machine to scrape down the sides. Lower the speed and add the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla, beating until just combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour all at once, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter on top of the apples in the pie plate. Smooth with an off set spatula being careful not to disturb the sugar syrup underneath. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the top is browned and the center springs back when pressed with a finger.

Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Invert onto a serving plate. If any of the apples loosen, just stick them back into the cake. Serve warm with powdered sugar, if desired.

Refrigerate leftovers. Warm the cake before serving to soften the sugar syrup.


south beach shepherd’s pie


South Beach Shepherd’s Pie (adapted from: South Beach Diet Supercharged)

4 cups (1 head) cauliflower separated into florets
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 large egg yolk
seasoning salt to taste (salt in original recipe)
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb extra lean ground meat
3 cloves garlic, minced, plus extra whole cloves for cauliflower, if desired
1 onion, chopped
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 cup low salt (chicken or beef) broth, thickened, if desired, with a little tapioca flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce (Worcestershire sauce in original)
pepper to taste

Preheat oven 350˚F.

Make topping. In a large saucepan, boil cauliflower florets and garlic cloves for 10 minutes. Drain. In a food processor, purée cauliflower and garlic. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, whip puréed cauliflower with sour cream and egg yolk. Set aside.

Make filling. Heat olive oil until it shimmers. Sauté onion and garlic. Brown ground meat in onion garlic mixture. Add spinach. Cook, stirring, until bright green. Add the broccoli. Stir. Pour in broth, thickened, if desired. Season with soy sauce. Add pepper to taste. It might look as if there is not enough sauce but during baking, the cauliflower will “spring” more water.

Bake. Pour meat mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread the mashed cauliflower on top. Sprinkle salt on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

new year’s eve espresso roulade or coffee cake roll


When I made the bûche de noël for Christmas, I realized what I had really done was make a roulade, otherwise called a cake roll or a Swiss roll. I decided to make it again for New Year’s Eve, but this time I went all out for the coffee flavor. This roulade has a sponge cake base coated with coffee syrup  then filled and frosted with coffee buttercream. My guests commented that the cake was a tad sweet because of the powdered sugar. If you would prefer a less sweet product, I would recommend using unsweetened cocoa to roll up the cake.

First, make the Sponge Cake (adapted from Cooking LSL)
1/2 cup cake flour plus 2 tablespoons for dusting the pan
5 eggs separated when cold then brought to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons (28g), melted and cooled to room temperature
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C

Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter mixed with 2 tablespoons flour on a parchment lined 12x17x1 inch baking tray. Flip. Brush more melted butter-flour on the other side of the parchment and on the sides of the baking tray. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla on medium high speed until pale and thick, about 7-8 minutes. Stop mixer and remove the bowl.

Sift the flour over the egg yolk mixture and gently fold in the cake flour. Don’t over mix.

In another large bowl of the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar, beating on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Don’t over mix—the whites should look glossy and smooth, and the peaks should just curl over.

Using a spatula, gently fold 1/3 egg whites into egg yolks and flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently.

In a small bowl, mix melted butter with 2-3 tablespoons batter. Gently fold this mixture into the remaining batter, being careful not to deflate the eggs.

Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan with an offset spatula, being sure to get into the corners. Tap pan lightly on counter top to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cake top should spring back when lightly pressed in the center. Remove cake from oven and let cool in the pan 2 minutes. Gently ease a thin blade around the edges of the cake.

Spread a large kitchen towel on the work surface and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Flip cake over on top of the sugar. Remove pan and carefully remove parchment paper. Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top. Roll up cake with the towel inside starting from the nearest longer side, and roll away from you. Let cake cool in towel 30-35 minutes.

Then, make the Coffee Syrup (adapted from Cooking LSL)
1/2 cup espresso coffee (1 teaspoon coffee powder to 1/2 cup hot water)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Tia Maria liqueur

In a small saucepan combine the espresso and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring to a simmer. Let coffee reduce to 1/3 cup, about 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove from heat and add liqueur. Set aside.

Next, make the Coffee Buttercream (adapted from Food Network)
4 (120g) egg whites, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
340g unsalted butter cubed, room temperature
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
2 tablespoons dark rum

Dissolve coffee powder in the rum and set aside.

Put 2 inches of water in a large saucepan on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the sugar. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water—the water shouldn’t touch the bowl. Continue whisking the egg whites until foamy and opaque, and the sugar dissolves. The egg white mixture should be warm to the touch and not at all gritty.

Remove the bowl and attach it to the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg white mixture on high speed 5 minutes until the egg whites have cooled—the bottom of the bowl will be cool to the touch—and the meringue holds stiff peaks.

Turn off the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed until the buttercream is smooth. Slowly pour the coffee mixture into the buttercream while the machine is still beating. The buttercream will curdle but keep beating because it will come together, about 1-2 minutes to completely blend in the coffee mixture. Set aside until ready to use, or refrigerate. Before using, let frosting come to room temperature then beat until smooth.

Finally, assemble the roulade

Unroll the cooled cake. Brush off any excess sugar. Dab the coffee syrup all over the cake with a pastry brush. Fill with half the coffee buttercream to about 1/2 inch thickness. Leave a 1 inch border at the longer side opposite you. Roll up again, but not too tightly, and keep the towel on the outside. Chill, seam side down until filling is set, about 30 minutes.

Cake Baker’s Note: If you’re not going to frost right away, wrap the roulade in plastic and refrigerate.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on top or frost with remaining buttercream. Leave the ends unfrosted. Chill until ready to serve. Before serving, trim 1/2 inch from each end to make clean edges. Discard or eat the trimmings!

Refrigerate leftovers. Bring to room temperature before cutting and serving.

Happy New Year everyone!