Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monkeying Around at 2nd Breakfast

Hobbits are good-natured, hospitable comfort food-loving folk, so it should come as no surprise that the warm buttery bakery dish known as Monkey Bread (or Bubble Bread) should feature prominently in their second breakfast preparations.  Here is a super simple recipe, made especially enticing as it includes the rich homey flavor of butterscotch.

Butterscotch Monkey Bread 

  • 1 bag of 24 (or so) frozen dinner rolls - dough 
  • 1 box (3 3/4 oz) butterscotch pudding mix (not instant) 
  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) 

  1. (At night), arrange frozen rolls in greased bundt pan. 
  2. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over rolls. 
  3. Over low heat, cook the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts until sugar is dissolved and bubbly. 
  4. Slowly pour over rolls. 
  5. Cover TIGHTLY (it will rise and may overflow) with foil and let stand on counter overnight (on plate or cookie sheet in case of spillage). 
  6. (The next morning), uncover and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until edges are a bit browned. 
  7. Let stand 5 minutes. 
  8. Then carefully invert over serving dish. Pull apart and enjoy!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cream Puffs that Soar

I have always loved cream puffs.  I also love food that is artistically prepared to create a visual pun of sorts.  And so, swan cream puffs have been a favorite easy, creative tea treat since I first learned the words pâte à choux.

The following recipe (found on a number of sites online) adds a tasty twist with the addition of almond and apricot flavors.  Serve with a butterflied strawberry on the side and you have a delicate and delicious tea dessert.

Prep Time: 30 Min
Cook Time: 40 Min
Ready In: 1 Hr 10 Min
Yield 12 servings

  • 1 cup water 
  • 1/2 cup butter (no substitutes) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 4 eggs 

  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten 
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 3/4 cup chocolate syrup 
  • 2/3 cup apricot preserves 
  • confectioners' sugar 

  • In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring water, butter and salt to a boil. 
  • Add flour all at once; stir until a smooth ball forms. 
  • Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes. 
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  • Beat until smooth and shiny. 
  • Cut a hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a #10 pastry tip. 
  • On a greased baking sheet, pipe twelve 3-in. long S shapes for the swan necks, making a small dollop at the end for head. 
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Remove to wire rack to cool. 

  • For each swan body, drop remaining batter by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. 
  • With a small icing knife or spatula, shape batter into 2-1/2-in. x 2-in. teardrops. 
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Cool on wire racks. 

  • For filling, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan; gradually stir in milk until smooth. 
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. 
  • Remove from the heat. 
  • Gradually stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. 
  • Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. 
  • Remove from the heat; stir in butter and extracts. 
  • Refrigerate until cool. 

  • Just before serving, spoon about 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup onto serving plates. 
  • Cut off top third of swan bodies; set tops aside. 
  • Remove any soft dough inside. 
  • Spoon 1 tablespoon apricot preserves into bottom of puffs; add filling. 
  • Set necks in filling. 
  • Cut reserved tops in half lengthwise to form wings; set wings in filling. 
  • Place swans on prepared plates. 
  • Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Let your culinary creation take flight!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mum's the Word

I was having a heck of a time deciding upon a topic for today's tea post.  I searched the net high and low for snappy tea trends on which to expound.  Then I asked a dear friend, with whom I was chatting online, for suggestions.  He replied, "How about something on tea and motherhood?" .... Duh!

How on earth did I NOT think of that?  As a former tea room owner, I can say without equivocation that Mother's Day is gloved hands down the biggest and busiest day of the entire year at a tea room.  The day before it is equally busy, booked solid by those seeking to avoid the masses on the day proper.  It is the weekend of the year that the kitchen and cooking staff train for, management prepares and orders for; and frankly it is the one weekend of the year when owning a tea room appears to be a financially sound investment.

So just what is it about going to tea that makes it all the rage for mothers?  Research on this topic yielded me nothing.  So I was given no choice but to pontificate on my own.  The tea ritual is unlike that of any other meal.  The taking of tea is so revered that it even boasts a four hour long ceremony in Japanese culture.  Given that tea is the second most consumed beverage worldwide, it is no surprise that tea would be incorporated in general as part of a celebration, but the tea service on Mother's Day, at least here in the U.S., is something quite specific.

We Yanks may have turned up our noses at our Brit progenitors and their tea in Boston, but when it comes to spoiling Mom on her day, we take our cue from the U.K.  A Mother's Day tea is generally what these days is called a 'high tea,' though it in no way resembles the original evening tea taken by coal miners at a high table after a busy day down in the mines.  Rather, high tea today has come to mean tea service with scones, finger sandwiches, some sort of sweets, perhaps soup, salad and maybe even something warm and inviting such as quiche or sausage rolls.  My own tea room's moms expected chilled strawberry soup and chicken dijon vol au vent served in a puff pastry shell as part of our annually observed menu.

Perhaps the primary reason mothers want to go to tea their on special day is because the food itself is so special.  The itty bitty mouthfuls offered are generally very labor-intensive, and the service items are dainty and valuable -- delicate bone china teacups, pretty platters, specialty jam dishes, and the like.  Also, a tea room represents the perfect excuse for a woman to don a grandiose hat without looking over-dressed.

Going to tea is special, no matter what rationale you use to explain it.  It is relaxed, even on Mother's Day, and lends itself to lingering conversation.  And at the end of the meal isn't that what it's really all about?  Spending time talking and sharing with your loved ones?

A Joyous and Happy Mother's Day to the loving nurturer in us all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Traditional Mothering Sunday Simnel Cake


Almond Paste

  • 400 g icing sugar , sifted 
  • 250 g ground almonds 
  • 1 large egg yolk , beaten lightly 
  • 3 -4 tablespoons orange juice 
  • 5 drops almond essence

  • 250 g plain flour 
  • 1 pinch salt 
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 280 g currants 
  • 250 g sultanas 
  • 110 g mixed peel 
  • 160 g butter 
  • 160 g caster sugar 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 200 ml milk , to mix 


CHECK LIST: a sifter, nest of bowls, food processor or electric beater, spatula, wooden spoon, 24 cm round cake tin, baking paper, brown paper and twine, rolling pin, thin metal skewer.


  • To make your own almond paste you will need a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Don't be tempted to use store-bought almond paste because it contains lots of sugar and few almonds, it will turn to liquid under the grill. 
  • Place icing sugar and almonds in food processor bowl. Process, slowly dripping in egg yolk, orange juice and almond essence. The mixture should form a pliable paste. 
  • Set aside a small portion for balls with which to decorate the cake. 
  • Roll out the remaining paste into 2 circles which are the approximate size of the tin. Set aside.  


  • Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F. 
  • Use a sturdy non-stick cake tub or line the buttered base with baking paper. As the baking period is long (1-1 1/2 hours), prevent the cake drying out by wrapping a double thickness of brown paper around the pan and securing it with twine. 
  • Sift flour, salt and spices together, then stir in fruit and peel. 
  • Cream butter and sugar thoroughly until light and creamy then beat in eggs one at a time, until the mixture is fluffy. (Reserve a drop of egg yolk for brushing over top layer of almond paste.). 
  • Stir flour and fruit into creamed mixture (you may need to add a little milk to give the mixture a dropping consistency).  


  • Place half the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin. 
  • Place one pre-rolled round of almond paste over the top. 
  • Cover with remaining cake mixture. Before baking the cake, give the pan of mixture a sharp tap on to a firm surface. This settles the mixture and prevents holes from forming in the cake. 
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 1-1 1/4 hours or until a thin metal skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out without a trace of stickiness. 
  • Level the cake by placing a weighted plate on top of the cooked cake while it is still hot. 
  • Turn out cake on to a wire rack after leaving it to settle in the cake tin for between 10 and 15 minutes. Peel off paper and leave to cool completely. 


  • Cover the top of the cake with a second round of almond paste. Roll 11 small balls of paste and place evenly around the top of the cake. Brush the top with a little beaten egg and very lightly brown under the grill until the almond paste turns light golden brown. 
  • Remove and leave to cool.

Serves: 6-8
Total Time: Prep Time: Cook Time: 2 hrs 30 mins 1 hrs 30 mins

by French Tart from

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Joie de Vivre's Siren School is observing Genie week, and we are joining in the theme with a simple and delicious recipe to top off the perfect Arabian night 

  • 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
  • 1 pound chopped nuts
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
  2. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
  3. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. 
  4. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. 
  5. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. 
  6. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
  7. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
  8. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. 
  9. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
  10. Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  11. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up

Nutritional Information
Yield: 18 servings
Amount Per Serving Calories: 393 | Total Fat: 25.9g | Cholesterol: 27mg

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Swedish Ice Box Cookies

With nearly everyone I know commenting on the chilly weather, it seemed an appropriate time to post this 'ice box' recipe.

"These cookies were a favorite of my Grandmother. We don't know where the recipe came from, but it's very old. Because of my Grandmother, our entire family loves these cookies. They are definitely an acquired taste but delicious! I am proud to be able to share this recipe with you, the world." Bret 261 (from

Original Recipe Yield: 4 to 5 dozen

  • 1 cup butter, softened  
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons caraway seed
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts

  1. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  
  2. In another medium bowl, combine the caraway seeds, flour and nuts. Add to the butter mixture and blend well.
  3. Form dough into a long roll and wrap with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Chill for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease baking sheet.
  5. Thinly slice the chilled dough and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Nutritional Information 
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 66 | Total Fat: 3.4g | Cholesterol: 15mg