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Desserts

Mother’s Day mango crêpes: a decadent sweet for the sweetest mom!

I ate these crêpes with mom in the park yesterday, as the warm sunlight was about to wave us goodbye for the day. A decadent sweet was just what my mom needed after the long day she had spent taking care of the little one. It was not Mother’s Day, yet I knew she would love getting out of the house and the daily routine, and celebrating motherhood one day in advance. The park was peaceful and quiet and the crêpes were delicious – so mom simply couldn’t say no 🙂

The idea for this dessert came to me by accident a few months ago, while I was looking for ways to use up a bunch of ataulfo mangoes I had got at a deeply discounted price from the local grocery store. I found several authors who advocated using these mangoes along with sweetened condensed milk, which is a rather popular dessert combination in Mexican and Filipino cuisines. Keep Reading

Cocoa & fruit balls: my answer to the post-Christmas leftover dilemma

Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like peanut brittle? Don’t get me wrong: I love peanuts and worship caramel, but I just don’t like the two of them together. I find peanut brittle overly sweet and way too difficult to eat, and I always look for ways to re-purpose it. Having grown up in another country and in a time of great need, I strive to never throw edible food away because I remember how it used to be to not have any food at all. As such, I like to see value and potential in every tiny bit of leftovers – peanut brittle included 🙂

This Christmas has made no exception. Last week my husband received a gift basket from work with a generous assortment of sweet goodies: peanut brittle, dried fruit, shortbread cookies etc. To me, this was the perfect opportunity to make cocoa & fruit balls! The recipe below is just what you need if you’re looking to eliminate waste and to use up cookie or cake leftovers, recreating them as something new, exciting, and budget-friendly. Keep Reading

Cookies for Santa and Rudolph: sugar and… lemons – and all things nice!

Yes, I know the title doesn’t rhyme, but what can I do? I’m hopeless: I have fallen in love with Meyer lemons 🙂 After years of using lemons indiscriminately, I have finally seen the light: some lemons are, indeed, better than others.

With a delicate, sweet flavor, thin skin and aromatic smell, Meyer lemons are something to behold. I was lucky to find them on sale at the local grocery store, and this limited time offer could not have come at a better time. I used Meyer lemons to make two kinds of lemon cookies, using my mom’s age-old recipes. I am still amazed: How could so much flavor, zest and juiciness come in such small packages? Keep Reading

It’s Thanksgiving: time for strudel!

Nothing says “holiday” better than the enticing smell of dough steadily baking in the oven. And when you know your daughter is going to be the first to try out your creations, you really want to have a satisfied customer, so you try your hardest to please 🙂 This year, we’ll be spending Thanksgiving with my mom, around a dinner table that will be brimming with turkey (brined and roasted as per a Morton Salt recipe I’m trying for the first time ever!), pork soup, manicotti and potatoes au gratin. For dessert, we’ll have banana bread and apple and ricotta strudel.

The original strudel recipe I posted last year called for a seasonal pumpkin filling. For diversification purposes, this year I decided to use ricotta and apples, which are DH and our daughter’s all-time favorites. Keep Reading

Éclairs: a delicious fall treat

What is better than an éclair? Two éclairs! Everyone in my family is a fan of éclairs, but until recently we did not have a recipe to make them at home. The recipe below comes from my mother-in-law, and it took her and me months of testing to get the quantities right.

When I was little I would buy éclairs from a local confectionery shop, on my way back home from school. Crammed and dark, with oversized platters and old-fashioned decoration, that place sold day-old éclairs filled with a custard vaguely tasting of coffee. Sometimes, the custard was sour and the dough was stale, but there was nothing I could do: I had spent good money on the éclair, and I had to eat it. There was no flour or butter on sale at the grocery stores, and sugar was rationed, which meant baking at home was also very limited.

Those days are long gone, thankfully. With so much abundance of ingredients at the stores, why not indulge in one of the favorite desserts of my childhood – and why not share it with the world? 🙂 Keep Reading

My aunt’s cocoa cake: moist, spongy, delicious!

I see her, eyebrows raised, sweat covering her forehead, shirt almost translucent, working hard in her tiny apartment kitchen in the sweltering heat of the summer. It was hot, but she didn’t care because she was baking for her family, and that made everything worthwhile. Nevermind the lingering heat, the sweat, the scarce ingredients. She was going to put her imagination to the test and come up with melt-in-your-mouth desserts for her family to enjoy. A labor of love: Isn’t this what baking is all about?

This lady was my aunt, who passed away in 1993. She was a fantastic baker and an all-around cook extraordinaire.  By now, you know I like to remember her in this blog and to recreate her recipes as often as I can. The cake below is yet another trip down memory lane, to my aunt and the wonderful summers we spent together in the countryside – baking, eating, playing childhood games under the old quince tree, living a wonderful life. 🙂 Keep Reading

Baking for comfort, baking for memories: Why these cranberry cookies remind me of my mom

Can you smell the cookies? Yes, it’s happening: I’m baking! It’s 86 degrees in here, very humid, and the air conditioning is on. The noise of the hood is cutting through the heat, yet – thankfully! – the little one is sound asleep on the silky brown carpet. I’m baking not because I’ve been craving cookies, nor because I enjoy sweating next to the hot oven, but because I need to feel that, somehow, my mom is  still with me.

My mom went back to Europe last month, and we did several rounds of baking just before she left. We looked through her old recipe notebook – a bunch of butter-smeared and cocoa-dusted pages barely hanging in there – and found culinary gems we had long forgotten. We shared memories about the loved ones who are no longer with us, and my mom’s eyes often grew sad as her mind revisited the past. We spoke, baked and remembered, and traveling through time provided comfort and a bitter-sweet, almondy sense of happiness. Isn’t this what baking is all about? That’s what I think, anyway 🙂

This is one of the recipes we revisited before my mom left for Europe. Keep Reading