Butterscotch Pudding Pops

butterscotch-pops

One of my enduring memories of childhood is sitting with my brother in our living room, watching old Donald Duck cartoons and eating Jello pudding pops. Only the chocolate ones, because the vanilla ones weren’t nearly as good. And when Jello stopped making them (sad!), I moved on to my next favorite frozen pudding-based treat, which involved freezing chocolate (never vanilla) pudding cups solid, then letting them thaw slightly on the counter for that signature slightly-chewy mouthfeel that you can only get from frozen pudding. It was always iffy, though, whether you’d end up with icy crystals or overly-thawed pudding, so that method was never fully satisfactory.

Well, I may not be able to get Jello-brand pudding pops anymore, but I’ve at last found the perfect replacement– homemade pudding pops. I got the recipe for the butterscotch pops from Smitten Kitchen (I swear, I should just rename this blog “Stuff from Smitten Kitchen”), and I’m going to start making these on a regular basis.

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French Beer Tart

beer-tart

I admit that I’m not usually a beer person– it’s just not my thing, for the most part. But in certain applications, it can be a fun ingredient! This is one of those applications– not only is this tart delicious, but it makes a great dessert for any beer lovers you may know (and any people who, like me, aren’t necessarily beer fans).

I got the recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great desserts (and a fabulous ice cream book that I use every summer to make my own ice creams) and lives in Paris, so I was confident that he wouldn’t fail me when it came to something called “French Beer Tart.” I was right.

This tart won rave reviews from all tasters– everyone really liked how you could taste the beer (so use one you like) without it being overpowering. One thing I might try next time would be more salt in the crust, or perhaps some ground-up pretzels instead of some of the flour. But the filling is perfect– wouldn’t change a thing.

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Candied Citrus Peel

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After making the panna cotta tart with all those different kinds of citrus, I had a bunch of peel left over, so of course I had to do something with it! And since I love candied peel, this seemed like a great opportunity. I had grapefruit, Cara Cara orange, and blood orange peel to work with (the clementine peel was too thin and the kumquats required a different technique).

While I’d made candied lemon peel before it hadn’t firmed up as well as I’d expected, instead staying kind of soft and soggy– fine for use in ice cream or baking, but not so great for snacking. I decided this time to try a different recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great recipes both on his website and in his books. It was basically the same as the other recipe, calling for blanching the peels (three times this time since grapefruit can be bitter) and then boiling in sugar syrup.

Oddly, my grapefruit peels refused to turn translucent, staying stubbornly white while the other peels turned just fine. After boiling and boiling well past the estimated time in the recipe, I finally decided to just let it go and set everything out to dry together overnight. They turned out better than I’d anticipated– still soft, but not squishy or soggy.

Since I like my peel chewy rather than soft, I let these dry on the baking pan, coated in sugar, for a good 24 hours after the initial overnight drying period. They were much better after the lengthy drying time, and I couldn’t stop snacking on them!

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Yogurt Panna Cotta Tart with Citrus

citrus-tart

I recently took a class on French tarts at my local culinary school, just for fun. I had a great time– I’d never worked with pastry rings before (as opposed to removable-bottom tart pans), nor had I ever made a classic pate sucree to roll into the ultra-thin and ultra-refined French-style tarts. Turns out it’s really easy to do, and the results are fabulous!

Since we had extra dough left to take home, I decided to put it to use making some tart recipes of my own creation. Eschewing rich, heavy fillings (like caramel or chocolate) for the moment, I instead went with something lighter for my first try– a yogurt panna cotta. I find that I don’t make panna cotta nearly enough, probably because it’s so simple that it doesn’t feel “exciting.” So adding it to a tart with a fruity garnish was a natural way to gussy it up a bit and make it interesting.

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Carrot Cake with Pepita Brittle

carrot-cake

This past Easter I was in a baking mood (when am I not in a baking mood?) so decided to make– what else?– carrot cake.

I love a good carrot cake, though everyone seems to have a different idea of what to add to the basic flavor profile. Some people use raisins, some nuts, or crushed pineapple. Some people use carrot puree, others go traditional with grated carrots, and some cakes use shockingly low amounts of carrot to begin with. Last year I even made one that incorporated graham cracker crumbs in the batter. I decided this time to try a recipe from Alton Brown, who rarely lets me down when it comes to good basic recipes.

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Miso Macadamia Blondies

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I decided the other night to make a quick batch of treats to share with some coworkers– the only criteria were that they had to be relatively fast to make (no chilling of dough or softening of butter) couldn’t require any ingredients I didn’t already have on hand, and had to be transportable (nothing too crumbly or decorated). I did a quick review of my pantry and fridge, and saw that I had a bunch of leftover shiro miso and a small can of macadamia nuts that my parents had brought me from a Hawaiian trip. Those sounded like they’d go well together, right? I figured a bar cookie or brownie would satisfy the “transportable” requirement, so I started with that.

A few Google searches later and I’d found a recipe for miso blondies from FixFeastFlair, which just so happened to call for macadamia nuts for crunch. It also called for butterscotch chips, but I figured that the white chocolate in my pantry would substitute nicely. I know that I’ve made miso blondies before, but those were deliberately cakier and less sweet so they’d go well with my dessert poutine. These were different.

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Mexican Wedding “Hosts”

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If you’re confused by the title (and are not averse to a little blasphemy), I encourage you to go read this and then come back. I came across it a few weeks ago and laughed until I cried. And then I promptly decided that I needed to make some of my own in time for Easter.

Not a full bread sculpture (though I’m not ruling that out for some time in the future), but Mexican wedding cookies, complete with rainbow sprinkles. They sounded pretty good, actually.

I’ve made Mexican wedding cookies before– with sprinkles, even– when I made those adorable Hedgehog Cookies. They were tender and delicious, and I knew they’d make the perfect base for these. Really, I didn’t do much to alter the recipe, except add rainbow sprinkles both inside and out. I did leave a few of the cookies plain on the outside so I could roll them in powdered sugar, per tradition. I think I liked those best of all, and they’re not quite as garish as the sprinkle-bedecked cookies so beloved by my kindergartener.

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