Blackberry Slab Pie

“I will forgive you; the words are so small, but there is a universe hidden in them. When I forgive you, all those cords of resentment, pain and sadness that wrapped themselves around my heart will be gone. When I forgive you, you will no longer define me. You measured me and assessed me and decided that you could hurt me. That I didn’t count. But I will forgive you, because I do count. I do matter. I am bigger than the image you have of me. I am stronger. I am more beautiful. And I am infinitely more precious than you thought me. I will forgive you. My forgiveness is not a gift that I am giving to you. When I forgive you, my forgiveness will be a gift that I give myself.”

– Desmond Tutu

I’ve been focusing on forgiveness in my daily meditation practice these last two weeks.  Forgiving myself; forgiving others.  If you had asked me last week how my forgiveness practice was going, I would have said, “Great – like a weight has been lifted.”  Rarely is anything a straight path, though.  I was struggling with my forgiveness this morning, until I read Tutu’s quote above, which now resides in a place of prominence next to my desk.

There’s a Taoist parable about how collecting various betrayals and hurts is like collecting potatoes in a sack.  One potato may not weigh heavy on us, but if we continue to collect these potatoes, allow them to rot in the sack, never forgiving, never letting any go, soon the sack becomes burdensome, fetid with rotting tubers, and so heavy we cannot move forward. We carry this ever-growing weight of negativity with us everywhere, day after day.  Forgiveness is not about the person who wronged us; forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook or lightening their load; forgiveness is not about being weak.  It’s about lessening our own heart’s burden.  It doesn’t matter if the other person is aware of our forgiveness.  Forgiveness is saying, “I will no longer be hindered by the betrayals you’ve placed upon me.”  Once we are able to set the sack down, we are free to walk forward, unencumbered by another’s misdeeds.

You are probably expecting some sort of potato recipe at this point. Forgive me.


Blackberry Slab Pie

No fork or plate needed – just cut slices and serve hand-pie style with a napkin for the flaky crust.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Filling
  • 8 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, unthawed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Finish & Glaze
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, preferably turbinado, like Sugar in the Raw
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Make pie crust: Chill butter and Crisco until very cold by placing both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and Crisco to flour and pulse on/off until mixture resembles coarse meal (you can also combine the flour and fats using a pastry blender if you don’t want to drag out your processor – more effort, less clean-up). Scrape mixture into a large bowl, add egg mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t overwork dough. Separate the dough in half and roll into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze for about 30 minutes to chill.
  2. Prepare filling: In a large bowl, toss together all filling ingredients except Panko bread crumbs.
  3. Assemble pie: Preheat oven to 375⁰. Line bottom of baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle one dough disk with a bit of flour and, in between two sheets of parchment paper, roll into a rectangle about 10 x 15. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and peel off parchment. Sprinkle with Panko breadcrumbs, spread filling evenly over bottom crust and freeze while you roll out second crust. Roll the second dough disk into a similar sized rectangle, sprinkling with flour and using parchment. Drape over filling and fold the bottom crust overhang over the edges, sealing them together, and crimping. Cut small slits to act as vents all over top crust. Brush top crust with 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water and sprinkle with 3 Tablespoons sugar. Bake pie on lower rack of oven until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together confectioner’s sugar and water until a pourable glaze consistency is reached. Drizzle glaze over top. Serve slab pie in squares or rectangles, warm or at room temperature. Will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Tropical Tres Leches Cake

A pan of Tropical Tres Leches Cake with fresh fruit

 

To be alive at all is to have scars.
– John Steinbeck

How beautiful you are
He said
A tapestry of scars
– Atticus

I couldn’t help staring at him, transfixed. His perfect Dutch face – high cheekbones, full lips, mutable blue-grey eyes, alabaster skin – dissected diagonally, from his left eyebrow, across his nose, to the right of his chin – by a jagged, pink scar.

He. Was. Beautiful.

I blushed when those eyes caught me looking.

Thirty years later and scars still fascinate me. Rather than flaws, I see them as character, turning unremarkable symmetry into something unique, exquisite. In addition to their visual interest, each scar carries a story – nature’s version of a tattoo – without any say from the owner in the final artwork. This particular scar, this story, was the result of smashing through a windshield.

I find the invisible scars just a beautiful – the ones carried on the inside. We hide them from the world, afraid we’ll appear disfigured, imperfect, damaged. However, they’re what make us truly remarkable. A smooth cabochon is lovely, but a faceted stone, with its 1000 cuts, is much more precious and shines with fire. There’s no need to hide your scars from me – they’re what I like best. I won’t love you in spite of them; I’ll love you because of them. Scars, both the visible and unseen, tell the world we have lived…and survived.

– written July 2019

As is often my style, what I’ve written above has absolutely nothing to do with the recipe below, except that they were both birthed by me.


Tropical Tres Leches Cake

  • Servings: 12-16 servings
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Ingredients

    Tres Leches Milk
  • 10 oz. dulce de leche or 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (see note below)
  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut, toasted
  • Assorted chopped tropical fruit (strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, or berries)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dulce de leche, evaporated milk, heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325⁰ F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Whip eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until frothy. With the mixer on medium, gradually add the sugar until incorporated, then beat on medium high until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and glossy, 8-10 minutes.
  3. While the mixture is beating, heat the milk and butter in a small pan over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. When the eggs are ready, reduce the mixer to slow and add the milk. The milk can be fairly warm, but not hot to the touch.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three parts with the mixer on medium speed and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  5. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon handle or chopstick, poke holes in the cake surface, spacing them about ½” apart (a skewer is too small). Pour the tres leches liquid slowly over the cake and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight (the longer the better).
  6. A few hours before serving, whip together the cream, corn syrup, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the topping over the cake, garnish with fruit and coconut.
  7.  

    Note: If you can’t find dulce de leche, you can make your own by slowly reducing sweetened condensed milk in the microwave. Pour the milk in a microwave safe bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on medium power for 3-5 minute intervals until milk begins to darken, uncovering and stirring between intervals. Once milk begins to color (about 10 minutes total), reduce power to low and continue heating and stirring until thickened and light brown. This process can take 30 minutes or longer.

    Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.


Raspberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

A platter of Raspeberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

The woman you seek does not exist, but someone more profound and exquisite (and real) would willingly stand beside you, clasping your hand. Place your impossible ideals of chaste Madonna by sunlight and sinful whore at nightfall aside and truly see us. We are angel and devil in equal measure and cannot hide one trait away depending on your desires or the time of day. Sometimes our licentious tongue yearns for daylight; sometimes our crooked halo still hovers above us in the night.

Our femininity is not determined by our willingness to compromise our light and dark selves for your sake. We are more complex, unpredictable,  and surprising than you could ever imagine. See us for who we are, love us for this dichotomy, and we will shower you with myriad delights.

Some of us will bear your children, some of us will dance naked in your moonlight, some of us will cradle you and gather up your tears, some of us with strive for heights greater than yours, and some of us will fill you belly with devilishly divine delicacies.

Raspberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

  • Servings: 32 Mini Tarts
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Is it a highly complex cookie or the smallest tart you've ever seen? Whatever you decide, the combination of tender crust, tart raspberry jam and rich almond filling are sure to delight.


Ingredients

    Raspberry Jam
  • 7 oz. frozen raspberries
  • 7 oz. sugar
  • Shortbread Crust
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Frangipane (Almond Crème)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • Glaze
  • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 Tablespoon water
  • 32 sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Make the jam: Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a small deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a small container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 32 mini muffin cups. Make crust by beating together butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour and salt and combine until fully blended. Divide dough into 32 equal pieces, pressing dough along bottom and up sides of each muffin cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown. If crust rises too much after baking, gently press back down into cups.
  3. While crusts are baking, make frangipane by whisking together butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Spoon frangipane into a piping bag.
  4. Dollop about ½ teaspoon of raspberry jam in the bottom of each cup. Pipe frangipane over jam, covering jam completely. Bake tarts for an additional 20-25 minutes until tops are puffed and slightly golden brown. Cool completely
  5. To make glaze, mix confectioner’s sugar with water. Drizzle over cooled tarts. Garnish each with a sliced almond.

Hazelnut Mocha Cannoli

A plate of 4 Hazelnut Mocha Cannoli

I started a gratitude journal. Corny, I know, but I’ve found myself, like many people, struggling to stay on track during the pandemic. There’s too much time spent watching Tiger King, not enough time hiking or baking or gardening. On one such evening, splayed on my couch with blanket and Netflix and feeling low, my cat, Mochi, jumped up on my chest, gave my tummy a gentle knead, curled up and soothed me with his motor at a steady rumble. I scratched his head and thought, “THIS is contentment. This is all I need tonight.” The first entry in my gratitude journal:

Mochi, sleeping on my chest, purring

On today’s walk, the birds and their new babies were a choir of song, warming sunshine shone across my back while the lightest breeze kept the heat from being unbearable, Jacaranda trees Jackson Pollocked the sidewalks in a lavender explosion, and the air smelled sweetly of star jasmine. “THIS,” I thought as I traversed the neighborhood, “is all I need.”

I’m also grateful that my local Italian Market, Claro’s, stocks a pretty decent Cannoli shell.


Hazelnut Mocha Cannoli

  • Servings: 12 Cannoli
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Ingredients

    For Cannoli
  • 12 cannoli shells
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2.25 oz. chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • For Filling
  • 8 oz. Nutella
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 10 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave by heating it at 30 second intervals and stirring until melted (about 90 seconds total). Dip both ends of cannoli shells in chocolate then in the hazelnuts. Set aside to set.
  2. Lightly beat together Nutella, mascarpone, ricotta and instant coffee. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with filling. Pipe the filling into both ends of the cannoli, filling completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Apple Molasses Spice Cupcakes

Rows of Apple Spice Muffins

“How often do you blog?” he asks.

“I try to post twice a week,” she unthinkingly replies, “Every Monday and Wednesday.”

Her answer was honest…albeit, incorrect. She USED to post twice a week, yet she hasn’t done so in a year. In December, Mardi Gras for most dessert bloggers, her fingers didn’t type a word. In 2019, her unique views didn’t surpass the previous year’s count, a first.

It’s not only about the statistics.

She compares her dull flat-lays to the avante-garde images in her head – a bowl of soup precariously teetering on a see-saw (quirky and unexpected), a slowly melting chocolate truffle on a tongue (sexy, gothic and moody) – and is chagrinned. Her intros are stilted and forced – telling, rather than showing. Her words only seem to flow when in the midst of upheaval – not a sustainable situation. Unsatisfied with her results, she wonders if she’s stuck in a pattern that doesn’t suit her anymore.

But who is she without her blog, her constant companion for the past 11 years? She considers her options and decides, before killing it off completely, to seek CPR – her first remedy – a writing course to revive words that have flat lined.


Apple Molasses Spice Cupcakes

  • Servings: 24 Cupcakes
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Moist cupcakes with the unexpected flavors of cardamom and 5-spice garnished with walnuts and rich cream cheese frosting, if desired.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon clove
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 ” pieces
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Cream cheese frosting (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Line cupcake tins with papers.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, spices, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, egg, oil, ginger and water. Add molasses mixture to flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold in apples.
  3. Pour batter into tins, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (if using) and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely and decorate with cream cheese frosting.