Double Chocolate Tart

When I was growing up, I couldn’t understand why people would go nuts for dark chocolate -in fact, I was still saying that way into my 30s. Milk chocolate was my chocolate of choice, or no chocolate at all. When I was in college studying in France, we went to Belgium for the weekend. Of course we were looking forward to indulging in the Belgium Waffles, but when we were in Brussels walking around, all of a sudden we started smelling chocolate. We basically followed our noses and ended up at the Cote D’Or chocolate factory. It was amazing, even for someone who was not crazy about chocolate. That day turned me into a chocolate lover. European chocolate is just so much better than what we get in the states, there is just no comparison. I even loved the dark chocolate – because yes, we sampled more chocolate than you can imagine that day. Anything I put into my mouth was exquisite – it was so creamy and smooth, it was unlike anything I had eatenbefore. After that trip I kept good chocolate in my room, just to have a little nibble after dinner – that chocolate changed me.

When I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, my mind instantly went to Belgium. As I read through the recipe though, I noticed it called for milk chocolate – and I just couldn’t do it. A rich chocolate tart deserves dark chocolate, and high quality dark chocolate. Basically you should never skimp on chocolate, the better quality your chocolate, the better quality your finished product will taste. There are no shortcuts. I adapted the recipe, and it was amazing. I could only eat a small sliver it was so rich – but fortunately that made the tart last longer. We had some friends over and they agreed this was atart worth splurging for. So as the country is focused on candy right now for Halloween, I am focused on really good chocolate, because really there is nothing better…


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 6 1/2 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers; about 28 cookies), coarsely broken
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 15 ounces high-quality dark chocolate (such as Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, or Lindt), chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Special equipment: A 9″-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom


Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat tart pan with nonstick spray. Finely grind cookies in a food processor. Drizzle butter over; pulse until blended. Press evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until firm, about 15
minutes. Let cool completely.

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over chocolate; stir until melted. Pour filling over cooled crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Remove the tart pan side. Cut tart into wedges, working quickly as tart will become gooey as it sits; place 1 piece on each plate.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Double Chocolate Tart

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Savory Bread Puddings with Ham and Cheddar

Finally a savory dish, I told you I have been doing a lot of baking lately.  I find it ironic though that the savory dish I decide to post just happens to be a bread pudding…  I have mentioned this before, but I never liked bread pudding growing up.  I found it disgusting that you could turn a loaf of bread into a dessert, it just wasn’t right.  I really didn’t start liking sweet bread puddings until a few years ago – and that was when I tried banana bread pudding, wow, was that amazing.  It was shortly after that I decided to dapple with a savory bread pudding, and what I realized was that it really was just a very moist stuffing, and who doesn’t love stuffing?

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light and there were two reasons why I just had to make it.  One, because I love stuffing, and the thought of adding ham and cheddar to the mix was one I was pretty excited about.  Second, they are served in ramekins.  Remember, I am a sucker for anything that is served in a ramekin – I don’t know what it is about that ramekin, but in my mind, anything tastes better when served in a cute little dish.  Well, they were a big hit – with everyone, including the kids.  The only problem we had was that the ramekins were just too hot for them coming out of the oven, so I had to scoop some out for them onto their plate – unfortunately they didn’t get to experience the true effect of the ramekin, but it still worked out.  So – if you are just so-so on bread pudding, this is a great one to get you started – next you will be searching online for the banana bread version…


  • 8 ounces multigrain bread with seeds, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces lower-sodium ham, minced
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 4 teaspoons reduced-fat sour cream


Preheat oven to 375°.

Place bread cubes on a jelly-roll pan; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning once. Remove from oven; cool.

Combine bread, 1/2 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons onions, and next 5 ingredients (through egg yolks) in a large bowl. Place egg whites in a small bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy (about 30 seconds). Gently fold egg whites into bread mixture.

Spoon about 1 cup bread mixture into each of 4 (7-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Divide the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon onions evenly among ramekins. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon sour cream.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Savory Bread Puddings with Ham and Cheddar

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Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

I love baking with peanut butter, in fact, I love to do just about anything with peanut better – and not the grind-it-yourself stuff – I am addicted to Jiffy Peanut Butter.  I know it is not good for me, and I know it has a lot of sugar, but it is just so creamy and delicious, I can’t give it up.  My younger daughter is also addicted to peanut butter, in fact, I make her a peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch – yes, every day.  I love that I get to lick the knife after I spead the peanut butter onto the bread, my nightly treat.

We are actually pretty lucky that she is allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches to school – with all the allergies these days, especially to peanuts, there are many schools that are nut-free.  This summer she attended a camp that was nut-free, so I bought some sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) and I figured with some jam, she would never know the difference.  Boy was I wrong – she wouldn’t eat the sandwich…I still have a huge jar of sunbutter in the pantry that I don’t think will ever get eaten now, and I can see why.  I took a big spoon of it thinking it couldn’t be that bad, but if you are used to creamy peanut butter, you are in for a surprise.  I have tried other nut butters, and the only one that seemed edible to me was almond butter, but even that wasn’t nearly as good as my Jiffy.

I found this recipe in Cooking Light – and for 153 calories a piece, I had to give these a try.  They were exceptional for a light recipe – I swear you would never know.  Nice and soft, and extremely peanut buttery – they were awesome.  I can’t wait to make them again –  and the best news is that if you are bringing these some place where there may be kids with allergies, the peanut butter cups will give it away.  There is no hiding the peanut butter in these…


  • 5 3/5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (0.75-ounce) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Combine peanut butter and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring well. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray, and arrange the peanut butter cups over batter. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

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Apple-Phyllo Strudel

When fall arrives, fortunately apples come with it, and in Washington State, we are talking a lot of apples, all shapes, colors, and varieties.  Growing up I was never too fond of apples desserts, but the older I get, the more I like them.  I remember my grandmother’s apple crisp – I loved the crisp topping, but never wanted to eat any of the apples.

The first time I really enjoyed an apple dessert was when I was studying abroad during college.  We had two weeks off for spring break to travel, and that’s exactly what we did.  We probably went to 10 countries in 14 days, and it was awesome.  The motto for the trip was to experience all the “specialties of the region.”  Mostly that meant food, although it included activities as well.  It was on that trip that I had my first apple strudel, and it was amazing – the crust was so flakey, and the apples were so cooked that they almost melted in my mouth.  The strudel was warm, and just incredible, especially for someone who wasn’t fond of apple desserts.  It was not served with ice-cream, unlike the american apple pie.

The other week we were invited to a traditional October-fest, and the host asked me to bring something Bavarian.  I went to Epicurious, and this was what I chose.  It was pretty easy to make, and came out delicious.  The dried cherries were a really nice addition.  It was not as good as I remember in Austria, but definitely worth making – especially if you are not fond of apple desserts…yet.


  • 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup amaretti cookie or graham cracker crumbs


Heat oven to 350°F. In a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium heat, cook apples with dried fruit, sugar and cinnamon until tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool, reserving liquid for optional sauce. Layer 2 phyllo sheets on top of each other. Coat top of phyllo layer with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/3 of cookie crumbs. Layer 2 more sheets of phyllo on top, coat with cooking spray, then crumbs; repeat once more. Spread apple mixture on top; roll up from the shorter end. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place strudel on sheet and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Cut into 8 pieces. Place a slice on each plate;

Optional sauce: Mix yogurt with reserved liquid and drizzle over slices.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple Phyllo Strudel

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S’Mores Cupcakes

I realize that summer is over, but s’mores should really be enjoyed all year-long.  When I was a kid, I was not a fan of chocolate, therefore s’mores were never really my thing.  All I really wanted were the toasted marshmallows, and the more crisp the better.  I shutter to think about all the carcinogens I put into my body with toasted marshmallows.  I loved burning the crap out of the marshmallows, eating off the burnt part with some melted marshmallow, then throwing the marshmallow back into the fire for another round, until there was no more marshmallow left.  Now that was smart.

Fortunately I grew out of that stage, and now I just love s’mores – I like to get the marshmallow nice and toasted – but a lightly brown toasting is just perfect – then I put the marshmallow next to the chocolate, sandwiched around some graham crackers, and yummo!  When Trophy Cupcakes first opened, I was enamored with the s’mores cupcake – that was until I found this recipe.  Instead of a chocolate cupcake, this had a graham cupcakes – amazing!!  I love the layer of ganache on top, and then the marshmallow cream – which of course I had to change-up a bit from the recipe printed in Bon Appetit.  I just had to make the homemade stuff – it is too easy not to, and it is so much better tasting.  So – if you are craving those s’mores, but don’t feel like lighting a fire in your back yard to enjoy them – here is your solution…I swear you will not be disappointed.



  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers ground in processor)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk


  • 1/2 cup (scant) heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped

marshmallow frosting

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 12 1-inch pieces broken graham crackers (for garnish)



Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper  liners. Whisk graham crumbs, flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt in medium  bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at  a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in vanilla. Add graham-cracker  mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and  ending with graham-cracker mixture. Divide batter among muffin  cups.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center come out  clean, about 22 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack; cool  completely.


Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream just to boil in  small saucepan; pour over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; stir until smooth. Cool  ganache until lukewarm.

marshmallow frosting

Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the mixture, still over the simmering water, until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Serve this the day it is made as it becomes granular if it sits.

Push your thumb 1 inch into top of each cupcake; remove  cake, forming hole. Spoon 3/4 cup marshmallow creme into resealable plastic bag,  pushing into 1 bottom corner. Cut 1/2 inch off corner. Pipe into holes in  cupcakes. Spread 2 teaspoons ganache over each cupcake.

DO AHEAD Can  be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Preheat broiler. Coar rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Spoon dollops of marshmallow creme on sheet. Broil until slightly charred, 1 to  2 minutes. Spoon dollop of charred cremem over each cupcake; garnish with piece  of graham cracker.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  S’mores Cupcakes 2

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Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding

I am having another one of those weeks where every minute of every day is taken up by meetings.  Those are the kinds of weeks that cause me to fall behind on my blog, because after I get home and spend a little time with my family, I am right back at the computer trying to catch up on the real work that happened during the day.  I often wonder if life was a lot simpler before we became constantly connected.  I wasn’t in the workforce for very long before the email boom hit, but I distinctly remember having to write memos when I needed to communicate something.  I had to print them off, then send them off to different people.  Mail was a big thing, you usually checked your mailbox at least a few times a day.

This was also before blogs existed, and the only way to look at beautiful food pictures was to read a magazine or a book.  I remember spending hours sitting in a bookstore flipping through the pages of cook books – only wanting to buy ones with lots of pictures, although one of my favorites is still The Fanny Farmer Cookbook – which has no pictures what so ever.  I got very good at imagining what things would look like.  Occasionally I find recipes to make without any pictures – and I usually make the dish first, and then look online to see how mine compared.

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, where there was a beautiful picture that made my mouth water.  I love banana bread, so this just sounded heavenly.  Well, I was right – this was pretty amazing, and the toffee sauce was so smooth and delicious – fortunately I had a lot leftover so I was able to enjoy it in yogurt for the rest of the week.  This was definitely a special dessert, one in which I ate while typing away at my computer, trying to catch up on the days work.  Wouldn’t it taste just a little better without the distraction of work?  Well, let me just catch up on everything, and I will let you know…


Toffee Sauce

  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Banana Cake

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 to 3)
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Sliced bananas (optional)


Toffee Sauce

Bring 1 1/4 cups cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and  1/8 teaspoon salt to boil in heavy small saucepan over medium heat, whisking  until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at gentle boil until  sauce coats spoon thickly and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, whisking occasionally,  about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk in 3 tablespoons or more  cream to thin sauce to desired consistency.

DO AHEAD Can be made 2  days ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before  using.

Banana Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch nonstick metal baking  pan. Dust baking pan with flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium  bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well  blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas, rum, and vanilla  (batter may look curdled). Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, beating just to  blend after each addition. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking  pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean,  35 to 38 minutes. Spread 1/2 cup toffee sauce evenly over cake. Return cake to  oven and bake until sauce is bubbling thickly, about 6 minutes. Cool cake in pan  on rack 30 minutes. Cut around cake in pan. Cut cake into 9 squares or 12  rectangles. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature with toffee sauce  and top with sliced bananas, if desired.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding

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Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

About a month ago, I was really excited to tell you that I had taken a food photography class.  The woman who taught the class was amazing.  As I mentioned before, not only is she an incredible photographer, she makes everything from scratch, I mean everything – and she has three kids.  Unbelievable.  When I found out who was going to be teaching the class, I spent some time looking at her phenomenal blog, and there was one post that really struck me – it was a Peanut Butter Pie

A few weeks earlier when we were back east in New York City, I remember looking at two of my favorite food blogger sites – foodgawker and tastespotting – and there were a ridiculous number of Peanut Butter Pies posted.  Now, that is not completely unusual, because when there is a Daring Baker challenge, I often see many of the same dishes posted – but this was different, and it went on for days.  When I saw the Peanut Butter Pie posted on Not Without Salt, I decided to read the post to see what was going on.  A well-known blogger from NYC lost her husband.  It was a sudden tragedy, just like what happened to a good friend of mine that I wrote about here.  It brought me back to that place, that helpless place of not being able to do anything to help.  Peanut Butter Pie was his favorite dessert – and not even days after he passed away, she made a Peanut Butter Pie in his memory.  I had to do the same.

This recipe comes from my Aunt Marilyn, who is no longer with us.  She was a very good cook, and my grandmother often used her recipes – such as this one.  What I love about this recipe, is you can use all light ingredients, and you would never know – it is amazing.  The added bonus is that it makes two.  So, you can enjoy one right away, and freeze the other for a different occasion.  I was happy to solve the Peanut Butter Pie mystery, until I figured out what actually happened – my heart goes out to her and her children.


  • 1 box of chocolate teddy grahams
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2-1/2 C creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  • 8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 20 oz. light frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
  • Hot fudge sauce or Nutella


To make the crust, grind the teddy grahams in a food processor until fine.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in melted butter.  Press crust into 2 – 9″ glass pie plates, pressing up the sides.  Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  Let the crust cool completely.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter, cream cheese & vanilla; beat until smooth.  In a separate bowl, whisk milk & sugar until smooth, then gradually add to peanut butter mixture, & blend until smooth.  Fold in whipped topping.

Pour a layer or fudge on topped of cooled crust, then spoon peanut butter filling into crust, mounding as necessary.  Freeze. Serve frozen or thaw 10 minutes ONLY.  Pie is better when it is VERY cold.

Makes 2 – 9″ pies, with some leftovers to put in ramekins.

For a printer-friendly version of the recipe, please click here:  Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

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