Monday, December 13, 2010

Mini Pavlova with Fresh Berry Salad

At my school, we are celebrating various "Australia Days" as a part of the cultural learning experience for the students. One of the many kind things our mothers have done for the staff is bring Pavlovas for the entire staff. Pavlovas are the national dessert of Australia. It is a meringue shell filled with whipped cream and then topped with a fresh berry salad.

When we had these, I knew I had to go home and make some that night. I made these in individual formed cups, just like our lovely mothers made for us. They are a truly light, airy, and elegant dessert that would be a beautiful and unique addition to your holiday dessert table. Not only are these impressive, but they are surprisingly simply to put together.

Mini Pavlova with Fresh Berry Salad

6 egg whites (I used extra large eggs)
1/8 tsp of salt
1 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups heavy cream, whipped and sweetened with 2 tablespoons sugar (or go ahead and be a cheater, get fresh whipped cream from a can!)

Fresh berries - I used:
blueberries, rinsed
raspberries, rinsed
strawberries, rinsed, cored, and sliced

Preheat oven to 250°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks are reached, about 5 minutes. Add salt and then the cup of sugar gradually, in tablespoon increments, while continuing to whip, until a very stiff meringue is obtained. Fold in cornstarch, then fold in the vinegar.

Spoon meringue into 5-inch round circles. Use the back of a spoon to spread the meringue evenly and flatten the center, making a hollow to hold the cream and berries.

OR fill a piping bag fitted with a large tip (I used #6) with the meringue and pipe into small cup shapes (make a solid base and then pipe in a circle going up to make the cups).

Bake for one hour or until lightly brown and quite firm. Turn oven off and leave meringues inside with door closed, for one more hour. Remove and set in a dry area to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare berry salad by mixing all berries together. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and toss. Chill until ready to serve.

To finish, carefully set meringues on individual dessert plates. Top each one with whipped cream and berries.


Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Sauce

Run, do not walk, to your kitchen and make this recipe IMMEDIATELY. If you are a fan of bread pudding, this recipe will throw you over the edge of insanity with its deliciousness...if you don't really like bread pudding, make it anyway. You will change your mind!

I first tasted this recipe at Famous Dave's BBQ. Once I went searching on the internet, I found this recipe circulating. It came directly from Famous Dave's website and I did not change it - it really didn't need changing at all.

The pecan-praline sauce is AMAZING. Truly. One big note about the recipe, though, is that is says "makes about 4 cups." I don't know what kind of "cups" Ol' Famous Dave uses, but when I made it, it was about 12 cups. But, I didn't mind one bit. I've since used the sauce over vanilla ice cream and over french toast and gone into a praline coma. Feel free to do the same!

Bread Pudding
1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf cinnamon egg bread (*See Note Below!)
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup vanilla extract
8 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Spray the bottom and sides of a 13X9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces. Mix with the raisins in a bowl. Spread the bread mixture evenly in the prepared dish, turning crust side down as this tends to burn easily. Whisk the sugar, milk, 2 cups whipping cream, vanilla, eggs and cinnamon in a bowl until blended. Pour over the bread mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the baking dish in a 4-inch deep baking pan. Add water to reach halfway up sides of the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove from water bath. Let stand for 20 minutes. Serve while still warm. Drizzle each serving with warm Ol’ Southern Plantation Praline Sauce (recipe below). Top with whipped cream and add a scoop of ice cream if desired.

Yield: 9 enormous servings

*Try as I might, but I could not find "cinnamon egg bread." Instead, I used a loaf of Challah bread with raisins that I found at my local grocery store. Then I just added a little more cinnamon to the mix. Hope this helps!

Pecan-Praline Sauce
2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat. Yield: 4 cups (not really, see note above!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Recently, I found some amazing apples on sale at my grocery store. Normally, I see apple desserts as more of a Autumn comfort food, but I just couldn't resist. I decided to make homemade Apple Cake. Once I made it, I decided to go on caloric overload and add some homemade caramel sauce. Oh man....the cake was pretty great on it's own, but the caramel sauce really did me in. It was so simple, too. Eat this cake heated with the caramel sauce and some vanilla ice cream and you're in Heaven....

Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 /2 tsp. baking powder
1 /2 tsp. salt
1 /2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 /2 tsp. ground nutmeg or mace
1 /2 tsp. ground ginger
3 cups peeled, diced tart apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric or hand mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture slowly, in batches. Stir in apples. Spoon into greased 8X8 pan.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

Optional: Add 1/4 cup chopped nuts to recipe at same time as apples.

*Note: this recipe is for an 8X8 pan but could easily be doubled for a 13X9

Homemade Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 C water
1 C sugar
1 C heavy cream, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the mixture is thick and the color of straw, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the mixture is a deep amber color, about 1-2 minutes more.

Remove the mixture from the heat. Very carefully, pour about one quarter of the cream into it (the mixure will bubble vigorously). Add the remaining cream, salt, vanilla, and the lemon juice. Whisk until the sauce is smooth.

The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Reheat in a microwave or in a small saucepan until warm and smooth.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food for the Soul

I know it's been over a month (eek!) since I've last posted. Things got really busy with the baby and holiday orders for decorated cookies....more on that in a bit*....

But, worry-not my faithful readers, I have a stockpile of really delicious recipes coming your way - just in time for the Holidays! Appetizers, pie, desserts, and dinners galore!

I can't promise it will be good for your waistline,
but food is always good for your soul.

So sit back, relax, and get ready for a barrage of new recipes! :)

* I've also started taking orders for decorated sugar cookies in my local area, hence, the lag in blogging. Now that things have calmed a bit, I plan to be back at it very soon. I am even considering a separate page on this blog to showcase the cookies I've made :)
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