Archive for the ‘Dessert Sauces’ Category
Nutella is a delicious – and addictive – chocolate hazelnut spread that is popular just about everywhere. As it has become more popular (here in the US, at least), I have noticed similar spreads popping up that feature different nuts. For instance, I’ve seen chocolate-peanut spreads and chocolate-almond spreads. I attribute the popularity of these other flavors to the popularity of these other nuts, as hazelnuts themselves aren’t nearly as commonly found in baked goods as peanuts, almonds or pecans are. That said, most nuts go very well with chocolate and I can pretty much guarantee that you would not be disappointed to find a jar of this homemade Chocolate Almond Spread in your kitchen.
The spread is made with almonds and milk chocolate, with a little bit of sugar, cocoa powder and salt to give it a little sweetness and depth. The whole thing is made in the food processor, and you’ll definitely need to use one to get a smooth, creamy texture in your spread. It is a lot like Nutella, but it has a mild almond flavor to it that goes very well with the milk chocolate. In short: it is simply delicious. You can use it just like Nutella, too, spreading it on pancakes, toast, cookies or just eating it with a spoon.
You can either toast the almonds yourself or buy them toasted, and you can use whole or sliced. I prefer to use almonds without skins since they turn out a (very) slightly smoother finished product, but it actually doesn’t make much of a difference and you won’t see the color of the skins in the spread if you choose to leave them on. If you need to smooth out your spread a little more, add in a little extra oil while the food processor is running, but otherwise you just need to be patient and let the spread blend for a few minutes. You’ll be well-rewarded in the end.
As long as it isn’t too warm out, I will typically keep a batch in an airtight container or jar and leave it on the counter in my kitchen for a few days. I can usually (with a little help!) eat through a batch within a week or so. The spread will firm up too much if you don’t keep it in an airtight container – and if that happens, you can warm it up in the microwave in a few seconds.
Bananas foster is a dessert that was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was named for Richard Foster, a friend of the owner. It is a dish where bananas are cooked in a caramel sauce made with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and rum, then served over vanilla ice cream. The dish is a hit because of its dramatic presentation. It was prepared tableside in the restaurant’s dining room, cooked over a portable burner. When the rum was added to the hot pan, the alcohol would immediately catch on fire and shoot up in a blaze of color. The flame would only last for a minute, while the alcohol burned off, then the bananas would be served.
The dessert became popular for the presentation, but it has stayed popular because bananas, butter, caramel and rum are a great combination. Bananas foster is a dessert that is very easy to make at home and it can still be just as dramatic to make if you have your family or friends gather around when you get to the rum part of the sauce. The classic recipe uses banana liqueur for extra banana flavor, but I prefer to add just a little vanilla extract to my version of bananas foster instead.
I make my bananas foster in a skillet, using a smaller one for this version and a larger one if I’m going to feed a crowd (the recipe can be doubled). First, I prepare the caramel, then toss in my sliced bananas. Slicing the bananas lengthwise gives the dish a classic look, but you can slice them into smaller rounds if you prefer. I cook them on both sides for a few minutes, then add in my rum. Be very careful when you do this. If your pan is very hot, the rum might catch fire on its own. If it doesn’t, just use a match or a lighter to give it a spark and you’ll have that brilliant alcohol flame in no time. The sauce cooks until the fire goes out, then it is ready to serve over vanilla ice cream.
If any cake recipe could inspire you to bake cakes a little more often, it should be this one. This Almond Cake is an easy, low maintenance cake that needs no special preparation and tastes delicious even when it is served plain. The finished cake has a dense, pound cake-like consistency and a tight, tender crumb. It has a good almond flavor, which I enhance slightly by adding a bit of almond extract in addition to vanilla. It goes with everything from chocolate to berries to a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar, so once you add it to your repertoire, you can serve it any number of ways.
This cake is a variation of similar cakes that I have seen Jacques Pepin on his shows over the years. Like him, I mix this cake up in the food processor and it takes no time at all. I always have ground almonds/almond meal in my pantry, and if you do too you can mix this up in a bowl without a food processor, but the processor comes in handy when you only have whole almonds and need to grind them down into the flour mixture for the cake. I usually bake the cake in a single layer, but it can also be split and filled with fresh berries, whipped cream or a berry compote, like the one I made here.
I topped this cake of with an incredibly easy blueberry compote that I make in the microwave. It can also be made in a saucepan, but as long as you have a good sized microwave safe bowl, it is very easy to do in the microwave. I combine blueberries (fresh or frozen) with a small amount of cornstarch and some blueberry preserves. The preserves add just a touch of sweetness and help give the compote a nice, thick consistency. Raspberry preserves can also be used and you’ll still get a strong blueberry flavor. I simply add a scoop of the compote onto each slice of cake before serving, and keep the leftovers for topping waffles, pancakes and other cakes.
Meyer lemons are a hybrid citrus fruit that are a cross between mandarin oranges and lemons. Meyer lemons have a bright lemon flavor, but are much less acidic than a regular lemon. This makes them seem a little sweeter, and their slightly milder flavor allows honey and floral notes to really come through in the juice. Meyer lemons can be used in recipes that call for regular lemons, and I put some to work in a batch of homemade Meyer Lemon Curd recently.
This curd is made just like your average lemon curd recipe – with eggs, lemon juice, sugar and butter – so it has a smooth, silky texture and a lot of flavor. Thanks to the Meyer lemons, it has a slightly sweeter and more complex flavor than some other lemon curds, although it still has plenty of zesty lemon flavor. It is delicious on its own, and makes a great accompaniment for vanilla scones or ice cream.
The butter stirred into this lemon curd and other fruit curds to finish them after cooking serves to make them even smoother and creamier than before. The butter also helps to thicken the curd up a little bit more. That said, I often make a Low Fat Lemon Curd that uses no butter at all, and you can actually omit the butter in this recipe if you are looking for a slightly lighter lemon indulgence.
Apple butter is a thick, smooth fruit puree made by slowly cooking fresh apples with sugar. It gets is name from the fact that the finished product is smooth as butter, not because there is any butter in it. There are many types of fruit butter out there, but apple butter is by far my favorite. Apples take very well to being turned into fruit butter and leave you with an amber-colored preserve that is bursting with sweet apple flavor.
My Homemade Apple Cider Butter is actually inspired by Smuckers Cider Apple Butter, which is a delicious product that the company only makes in the fall when apples are fresh from the orchard. It was actually the very product that launched the family-owned company back in 1897. Mine is made with lots of apples, apple cider and a mixture of brown and white sugar. The apples are cooked until they are tender, then pureed and cooked again with sugar until the butter-like finished consistency is achieved. Since you are cooking these apples down, the texture of the apples that you choose to work with doesn’t matter as much as it does when you are choosing apples for baking pie. You can use Granny Smith if you like tart apples or Fuji, which I tend to use.
I find that a blend of brown sugar and white sugar gives the preserve a real depth of flavor and is slightly reminiscent of apple pie – only more intense, because the mixture has been reduced by so much. I have used both plain apple cider and spiced apple cider in batches of apple butter with good results. Choose a good quality, all natural apple cider (or even apple juice) that you like the flavor of and you’ll be very happy with the results.
I use my homemade apple cider butter to top muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles and anything else I can think of pairing it with. I’ve warmed it up and put it on ice cream, and I’ve even turned it into an Apple Butter Pie. The rich apple flavor is sweet and addictive. This recipe doesn’t make a huge batch, so I simply store mine in an airtight container in the refrigerator as I use it (which doesn’t take long). If you are into canning, you could certainly can your cider butter after it has finished cooking and you can make a double batch if you want to have a lot of it on hand, or to give as gifts. If you don’t plan on canning, know that when stored in the fridge, a batch will keep well for at least two weeks.