The Cookie Countdown to Christmas

Yes, you read that right. It’s all cookies, all the time, with a new recipe posted every day starting December 1st. Join me for my cookie countdown to Christmas.


Home made chocolate advent calendar

Home made chocolate advent calendar

Pseudo Sacher Torte

After I finished school, I got a job in Germany. I lived there for five years, first in Munich, then Berlin. This gave me ample opportunity to travel the continent. One of my favourite cities to visit was Vienna, for the art, for the music, for the architecture, and of course for the food.

During one visit in particular, I decided to conduct an in-depth analysis of the Sacher torte. I went to the Hotel Sacher, of course, and Demel’s. I also sampled the tortes at a number of cafés, pretty much every café I passed, which was a lot, all of which served Sacher torten, because it is the unofficial cake of Vienna.

I took notes, and when I returned home to Berlin, I set about creating my ideal version of the Sacher torte. It is not authentic. It is not in any way an attempt to try to recreate the original. It’s simply the Sacher torte the way I want it to be.

For the cake, I use a recipe out of the old Time Life cookbook series, the volume on Vienna, of course. I have tried others, but I don’t like them nearly as much.

For the frosting I use chocolate truffles, or, more accurately, I follow a recipe for truffles, then pour it over the cake while the chocolate is still warm. It’s a very particular recipe, and one that is quite different from your standard truffle. It makes an excellent frosting.

Most recently, I made this cake for my friend Daryle, who just celebrated a birthday. Happy birthday Daryle!

Pseudo-Sacher Torte

For the cake (adapted from The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, Time-Life books):

  • 6 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  3. Melt the chocolate with the butter. Let cool 10 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Continue beating, adding the sugar in a slow, steady stream, until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites hold stiff peaks when the beater is raised.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the lightened chocolate mixture over the remaining egg whites.
  7. Sift the flour over the top, and gently fold it in.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the layers are puffed, and spring back when lightly touched in the center, about 25 minutes.
  9. Let cake cool thoroughly before assembly.

For the frosting:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 T. cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  1. Combine the yolks, cream, and vanilla in a saucepan.
  2. Add the butter and chocolate.
  3. Stir over very low heat until the butter and chocolate are melted, and teh mixture is homogenous.
  4. Stir in the golden syrup.
  5. Set aside to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the mixture is thick, but still pourable, proceed with the assembly of the cake.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Spread 1/2 cup of apricot jam over one layer of the cake. Top with the second layer.
  2. Pour the truffle frosting over the cake. I do this by pouring it into the center of the top layer, and, with an icing spatula, gently coax it to spread evenly across the top and down the sides.
  3. Garnish or decorate as you wish. I like to sprinkle the cake with cocoa nibs. You can also use some of the excess frosting to pipe a simple pattern on the top.
  4. Serve with strong coffee and unsweetened whipped cream.

Guest Post: Smoked Salmon Pizza

My blog updates have been fewer and farther between than I’d like over the past month. My father has been in the hospital with a terminal illness, and has just passed away after losing a battle with lung cancer at the age of 81.

I’ve asked a few close friends to help me out for a bit with guest posts until I’m able to get back to blogging. Who knows, maybe this will persuade them to start blogs of their own (hint, hint). I know you will enjoy their contributions.

First up is RuthAnn, aka Kitchen Witch, with an amazing smoked salmon pizza. Listen to Bill, RuthAnn. The world needs a blog from you. I’m so glad you agreed to do this.


My husband has been after me for some time to write a blog and says I need to share my pizzas with others, so they won’t be stuck with frozen pizzas or awful delivery ones.  So when my dear friend Jennifer called for some guest bloggers, I figured the time was now.

Homemade dough is the key, I think, along with great toppings.  Following is pretty bulletproof pizza dough and it’s really forgiving. I can make it an hour before I want to make a pizza, or I will often stir it together in the morning, without kneading it, and pop it in the fridge until the evening. The recipe makes enough for two pizzas, and after making one pizza, the remaining dough can be frozen, or kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks – the flavor improves with age as the dough ferments. Just remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to start. The time it takes to preheat the oven is usually sufficient.

Now, I put this together with ingredients from the local market. You can go to your local cheese and fish mongers and get fancier cheese and really plush lox, but even with ordinary market ingredients, this makes a pizza that is readily accessible and has an elegant simplicity and (at least in my house) was eagerly consumed by both husband and children.

Best Ever Pizza Dough

  • 500 grams flour (about 3.5 cups)
  • 8 grams of dry yeast  (about 1.75 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water
  • 1/3  cup of extra virgin olive oil
  1. Mix flour, and salt in bowl and make a well in center.
  2. Mix yeast with a pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup of warm water and let rest until foamy.
  3. Pour yeast, olive oil and the rest of the water into flour, mix and knead until smooth.
  4. Place in oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour until doubled.
  5. Knock down dough and divide in half. Makes two pizza crusts.

Smoked Salmon Pizza

  • 1/2 recipe of Best Ever Pizza dough
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive Oil
  • 8 oz. of Havarti Cheese, grated
  • 1-2 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon of Capers, rinsed briefly
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. Cold Smoked Salmon (Lox)
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream or Crème Fraiche
  • Dried Dill Weed
  1. Preheat oven (with a pizza stone, if you have one) to 480 degrees F. If you don’t have a pizza stone, try placing a couple rimless cookie sheet in the oven before heating – having the dough on a hot surface helps give a great crispy bottom crust.
  2. Dust a sheet of parchment paper lightly with flour and generously with cornmeal. Dust dough lightly with flour and roughly shape it by hand to desired shape (my pizza stone is rectangular, so that’s what I do… round, square, rectangular, have at it.) Lay dough down onto parchment and roll to desired thickness. We prefer thin.
  3. Brush dough with olive oil and then sprinkle with a little of the dill weed.
  4. Scatter 3/4 of the grated Havarti, arrange  tomatoes over cheese, then finish with the remaining Havarti.
  5. Sprinkle red onion and capers over the cheese. I like to reserve a little red onion to add to the pizza after baking.
  6. Transfer to the pizza stone (I leave it on the parchment.)
  7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.
  8. While the pizza is baking, stir together sour cream and a ½ teaspoon of dill weed. Add salt to taste.
  9. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. After resting, top with smoked salmon and reserved red onion. Serve with a little of the sour cream dill sauce and additional capers, if desired.
  10. Makes 4 generous servings (assuming several will want more than one slice.)



Ice Cream Sculptures

Continuing our foods of NY vacation series…

On Thursday I took my children to the Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown Manhattan. We liked it so much that today we went to the one on the Upper West Side. Jasper (the 7-year-old) had cereal milk ice cream, which, I admit, I do not find appetizing, and Berend (the 9-year-old) had pink lemonade ice cream, which is more my style. The guava-horchata at the Midtown location is still my favourite, though. And the marshmallow cornflake cookies. I could live on those, or the crack pie.

The Milk Bar serves its ice cream in little paper cups, with a small wooden ice cream spoon. Berend, ever the artist, decided to sculpt his ice cream as he ate. this is what he came up with.

No, I don’t know what it is either. Maybe I should have a contest to figure it out.

Jasper got into ice cream sculpting too. He says he wants to go into training to become a professional, though instead of using a wooden spoon, he intends to sculpt exclusively with his tongue.


Quiche Antarctique

A few years ago, in the midst of a messy and painful divorce, I developed a coping method whereby I fantasized about my ex-husband moving far away. Really far away. Really, really far.

One day, while making quiche, and fretting over some new divorce-related issue, I spontaneously decided to bake the embodiment of my fantasy. It would be a Wishing-My-Ex-Husband-Would-Pack-Up-and-Move-to-Antarctica quiche.

As it turns out, Antarctica is delicious, and though I no longer fantasize about my ex moving there, I still make Quiche Antarctique. Now you can too.

Quiche Antarctique:

  • 1 pie crust (Use 1/2 the recipe from Oh Boy, Strawberry pie)
  • 3 large eggs
  • approximately 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded emmental cheese
  • 12 small shrimp, cooked and shelled
  • 1/3 cup cooked and well-drained spinach
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Roll out the pie dough and fit it into a pie plate. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places. Lay a sheet of foil on top of it, and add pie weights ( a cup of uncooked rice or dry beans works fine too).
  3. Place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and carefully lift out the foil and pie weights.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 375.
  5. Scatter the cheese over the partially cooked crust. Scatter the spinach and shrimp over the cheese.
  6. Crack the eggs into a 2-cup glass measure and whisk them until well blended. Pour enough cream into the measuring cup with the eggs to reach 1 1/2 cups. Add the salt and whisk until blended.
  7. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the spinach, shrimp, and cheese in the pie pan.
  8. Drop large dollops of ricotta on top. It will sink partially. Don’t worry about this.
  9. Bake the quiche for about 35 minutes, until the top is nicely browned, and the center is set.
  10. Cool completely before serving.
  11. Eat and remind yourself that you, too, can survive anything.