Category Archives: Special Desserts

Streusel Coffee Cake

It seemed appropriate to have a really, really special coffee cake to start the day of college graduation.  I found this recipe and tweaked it a bit.  The promise was something akin to a Starbucks offering. I don’t know about taste, but Starbucks baked goods are in a class by themselves in presentation.  I was sold!

What I love about this recipe is it doesn’t take any unusual ingredients.  If you have the following on hand, you are 2 hours or so from coffee cake bliss!

All purpose flour–4 1/2 cups

Granulated sugar–approx. 2 1/3 cups

Brown Sugar–1 1/3 cups

Butter–1 cup (2 sticks)

Cinnamon–2 tablespoons

Greek Yogurt, plain (can use regular)–3/4 cup

Milk–1 1/4 cup

Eggs-3 large

Chocolate chips–white/dark chocolate, 1/3 cup each

vanilla & salt & baking powder & cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray.

Mix together for streusel topping:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together for filling:

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

For Cake:

Beat 3/4 cup butter until creamy in mixer.


1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar.  Beat into butter.  Add 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Now–beat in 3 eggs, ONE at a time. 

Whisk in a bowl:

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 3/4 cups flour

Whisk in a measuring cup:

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 1/4 cups milk

Okay, here’s the part that is a bit more work…you want to add about a third of the flour, BEAT, a third of the milk/yogurt, BEAT until you have added it all. 

I like to throw a towel over the mixer when adding flour so it doesn’t “fly” everywhere. 

When the batter looks like this

you are ready to assemble your cake

Put half the batter into your prepared pan

Sprinkle with filling and half of your chocolate chips–I did a black/white version–half with dark chocolate/half with white chocolate

Spread remaining batter onto filling/chips;swirl batter slightly with a knife to incorporate filling

Sprinkle with topping

Sprinkle remaining chips on top

Bake a full 60 minutes.  Check with a toothpick into the middle to make sure it’s done.

Let cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.

Cut and serve from pan.



This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday:


Thanks to Baker Chick for the inspiration:


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Filed under Breads and such, Breakfast, Eating well, Special Desserts, Tea time

Silky Smooth Chocolate Ice Cream

Wow.  I had no idea.  You can make the smooth on your tongue, blissful ice cream without eggs!  Although S. is famous for her egg-tempered ice cream, I, on the other hand, dread those recipes and have mostly avoided doing those kinds of ice cream recipes, favoring Peanut Butter or cream cheese recipes that don’t require near the patience.  On a summer visit, S. left me a copy of Saveur magazine and within it’s pages was a beautiful article on homemade ice cream by Jeni of “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home“.  Wow, again.  So here’s the method and the recipe.  Be amazed it can be so simple to have something this wonderful, this easy.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Place 3 tablespoons cream cheese in a small bowl and let warm to room temperature.

Whisk together in a small bowl:

1/4 cup whole milk

4 teaspoons cornstarch

This will be called a “slurry”.

Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together:

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1 3/4 cup whole milk

Add 2/3 cup sugar

Pour in 2 tablespoon corn syrup

Blend in 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pour this mixture into 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook for 4 minutes. Use your timer.

Stir in your slurry.

Bring back to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes, until thickened.

Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the cream cheese.

Whisk until smooth.

Blend together.

At this point, you have a plain ice cream base….I couldn’t resist adding my favorite chocolate to the recipe.

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Stir until chocolate is fully incorporated.

Pour ice cream base into a Ziploc freezer bag.  This is a messy without some help to keep the bag open while you pour, just letting you know :).  Submerge sealed bag in a bowl full of ice water.

When mixture is fully chilled,  process in your ice cream maker.


Did I say “Wow”?


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Filed under Eating well, Special Desserts

‘Almost Instant’ Chocolate Pudding

When it’s time to use up that whole milk in the ‘frig’, not many things sound better than warm chocolate pudding. Making your own hardly takes more time than the processed boxed variety.  S. found this recipe for us and it’s become an almost weekly favorite.  I have simplified it even further with these instructions:

Chocolate Pudding

Mix together with whisk in top pan of a double boiler:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Slowly whisk in 1 cup cold whole milk

When blended, add:

2 more cups whole milk, warmed in the microwave.

Whisk occasionally to prevent lumps; simmer over medium heat until thickened–15-20 minutes–just enough time to tidy the kitchen :).

Now, with a heatproof spatula, add 4-6 ounces of broken bits of bittersweet chocolate

and swirl until melted.

Remove from heat; add one teaspoon vanilla.

Serve immediately :).

Can you tell I am into comfort food these days???



Filed under Grain Free, Special Desserts

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I hope you have someone as nice as S. in your life to buy you a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I have scarcely bought a carton of ice cream since.  This is one of our favorite ice creams to make–it takes no cooking, like custard ice creams–3 minutes to mix in the blender, a chill in the refrigerator, 25 minutes in the maker and bliss–peanut butter ice cream – try it on blueberry flapjacks— a wonderful breakfast for a special occasion.

Put in your blender:

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use old fashioned or the kind you need to mix)

3/4 cup sugar

2 2/3 cup half and half

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Process until smooth.

Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Churn in ice cream maker.



(from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)


Filed under Breakfast, Snacks, Special Desserts

Luscious Lava Cake

A small celebration was in order.  The first semester of full-time college completed.   The question was posed–what sort of dessert would you like?  Answer:  chocolate “cake” with the inside that melts.   It was quick, easy and absolutely luscious.

Lava Cake~

Makes four small cakes in about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat two room temperature extra large eggs with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup (2.25 ounces) sugar for about 5 minutes, until it looks like this:

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour.

Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and 4 ounces Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips–you can use the microwave on 50% power……check after 2 minutes, continue to cook in 30 second increments until it can be stirred smooth–up to 4 minutes total or you can use a double boiler/pan over warm water.

Gently fold two mixtures together.

Pour into four small ramekins you have sprayed with PAM and floured (next time I would use cocoa powder for a nicer look) and place into a baking pan.

Bake until set but still jiggly in the middle, about 13 minutes.

Loosen sides with a knife or metal spatula and turn onto plate.  Let sit one minute.

Remove ramekin using a hot pad!

Top with whipped cream :).

A special dessert for that special occasion.  Yum.

(This recipe is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes. )



Filed under Special Desserts

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Cookies have always been my comfort food of choice. Cookies are the ideal dessert/snack; portable, easy to eat, sweet enough for dessert but can sub for a breakfast and everyone loves them. I love experimenting and trying new cookie recipes, like the toffee cookies posted a few days ago (they look delicious). Sometimes, however, you just want an traditional chocolate chip cookie, hot from the oven with a glass of ice cold milk. I believe that is how Nestle has made their millions? (of course I haven’t bought nestle products in years – read the boycott information if you want to know why).

So back to the perfect cookie; cookies, to me, are nearly impossible to screw up. I often make cookies for social gatherings and work functions because there are minimal variables that can cause a dessert disaster. I was surprised to hear, on a cooking show not long ago, that cookies are considered one of the most difficult dessert items to perfect. Perhaps I have just been baking them too long that I have forgotten or blocked the failures 🙂

In any event, I wanted to share a few things that I have learned over the years to make the chocolate chip cookies that beat out Nestle Tollhouse every. single. time.

Top 10 secrets to the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

1) Find a favorite recipe and stick with it! I use the (du-du-dumm) Betty Crocker recipe. It’s so easy I have it memorized and it *always* turns out.  Every time. This recipe produces a cookie that is neither too flat or too tall, chewy but slightly crisp around the edges and has the perfect dough to chocolate chip ratio. I’ve tried several dozen recipes and I always come back to this one. So now I stick with it. Its not going to make any ‘healthy’ food choice list but it will satisfy your craving for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie

2) Use quality, fresh ingredients. The single most important of these is real butter – not margarine or shortening or anything else made from a long list of chemicals (I kid.. sort of).  I can always pick out cookies made with margarine and they have an ‘off’ taste. Butter is the way to go, trust me. Other ingredients to pay special attention to, if you don’t bake often, are flour and baking powder. If you haven’t baked since last December, I would recommend tossing your baking powder and flour and spending the $5 to get new ingredients – it is worth it.

3) Line your baking pans with parchment paper! Your cookies will never stick to the pan again and it dramatically improves (in my opinion) the crisp edge versus chewy center dynamic. I use this brand but any brand will work – silicone coated is preferred.

4) Plan ahead and let your cold ingredients come to room temperature (butter and eggs). Depending on the ambient temperature of your kitchen this can take anywhere from 1-4 hours. The microwave works in a pinch to soften butter but its unpredictable. If you live in a warm climate (like I do) make sure you don’t let your butter over-soften or your cookie wont be ‘as’ perfect.

5) Pay special attention to the taste of your chocolate chips – resist the urge to buy the store brand that is on sale for $1.79 unless you have tasted them and know the chocolate is good quality. My favorite brands of chocolate chips are Trader Joe’s brand, Safeway/Vons Organic chocolate chips and Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips (I don’t have access to Trader Joe’s or Safeway in South Carolina so I try to stock up on Ghirardelli when it is on sale, like around the holidays).

6) Watch the cookies carefully and note the perfect timing for your oven – it might be less, more or the same as what is written on the recipe. Also, for my oven, even if I wait until it is properly preheated per the oven, the first pan usually takes about 1 minute longer then the subsequent pans of cookies.

7) Don’t cheat and try to bake multiple pans of cookies at the same time! The pan on the bottom will be too dark on the bottom and the top wont brown. Stick with 1 pan at a time, placed in the center of the rack that is in the middle position in the oven. I keep my pizza stone on the bottom rock of the oven that is said to help with heat distribution (I haven’t noticed a difference but I don’t have anywhere else to store my pizza stone so it stays in the oven)

8 ) Mix in the chocolate chips (and nuts, if you prefer) by hand. I confess, I often skip this step as I am inevitably making chocolate cookies at 10 pm on a work night but it does create a superior texture to put the extra effort into mixing in the chocolate chips by hand.

9) Practice, practice, practice! Find people who like cookies and bake for them often. I probably bake 3-4 batches of cookies per month during baking season (for me, that means when it isn’t 90+ outside and I can stand to have the oven on!). I have my stand-by recipes but I also experiment. You will learn your own little trick by doing and it helps to have a husband that ‘loves’ chocolate cookies, almost as much as I do.

10) And the final secret to a perfect chocolate chip cookie – do your taste test straight from the oven with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

Happy Baking!!!!



Filed under Special Desserts

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

If you have been following our blog, you have figured out that our family likes  peanut butter almost as much as chocolate.   Most brownies are chocolate but this recipe–one I have made for well  over 30 years–has both.  There is something especially satisfying about swirls.  Easy but looks impressive.   Also, it boasts whole wheat flour in the original, not just substituted as S and I usually do.  These seldom last the evening and are a great choice for that “what could I make that’s simple, fast, has some redeeming nutritional qualities but still meets the sweet tooth craving???”  I hope you enjoy them as much as we have–with a glass of milk, of course.

Marbled Peanut-Butter Brownies

2/3 cup whole-wheat  flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 squares semisweet chocolate or 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled

Mix flour, baking powder and salt;  set aside ( a whisk works well).

In mixer or by hand, cream peanut butter, butter and brown sugar until light.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy.  Stir in flour mixture just to blend.

Spread in greased 8 inch baking pan.

Drizzle on chocolate, then with table knife swirl into batter to marbleize.

Bake in 350 degree oven 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack.

My copy of this recipe, tattered and worn,  says  “Woman’s Day/September 27, 1978″……..some recipes stay with you for their simplicity and goodness.  This one certainly qualifies on both those counts.


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Filed under Special Desserts, Tea time