Frozen Vanilla Bean Custard with Hot Strawberry Sauce

It’s another take on this month’s #baketogether. The recipe of the month is vanilla pot de creme and the goal is to take it and make it your own. I’ve already posted one version, using a straight forward baked custard.

This time I skipped the part where it is supposed to be baked in the oven and chilled it in the fridge instead. Then I hauled out the ice cream maker and made frozen vanilla custard.

Then I took the strawberry sauce and heated it up on the stove. If you ever find yourself in Germany, in an ice cream shop, you may notice one of the toppings they sell is hot raspberry sauce. It is delicious. I took the idea of heating up the strawberries from that.

Finally, to make it look fancier, and because my kids asked for it, I topped the whole thing with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. We loved this so much we all had seconds. Some of us may have even licked our bowls. I’m not saying who, though.

Frozen Vanilla Bean Custard with Hot Strawberry Sauce

And the best part about this all is that, for the first time in #baketogether history, I did not change any of the ingredients from the original recipe (which you can find on Abby’s blog here). I only changed the procedures. I think maybe I should get a special prize for that: Most Transformed Dessert Made Without Really Changing Anything, or something like that.

Vanilla Valentine Pot de Creme

It’s time for the February #Baketogether. This month its vanilla pot de creme, which happens to be one of my favorite desserts. I think I will have to post multiple entries for this one.Vanilla Valentine Pot de Creme

My first, just in time for Valentine’s Day, is vanilla bean pot de creme with fig and walnut wine preserves, and a caramelized almond heart. You will find the recipe for the pot de creme on Abby’s website. I followed it pretty much as given, except that I used half heavy cream and half whole milk in place of the half and half.

Once baked and chilled, I topped it with a spoon of fig and walnut wine preserves from Vista d’Oro, which you should immediately purchase because nobody’s life is complete without them. I topped the preserves with heart shaped caramelized almonds.

To caramelize almonds, place slivered almonds and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot. Heat them, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts, and turns golden brown. Quickly drop spoonfuls of the caramelized almond onto parchment or foil, and spread them into heart shapes. How many almonds? As many as you want. How much sugar? enough to coat the almonds.

Berbere Chicken Pie

Abby recently posted her recipe for Chicken Paprikash Pot Pie. It looked delicious, and I had recently been craving chicken paprikash, so I had to make it. Of course I also had to switch it up a bit, in this case, by adding 1 tsp. of berbere seasoning, a spice blend commonly used in Ethiopian cooking.

Berbere Chicken Pie

This one simple change completely transformed the dish. I loved it so much I could not stop eating it. I think I had it for supper five nights straight. And I’ve been thinking of making it again ever since.

I did make a few other small changed to Abby’s recipe, but nothing substantial. I used leftover roast chicken, because I had some on hand, and a red pepper instead of green for the same reason. For the pie crust I used my own standard recipe (1 1/2 cup flour, 3 oz leaf lard, 2 ox butter, 6 T. water and a pinch of salt). These were small tweaks, though. The real difference was the addition of the berbere.

P.S. While I make a lot of my spice blends myself, berbere is one I order, because I love the way this company makes it. I get it from Monsoon Coast. And no, they are not paying me to promote them.

French Toast Smack Down: Challah vs. Brioche


I’m back from my blog holiday, and I’m ready to rumble. In one corner we have challah, soft, eggy, golden, and faintly sweet.




BriocheIn the other we have brioche, decadent and rich with butter. Which will emerge victorious? Which will claim the french toast crown?





Over Christmas a friend asked me where in town she could get brioche. She had heard that it made the best french toast. This lead to a discussion of how to make the best french toast. I grew up eating it made from challah, and I suppose you see where this is going.

Which was better? I had to know. I made challah. I made brioche. I invited a few friends over to assist with the taste testing. In the end, we decided that there is no such thing as bad french toast and we would happily consume either. When forced to choose, the challah came out slightly ahead, but it was a far from unanimous decision.

Make them both and try it for yourself. You can find the challah recipe on Jasper’s blog here. My favourite brioche, from Baking with Julia, is posted below, with my modifications. Note that unlike challah, which can be made in an evening, brioche takes some time, so plan to start a day ahead.

Basic Brioche (adapted from Baking with Julia)

Make the sponge:

  • 1/3 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/3 tsp. yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  1. Mix the milk, yeast and egg with 1 cup of the flour until blended. Sprinkle the remaining cup of flour over the top.
  2. Set the sponge aside to rest for 30 to 40 minutes. As it rises the flour coating will crack. This is a  good sign.

Make the dough:

  • the sponge
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 oz. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 T. water, for the egg wash
  1. Add the sugar, 4 eggs, salt, and 1 cup of flour to the sponge. In a stand mixer, knead with the dough hook just until the ingredients come together.
  2. Add the remaining flour and beat for 15 minutes. Be warned, your mixer will get very hot. During this time the dough should come together and start slapping the side of the bowl as it goes around. If it is too soft to do this add a bit more flour. If it is too stiff, drizzle in a little milk.
  3. Massage the butter in your hands until it is soft and pliable.
  4. Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Initially your dough will fall apart. Don’t worry. It will come back together by the end.
  5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  6. Punch the dough down, cover the dough again, and put it in the fridge overnight.
  7. Butter two loaf pans
  8. Divide the dough in half, and divide each half into six pieces.
  9. Shape each piece into a ball and place them in the prepared pans – side by side so tha each pan has three short rows of two.
  10. Let the loaves rise two hours.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375.
  12. Brush the egg wash over the risen loaves and bake them for 30 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown
  13. If you’re not using them for french toast, eat them warm out of the oven. They taste best that way.


Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, by Jasper

(Jasper is 7. He loves to bake. He wanted to write a guest blog post. Here it is)

I made chocolate crinkle cookies today.

Once I make the batter I roll them up into a ball and then put them in powdered sugar then I put them on the baking sheet.

When they were finished getting cooked I tasted them and I think I made them very well.

They taste chocolatey. Their texture is soft. When I eat them they make me feel very happy. I like them very much. And you should make them too.

I got this recipe in a book called Kids Baking. It was a Christmas present. It was written by Abby Dodge, my Mom’s friend.Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Put the powdered sugar in a bowl.
  3. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder , and salt together in another bowl.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar together with a mixer for about 3 minutes, until creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides.
  5. Add 1 egg and beat until blended. Add the other egg and the vanilla and beat until blended.
  6. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  7. Using a tablespoon, scoop up rounded spoonfuls of dough and roll them into balls.
  8. Roll the balls in the powdered sugar and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake 10-12 minutes, until crackled and puffed.

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

Eggnog Cheesecake BarsThese were a spur of the moment cookie, because I love the flavor of eggnog, and I was craving eggnog, but I don’t like drinking it.

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

  • 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 oz. butter
  • 2 1/2 packages cram cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 T. rum
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup eggnog (the real stuff, not the light version)
  • 2 T. flour
  • nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt the butter and stir it into the graham cracker crumbs.
  3. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and pat the butter/crumb mixture evenly over it.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and rum until smooth.
  6. Beat in the eggs, then the eggnog, and finally the flour.
  7. Pour the mixture over the baked crust and sprinkle the top with nutmeg.
  8. Return the pan to the oven until it is set. This will take about 30 minutes.
  9. Chill thoroughly before cutting.


French Silk Bars

French Silk BarsI made these bars for the first time last year, and immediately fell in love with them. The original recipe is from a Better Homes and Garden’s cookie publication, but I have adapted it fairly liberally.

I made them this year as a straight up chocolate cookie, but the flavoring options are endless. After you make the filling, you stir 3 tablespoons of liqueur into it. If you want to stick with chocolate, use creme de cacao. If you feel like mixing things up a bit try creme de menthe, or Kahlua, or Bailey’s, or even framboise. The choice is yours.

These cookies also go exceptionally well with whipped cream, should you find yourself in search of any serving suggestions.

French Silk Bars

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 T. creme de cacao (or other liqueur) or heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil.
  3. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted chocolate and press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the cream, chocolate, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is homogenous.
  6. Remove from heat and gradually whisk 1/2 of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
  7. Whisk the yolk mixture back into the remaining chocolate mixture in the pot and return it to the heat.
  8. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until the mixture starts to steam.
  9. Remove from heat, stir in the liqueur, and pour into the prepared crust.
  10. Refrigerate until set and cut into bars.

Peanut Butter Graham Bears

These cookies are cute, they are delicious, and they are a perfect recipe to make with kids. The addition of graham cracker crumbs to the batter takes the flavor to the next level, a toasty, crunchy yet chewy level. The dough is simple to make, and there is no rolling or cookie cutter required. The bears are made with balls and logs of dough that you shape with your hands.

Here they are ready to go in the oven.Peanut Butter Graham Bears, ready to bake

And here they are out of the oven.Peanut Butter Graham Bears

Peanut Butter Graham Bears

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • Mini chocolate chips or raisins
  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Beat the butter and peanut butter together.
  3. Beat in the sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and vanilla.
  4. Beat in the egg.
  5. Stir in the flour and graham cracker crumbs.
  6. For each cookie, roll a tablespoon sized ball for the body, and a teaspoon sized ball for the head. Lay them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and flatten them slightly.
  7. Fashion small logs for the arms and legs, and three small balls. Arrange two of the balls as ears, and place the third one on top of the head, to form a snout for the bear.
  8. Press two mini chocolate chips or raisins into the cookie for eyes.
  9. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.