Chez Panisse Almond Tart

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Out of the blue one day my husband emailed me a link to the apparently famous Chez Panisse Almond Tart. Since he rarely requests specific desserts I felt compelled to make it– also, we had a bunch of extra heavy cream left over from an earlier baking binge, so any recipe involving cream was welcome! I picked up some sliced almonds, and the rest of the ingredients were already in my pantry– always a plus.

The tart itself didn’t look too hard to make– fussy, sure, with repeated check-ins during the baking time to (weirdly) tap the surface of the tart with a spatula, but not difficult. Surprisingly for me, the crust baked up nicely with minimal shrinkage (I always have issues with that), and while I had my doubts about the filling consistency being too thin when I first poured it into the tart shell, it firmed up nicely in the oven.

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Buffalo Wing Popcorn

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You guys. Make this. Make it now. Then I’ll have someone else who shares my addiction to it, and I won’t feel weird about crunching it non-stop. What is it? Buffalo wing popcorn. It’s a savory caramel corn, and it’s crunchy, sweet, salty, and spicy all at once– the perfect snack for any occasion.

Bon Appetit has called this “the best recipe we’ve ever made,” and while I’m not sure it’s the best thing I’ve ever made myself, it’s certainly unique and interesting and did I mention addictive? It starts off lightly sweet, then the hot sauce kicks in and the easiest way to assuage the slight burn is to eat more popcorn… which of course starts it all over again, and before you know it you’ve gone through a large handful and are reaching for more!

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Salted Caramel Rice Krispie Treats

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I love rice krispie treats. Just love them. There’s something about the nice firm chew when you first bite into them that makes them addictively delicious. But I rarely make them, mostly because I get distracted by other, more exotic recipes. Also because my husband isn’t a huge fan and I’d end up eating the entire pan myself. (that was certainly the case with the leftover rice krispie treat towers from the birthday castle cake).

But when I found myself with a leftover bag of mini marshmallows and half a box of rice krispies that would never get eaten as breakfast, I knew that I’d be finding an excuse to make these delicious snacks soon. A gathering of friends provided the perfect occasion, and a newly-doctored jar of salted caramel sauce provided the inspiration for a delicious variation. I stirred a healthy dollop of caramel sauce into the melted marshmallow/butter mixture before mixing in the cereal, drizzled extra caramel on top of the finished treats, and topped it all off with a sprinkling of salt.

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Improving Storebought Caramel Topping

caramel-doctor-originalEvery year we throw an ice cream party, where guests bring their favorite flavors of ice cream along with toppings to create an ice cream buffet. Unfortunately, once the wreckage is cleared away we find ourselves with an excess of high-calorie, high-sugar treats in the form of sauces, crumbled cookies, and candy– what to do with them?

I managed to use up a lot of the leftovers, but one bottle of storebought “caramel flavored syrup” remained stubbornly in our refrigerator. I usually make my own caramel sauce (deeply caramelized, and hit with a generous pinch of salt), but I thought I’d try my hand at doctoring up the storebought stuff, just to see what would happen.

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Dessert Poutine with Miso

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Recently my husband and I took part in a little friendly competition with a few other couples for a mutual friend’s birthday, which involved her naming an ingredient and the rest of us coming up with dishes incorporating the ingredient, to bring to her birthday dinner. She selected miso, which was a brilliant idea, as miso can be used in so many applications, sweet and savory. Some of the contributions that evening included miso-marinated steak, miso-caramel ice cream, and miso-pork stuffed steamed buns. Delicious!

But how does this relate to poutine, you ask? Well, for reasons left unexplained, bonus points were awarded for Canadian-themed dishes, and what’s more stereotypically Canadian than poutine?

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Gateau St. Honoré

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When I was in Paris I finally got the chance to try the famous Gateau St. Honoré– a toothsome confection consisting of a layer of puff pastry, topped with a piped choux pastry swirl, topped with a ring of caramel-dipped cream puffs, and filled with fluffy cream. It was rich, decadent, and begging to be reproduced at home. Of course, I can rarely leave well enough alone, so when I decided to try making one I thought it would be delicious to incorporate elements of another famous French dessert, the Paris Brest.

Paris Brest is made of a large ring of choux pastry (meant to resemble a bicycle wheel, as the dessert was created in honor of a bicycle race), which is split and filled with a praline mousseline cream. The praline is made of caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, pulverized until they turn into paste, which is then folded into the cream.

I actually vacillated between which of these desserts to make, as both sounded fantastic, but in the end the Gateau St. Honoré– being both more complicated (I always love a challenge) and involving puff pastry, which I always adore– won out. But instead of the regular chiboust (mixture of plain pastry cream and Italian meringue) to fill the center, I made two changes: First, I used diplomat cream (mixture of pastry cream and whipped cream) instead of chiboust cream, because I hate making Italian meringue– too fiddly with the sugar syrup. Second, I decided to add praline paste to the cream to deepen the caramel flavor of the dessert.

The result? Spectacular. The flakiness of the puff pastry base adds just enough textural interest to the slightly firmer choux pastry and the gobs of creamy, hazelnut-kissed filling. The hard caramel dip on the cream puffs is just enough to crunch between your teeth and provide a hint of bitterness, and the dessert as a whole is light yet rich. I will absolutely make this again the next time I need an impressive finish to a meal.

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Faux Fried Ice Cream Cake

fried IC cake

At the outset, I feel compelled to note that everything but the cake in this Faux Fried Ice Cream Cake is “faux”– there’s no real frying (sauteeing at the most), and there’s no ice cream. But there is cake, and it’s a decadent, delicious cake at that, I promise. It’s inspired by an actual ice cream cake from Sprinkle Bakes, one of my favorite baking blogs.

I was first introduced to fried ice cream as a teenager when I went to a Mexican restaurant with my high school Spanish Club. It was, of course, ice cream that had been rolled in a crumb coating and deep-fried just until the outside got crunchy, leaving the inside frozen. Really tasty (what’s not to like?), but a lot of trouble to make without a deep-freezer and a fryer.

However, if you take crushed cornflakes and sauté them in a little butter and brown sugar, they take on an amazing caramelly-buttery flavor that’s reminiscent of the fried ice cream coating from days of yore. It’s incredible served over actual ice cream, but since ice cream desserts don’t travel well I decided to incorporate it into a 9×13″ cake, perfect for those end-of-summer barbecues where you won’t necessarily have a freezer handy.

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