Dessert That's In The Bag

Dessert That's In The Bag

At a recent team function that required dessert, someone handed me a large paper bag that looked rather unpromising. The wrinkled bag was heavier than I expected. I wiggled back a corner and saw cookies as large as my face releasing a wonderful mix of aromas that ranged from ginger to paprika. Where did these come from? I wonder. I found a receipt under some crumbs at the bottom that read, "What's for Dessert?" I thought I was the one asking the questions here but it turns out the owner, Cindy, has been asking and answering for a quite a while now.

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Flavor Profile: Balsamic Cherry

It took a bit longer than expected but we finally reached fall! A season of some of the best scents and flavors the earth has to offer. One of the new flavors I've been experimenting with is balsamic cherry. Yep, you read that correctly. Balsamic vinegar does wonders for sweet stuff by adding its own sugars and that tangy zip only attributed to vinegar. I mixed 4 ounces of dried tart cherries with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and let is simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will initially let off some overwhelming vinegar fumes that will singe your nose hairs if you're not careful. Once the mixture has thickened I removed it from the heat and placed it in a small ramekin for safe keeping. I'm not sure how long it will keep for in the fridge but I used mine within a week and that seemed to be OK.

I used the cherries a few different ways, the first was on a flatbread. On a Trader Joe's frozen pizza crust I spread a generous layer of ricotta topped with caramelized onions, sliced smoked duck and apple jack brandy sausage (one of the many fine products at Oscar's Smokehouse of the Adirondacks) and dotted it with spoonfuls of balsamic cherries. I would like to think that any chicken apple sausage would be a decent substitute for those not lucky enough to visit Oscar's. A nice combination of flavors and textures, this flatbread is easy enough to pull off on a weeknight but seems way more elegant and complicated than it appears.

The second way I used the cherries was in brownie mix. I use the Food Network fudgy brownie recipe (rave reviews every time) and stirred in 1/2 cup of the balsamic cherry mixture, mixing until sufficiently incorporated. I brought them to school to share with coworkers with a little trepidation that they might not go over as well as my other baked goods. Well, I couldn't be more wrong. They disappeared by noon and a handful of people complimented my creativity and two asked for the recipe. I love when I make something that inspires others to say, "Wow, I never thought of that combination." It makes me feel like a culinary pioneer even though I'm more of a nomad.

Balsamic cherries would also be a nice base for sauces meant for pork or game meat. I even stirred a few extra spoonfuls into some yogurt for a pleasant burst of acidity to cut the dairy. The possibilities are finite but boy, are they delicious. Until the next dish, ciao!



Peru is INCREDIBLE! My ten day visit went by in the blink of an eye. When I look back through my photos and my journal and I can't believe we managed to do everything that we did. I also can't believe that I ate everything that I did. In case you didn't know, Peru is the gastronomic center of South America. I'm sure Colombia or Argentina may dispute that but they would lose. Badly. 

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Triple Almond and Apricot Linzer Cookies

I have a slight problem when it comes to saying thank you. Chill out, I'm going to explain.

 I say thank you when necessary (and then some) but when I am so truly grateful for something/someone I find it difficult to thoroughly express myself. So I bake something for that person.  It's weird, I know, but I have yet to get any complaints. 

I have an upcoming formal event for which I needed a very nice dress. Said dress needed quite a bit of hemming and it wasn't easy material to work with. However, I have the best tailor in Westchester and, as I knew she would, she did an outstanding job. I couldn't thank her enough so what did I do? I baked. I had a jar of apricot preserves that needed using so I found a base recipe, which I then transformed into my own.

Almond flavor is one of my favorites, especially when combined with apricot. I upped the almond by using almond meal, crushed almonds and extract. One of my coworkers is also on the almond/apricot train so I made sure to save a few for him. I got a flurry of texts that night:

"omg SOOOOOO good"

"like serious good"


If that doesn't prove these cookies are a winner then I don't know what does. Oh, I should mention he knows his way around sweets: he's quite the baker himself and dates a pastry chef. Sooooooooo, yeah. These cookies are the ****. Until the next dish, ciao!


You will need:

1 cup flour

1 cup almond meal/flour

2 sticks of softened butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup dry toasted sliced/slivered almond, crushed

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon (plus an extra dash or two)

3oz apricot jam

Powdered sugar

Combine both flours, crushed almonds and cinnamon, set aside. Using a hand mixer on low to medium mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and both extracts and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and gently combine, do not overmix.

Divide dough onto 2 pieces; press into small discs, about 1 inch thick. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350. Flour your work surface and roll out one disc to about 1/8 thick, perhaps even thinner. Using your desired cookie cutter, cut out the shapes and transfer them to a cookie sheet greased or coated in cooking spray. *I chose to NOT make them "window" cookies so you will have to adjust your cutting if you choose to do so*

You can reroll scrap dough but after the second time I suggest placing it back in the refrigerator and beginning the process again with another disc.

Bake for 12 minutes, until the cookies are light brown. Remove from oven and let cool on sheet. Spread a thin layer of jam on one cookie, place a second cookie on top and sandwich together. Repeat process and dust cookies with powdered sugar.




Earl Grey and Cara Cara Orange Panna Cotta

Earl Grey and Cara Cara Orange Panna Cotta

Let me start by saying that I am very critical of my own work; especially when it comes to meals I've prepared. That being said, I'm going to do an awful lot of boasting right about now. During our surprise three day weekend I wanted to use up some extra heavy cream and milk I had and there's really only one thing you can make: panna cotta. Now, I'd always wanted to try it but every time I went to the store I'd forget to pick up unflavored gelatin. Well, the stars aligned and I had all the ingredients necessary plus an extra special one to boot. 

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Pecan and Dulce de Leche Brownies

Pecan and Dulce de Leche Brownies

Happy New Year everyone! I've finally decided to come out of hibernation; the past week was brutally cold. Like throwback to college cold. There are definitely parts of college I want to relive but I can do without the -10 weather. I once read somewhere that you should start the New Year off with something sweet for good luck. Sure, we could all use a little luck this year but with the plateful of brownies sitting in front of me, I think I'm due for a lucky decade. And maybe a cavity or two, eek.

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From Paris With Love

This has been a fairly exciting weekend; two good friends got married and I went to Paris! Well, almost.

I went to Maison Kayser with Steph for an impromptu lunch and it was the most elegant recovery food I could have asked for. I say "recovery" because, let's be honest, on this side of twenty five "hangover" is just vulgar. Maison Kayser is the creation of Eric Kayser; a renowned baker who now has a handful of locations in the city. Judging by online comments and reviews I am not the only one who seems to have been whisked away to Paris for a couple of hours. I've actually never been to Paris but I imagine a bakeshop there looking something like this Third Avenue location. The clean lines and neutral color palette keep it chic yet warm. The servers are in stripes and suspenders but it's natural, not forced. And then there's the food.

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