Archive for the ‘desserts’ Category

“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories”.  I don’t know how many times I’ve watched and recited this line, in perfect unison, with Deborah Kerr from the classic An Affair to Remember.  I love watching old movies for the feeling of nostalgia and reminder of simpler times, simpler lives (plus, it’s Cary Grant, for goodness sake).  When it’s brrrrrrr cold outside, time spent in our kitchen increases exponentially – soups stewing, lamb braising, bread baking, holiday music blaring and the hot oven warming our souls.  With a hot oven, hotter desserts are never far behind.

These Ultimate Peppermint Ganache Brownies are no joke.  There’s heaps of chocolate, cocoa and cream involved.  Look up rich and decadent in the dictionary and you’ll see a photo of these brownies.  But ganache happens to be one of my all time favorite words.  Ever.  Just saying it out loud makes me happy.  Ganache.  Ganache.  Ganache.  Ganache. Ahhhhhhhh.  These babies are a bit labor intensive, but in a good way.  You’ll get to spend precious hours in the kitchen with the ones you love, creating your own warm memories, playing with candy and fighting over who gets the last licks from the chocolate laden bowls and spatulas.

Besides being curled up, under a blanket, in flannel pajamas, next to a roaring fire, with eyes glued to Terry and Nickie bantering away for 2 hours, I can’t think of a better way to spend the day, when it’s cold outside.  Winter feels warm today.  More memories hatched.  Serve along side a tall glass of homemade soy milk for Santa.  Hope you have a joyous, sweet, and wonderful holiday!

ultimate peppermint ganache browniesultimate peppermint ganache browniesultimate peppermint ganache browniesultimate peppermint ganache brownies

Tweaked from Sunset Magazine, yields about 30 small brownies (small goes a long way with these)

Don’t let the brownies sit out on the counter or serving tray for too long as the lovely peppermint tops will slowly start to melt.  Enjoy!

Music Pairing: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordon, Baby, It’s Cold Outside


  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into large chunks
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2  tsp baking powder
  • 40 or more Starlight mints (melting varies depending on size)
  • 1/3 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream


Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan. In a medium saucepan, stir butter and bittersweet chocolate over very low heat with a heatproof rubber spatula until just melted (do not let simmer or boil). Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Slowly pour chocolate-butter mix into egg mix, whisking constantly. In separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.  With a clean rubber spatula, gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined.  Spread batter evenly in baking pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until brownies are firm, beginning to pull away from sides of pan, and a toothpick inserted in center emerges with only a few crumbs clinging to it. Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temp to 300°.  Line a level, rimmed 11 1/2×16 inch baking sheet with parchment. With a pencil, draw a grid of 1 1/2 inch squares on parchment, leaving about a 1 inch border, and turn parchment over. Place a mint in the center of each square. Bake 15 to 25 minutes, or until completely melted into 1 large sheet, but remove before candy begins to turn yellow. Immediately score peppermint squares with a pizza cutter, using pencil lines as your guide. If scored lines don’t hold, rescore quickly. Let candy cool completely. Gently break into squares along score lines.  (You may want to make a test batch with 12 mints to see if you need to adjust oven temperature or spacing of candies).

In the top of a double boiler, combine chopped semisweet chocolate and whipping cream. Cook, stirring often, until melted and blended. Remove from heat and let ganache cool until just warm.  Pour ganache over cooled brownies in pan and allow to set until firm, about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Place peppermint squares bottom side up on ganache, leaving enough room between squares to cut brownies. Cut brownies into squares along edges of peppermint tops, wiping knife clean between cuts. Remove brownies from pan, eats scraps, and return brownies to pan. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure wrap does not touch peppermint, and refrigerate 3 hours (to soften candy a bit).  Serve slightly chilled with a tall glass of homemade soy milk.

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T-minus 24 hours.  The countdown has begun to Thanksgiving dinner.  The one day of the year when all of America sits down for a nice meal together.  We’ve just returned home after being in NYC for the past week, so needless to say, I’m behind.  Very, very behind.  Besides a bag of pears, the fridge sits strikingly empty—as does my grocery list.  I’m in trouble.  BIG TIME.  Given the circumstances, I’d normally be in a full-state of unabashed panic by now.  But instead, I’m calm.  I even surprise myself.  It might have something to do with what I saw in NYC.

I love NYC.  After countless trips over the years, I’d never made it out to see Lady Liberty.  I’d much rather wander the streets of the West Village and eat to my heart’s content.  This time, we finally go.  Laying eyes on Her for the first time strikes a chord in me I hadn’t expected.  Maybe because She symbolizes what’s so good about this country.  Freedom. Liberty.  Maybe because She’s the very first sight millions  of immigrants see as they enter America.  I wasn’t born here.  My husband wasn’t born here.  But this country welcomed us both with open arms and boundless optimism.  As corny as it may sound, we love this country.  I’m calm because I’m thankful for so many things, but Lady Liberty reminded us how truly lucky we are to live in a country like this one.  How lucky we are to call it homeTogether.

Wherever home is for you, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving!

Oh, almost forgotHarvest Pears Poached in Beaujolais make for the prrrrfect seasonal, festive, not-too-sweet ending.  Besides being a superb alternative to pumpkin pie, I’d make this elegant and light dessert again strictly for the intoxicating aroma and warmth that engulfed the house.  Oh boy.  Heavenly.  This one’s a keeper.  The holiday season is here.  Enjoy!

pears poached in beaujolaispears poached in beaujolaispears poached in beaujolaispears poached in beaujolaispears poached in beaujolais

Tweaked from NY Times, yields 6 servings

If you don’t have Beaujolais on hand, any fruity red wine will work just fine.  A lush Zinfandel would be a good choice.

Music Pairing: The Beatles, Thank You Girl

6 firm but ripe pears, such as Comice or Bartlett
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bottle Beaujolais
1/2 cup mild flavored honey, such as clover
2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick


Fill a bowl with water, and add the lemon juice. Peel the pears, taking care to leave the stem intact, and place in the bowl of water.

Tie the peppercorns and cinnamon stick into a cheesecloth pouch, and place in a large saucepan. Add the wine and honey, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer 10 minutes. Drain the pears and carefully add to the wine. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the liquid. Discard the cheesecloth bag.

Place the pears in serving dishes. Return the wine to the saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce by half of its volume. Spoon over the pears. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

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