I’m a bourbon girl, straight up. Neat or on the rocks, it doesn’t matter just as long as the vanilla, oak, caramel and spice notes work their magic. It’s pure craftsmanship at its best and only gets better with age.
But I’m also a pastry chef and one who loves to have fun exploring new flavor combinations. To limit a fine spirit to the bar alone would be criminal; at least, that’s what I think. Incorporating liquors into desserts reveals a whole new horizon of possibilities.
I love a good Manhattan. I also love the fact that bourbon works so well with chocolate, toasted nuts, peaches and even candied bacon. Two other spirits that round out my top three favorites when I bake are rum and Campari. Dark rum works well with tropical fruit and is a favorite of mine to use at our restaurant in Grand Cayman. Since there are so many great rums, taste a couple and use the one you like best. And Campari is a tad bitter, but it adds great balance to a dessert.
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My maternal grandmother, Della, wasn’t much of a cook. Forever dieting, she invested far more time into maintaining her dress size than she did perfecting her brisket recipe. However, when pressed into kitchen service, there were a few dishes that she could make tolerably well. She knew how to cook a pot of oatmeal so that it was thick and creamy, had long ago mastered the art of broiling a steak and made the best bread pudding around.
Bread pudding was a staple during Della’s childhood. After being orphaned, she and her siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle. The pressures of feeding three growing children meant that food had to be inexpensive and filling. Stale bread cooked in custard and sweetened with dried fruit checked both boxes and tasted good to boot.
Throughout her later years, bread pudding was the one thing that my grandmother just couldn’t resist. Any time my grandparents would eat out and it was on the menu, my grandfather would order it as his dessert. When it arrived, he’d nudge the dish my grandmother’s way. She’d insist that she was entirely satisfied with black coffee and then proceed to eat half the serving in small bites.
Before you start whisking your custard, read these tips
While St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday geared toward adults, I think it’s fun to make sure that what I make is also kid friendly.
This cake is a perfect compromise for adults and kids alike. Big people get a decadent piece of cake, while little people take part in a scavenger hunt.
What’s the best part about this cake? Wondering who will get the “lucky” piece or the piece with a four-leaf clover on it.
Learn how to make this simple cake
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that unless you live on the same block or work in nearby offices, it becomes harder and harder to ensure that you’re seeing friends on a regular basis. Add babies to the mix (as many of my generation have been doing lately) and it becomes even more challenging.
To combat this, I help organize a monthly potluck for some of my favorite folks, to ensure that we see each other with some regularity. Each month, we gather around one of our dining tables with dishes in hand and spend a few hours eating, drinking and catching up.
Because I’ve known this collection of couples for nearly a decade, they’ve eaten all my standby recipes, sometimes many times over. I regularly feel like I have to step up my contributions to our community table to keep things from getting boring.
For this month’s gathering, I went in search of a recipe that would feature the oranges, lemons and grapefruit currently in season. What I found was Giada’s Citrus Crostada. It’s a shortbread tart crust, filled with slightly sweetened mascarpone and topped with a homemade citrus jam. It was a hit with my friends and is perfect for The Weekender.
Before you start cooking your jam, here are a few tips »
Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal, right? This Valentine’s Day, forget about making restaurant reservations and serve your someone special a romantic dinner or dessert for two at home. Food Network’s top five Valentine’s Day recipes are elegant yet traditional dishes that you can easily make with love.
5. Shrimp Scampi With Linguini — A quick-cooking seafood, shrimp dress up classic pasta with garlic, lemon and white wine.
4. Chocolate Covered Strawberries — These two-bite treats are covered in smooth semi-sweet chocolate.
Get the top three recipes »
Whole-grain flour and plain low-fat yogurt lighten up traditional brownies, but rich chocolate, cocoa powder and a bit of butter help maintain their classic flavor.
Get the recipe: Ellie Krieger’s Double-Chocolate Brownies
We’re not in the business of doling out financial advice, but we hear gold is up in value — all the more reason to buy some for your next batch of brownies. Get a booklet of “transfer” edible gold leaf (about $40 for 15 three-inch-square sheets; lagoldleaf.com), then brush the top of already-baked brownies with warm honey and, starting in one corner, place a sheet gold side down on top. Gently rub the paper until the gold transfers onto the brownies. An 8-inch-square pan takes about $14 worth of leaf — a downright bargain for a gift of gold.
I don’t know about you, but I love to make people happy. I strive for that moment in presentation when you hear an audible gasp of delight and surprise.
If I could, I would spend hours in the kitchen slaving away over a special dessert, but I can’t. And I am betting your time is valuable as well.
So that is why I could not be more excited to share this cake with you. It takes less than an hour to assemble, including prep. This stunning cake is so easy to make, but it can make a huge impact on your family and friends. They will be talking about it for years to come.
Let’s put it this way, if you can play with Play-Doh, you can make this cake.
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Serve coffee with a holiday twist: Make your own Christmas-themed sugar cubes. You’ll need small silicone candy molds, granulated sugar and food coloring (we found our molds at firstimpressionsmolds.com, starting at $8). Mix 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cold water and 12 drops of red or green food coloring, then fill the molds with the mixture, pressing down with your fingers to pack it in. Let dry overnight, then carefully remove from the molds.
As a kid, I loved those rotating dessert cases in restaurants. I’d usually have a slice of pie picked out before we even got to the table.
So when it came time to create 50 pie recipes for Food Network Magazine, I often thought about an imaginary dessert case large enough to hold them all. Our solution? We decided to freeze a slice of each and have a little fun.
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