Category Archives: Sweet Stuff

Cook’s Illustrated rates Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans can impart a much deeper and more complex vanilla flavor to a custard or other dessert than vanilla extract, but while any vanilla bean is better than none, not all vanilla beans offer the same flavors. They range in quality and price, and in a recent issue (July/Aug 2011) the test kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated set out to test five different brands of ... Read More »

How long do vanilla beans last?

Vanilla Beans in Sugar

Vanilla beans are a pricey ingredient prized by bakers and cooks because nothing imparts vanilla flavor like seeds scraped straight from a fresh vanilla pod. I usually have a few vanilla beans on hand and, like so many other deal-hunting bakers, I try to replenish my supply when I find a good deal on bulk vanilla beans (the holidays are a great time to stock ... Read More »

How to make Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream on a whisk

Whipped cream is a great way to finish off just about any dessert, adding a light sweetness to contrast with rich berry flavors and intense chocolate ones. For many, using whipped cream means picking up a can from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. This isn’t a bad solution in a pinch (I know I’ve used it many times), but making your own whipped ... Read More »

Sof’ella Gourmet Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix, reviewed

Sof'ella Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix

Not every cake mix is going to appeal to me, but the gourmet mixes that use all natural ingredients tend to catch my eye and get me wondering how they compare to real, homemade baked goods. I’ve tried some mixes with great results, and others with more mixed feelings. This Sof’ella Gourmet Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix is a little bit unusual because it is ... Read More »

What is panna cotta?

Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is a dessert that shows up on restaurant menus a lot more than it does in home kitchens, but the simple dish is one that is very easy to make at home. Panna cotta, or “cooked cream” in Italian, is a dessert that consists of a lightly sweetened cream mixture that is set with a small amount of gelatin. The gelatin allows the ... Read More »

The fight to remove palm oil from Girl Scout Cookies

If I were to meet them in person, I would give Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva each a big batch of my homemade Girl Scout cookies because they are trying to change the way that the Girl Scout organization bakes their iconic Girl Scout cookies. These two girls set to work on a project to raise awareness of endangered orangutans and how their ... Read More »

What is a whoopie pie?

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are a dessert that consists of two cake-like cookies sandwiching a creamy, frosting-like filling. It is easy to think of them as a more portable version of a cupcake, where the frosting is inside of the cake and there is no wrapper to contend with. They’re generally thought to have originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country as an Amish dessert, but the exact origin ... Read More »

What is guava paste?

Guava Paste

Guava paste is an ingredient that pops up in many Cuban, Caribbean and South American recipes, and seems to be popping up more often in markets in the US. This specialty ingredient, also known as goiabada or pasta de guayaba, is basically candied guava puree. It is made by cooking together guava fruit and sugar until it is very, very thick and then leaving the ... Read More »

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