Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

Growing up in the 1980s, tiramisu was ubiquitous at dinner parties and on restaurant menus.  And I consumed my share of them.  (With a Shirley Temple in my other hand, of course.  I wanted a “drink” like the adults.)  But in the intervening decades, my parents rarely ordered or prepared the Italian dessert – they were turned on to (and, hence, turned off by) the raw eggs and copious of heavy cream and mascarpone.  These days, I don’t come upon tiramisu often but when I do, I can’t deny a few bites of the Italian-American favorite.   

I can’t recall with certainty how or when I dreamt up this recipe.  I was thinking about tiramisu – and thinking that my husband doesn’t share my affinity for coffee and liquer-infused desserts.  Feeling (momentarily) indifferent about typical American dessert flavors, this idea was conceived.  Here, the ladyfingers are soaked in sweetened green tea and sandwiched between rich mascarpone cheese and nutty, sweet red bean paste.  Matcha powder is sifted between layers and atop the dessert as both a bitter counterpoint to the sweetened layers and as a garnish. 

How was it, you ask?  The texture of the dessert is much like a traditional tiramisu – creamy with a softened, moist cake layer.  There is a richness and creaminess from the mascarpone, a nutty sweetness from the adzuki bean paste, and a slightly bitter (but refreshing) contrast from the green tea.  Frankly, if you enjoy the flavors of green tea and red bean you’ll find this delightful – and addicting.  If the flavors aren’t your cup of tea (ha!), may I suggest lemon, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate for your sweet tooth? 

Matcha Tiramisu with Adzuki Red Bean and Mascarpone, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen


1 cup boiling water + 1 tbsp macha powder + sugar (to taste).
16 Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Matcha powder for dusting
1 cup (1/2 pound) mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese, or vegan cream cheese)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar 
2 tbsp matcha powder for dusting
1/2 cup adzuki bean paste (thinned with a few tablespoons of water)


  1. Beat cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Fold in mascarpone.
  2. Pour 1 tbsp matcha and water mixture in a shallow bowl.  
  3. Dip both sides of half of the ladyfingers in the espresso and use them to line the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish.  Dust the ladyfingers with matcha powder.
  4. Spoon a third of the adzuki bean pasta atop the ladyfingers and spread in a smooth, even layer.  Follow with the mascarpone mixture.  Repeat with ladyfingers, adzuki, and mascarpone.  (End with the mascarpone.)
  5. Cover and refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Just before serving, sift the matcha powder over the top of the tiramisu.

Note:  Tiramisu can be refrigerated up to 2 days.


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I thought long about whether I should post a recipe for Mother’s Day.  I figured anything you prepare (or buy) for a Mom in your life is thoughtful and appreciated and I probably don’t have anything out of the ordinary to help mark the occasion.  But I came across a lovely cheesecake that made me think of my Mom.  If you don’t fancy a story, scroll to the end and you’ll find a beautifully pink, slightly healthier, and oh-so-light-and-delicious triple strawberry cheesecake.  More than sharing the recipe though, I felt it was important to leave a story for Rice Kernel to read when he gets (much) older.

Some days it’s difficult for me to imagine myself as a Mom.  I’m a fairly free-range parent.  I strive to be consistently strict on certain things but, with a toddler, our days are carefree with laughter and play.  At heart, I’m much more a child than I am a mother.  So when Mother’s Day comes around, my thoughts inevitably shift to my Mom and my M.O.M. (“my other mom,” aka my mother-in-law).

It sounds cliche, but my mother was my best friend.  Was, I say, because she passed away when I was 19.  The selfish part of me still hurts that she’s not around today – that she couldn’t see me through college, graduate school, marriage, and the birth of my son.  With every passing Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death, my anger softens and I feel blessed that I had 19 more years than other children have with their mothers.

To me, my mother will always be perfect.  She grew up with means, but lived a selfless and humble life.  She taught me to be grateful, to be patient, to be generous, and to love.  She had a soft temperament and never raised her voice.  Through years of school, violin lessons, piano lessons, swimming lessons, etc. she taught me to work hard, but always worried more that I was enjoying what I was doing and getting enough sleep.  She trusted me and, in turn, she was always my confidant.  I can’t describe how I felt when she passed.  Suffice to say, I cried myself to sleep for many nights, for many years.  But with her passing, I gained another mom.

My M.O.M.  “My other Mom.”  My mother-in-law.  I rarely introduce her as my mother-in-law because, for over a decade, she has been my Mom.  My two Moms shared a friendship for a few years, as my husband and I attended high school together.  And I know that wherever my mother may be today, she is grateful my M.O.M. is in my life. 

In a period of my life where I was mourning, learning to love, and becoming a young woman, my M.O.M. was a breath of sunshine.  Throughout college, she was my penpal – we exchanged long emails almost weekly.  We connected easily and left no rock unturned in our correspondence.  Carefree at heart, she made me laugh and taught me to enjoy the little things in life.   We had lunch dates when I returned from college, shopping trips, and movie dates.  When my husband and I became engaged, I leaned on her during our year-long wedding planning.  Although we were cities apart, we shared the experience together.  From dress shopping to venue selection, to wedding planner interviews, food tastings, flower viewings, linen decisions, cake tastings, makeup/hair trials, invitations, party favors, and yet more rounds of menu tasting… I felt so fortunate to have her.  My husband was involved but it didn’t feel right without her motherly perspective.  On the day of the wedding, my bridesmaids went off to the salon for hair, makeup, and nails.  The salon came to me.  And M.O.M.  She was the only person I needed before my walk down the aisle.

Years later, when my son was born, my M.O.M. cared for me in ways only a mother can.  She and my Dad spent alternating weekdays with me, making certain I was rested and fed and just keeping me company.  In her calm, never overbearing demeanor, she stocked me with the essentials she knew a new mother would need.  I will never thank her enough for the emotional and physical help she provided in that first year. 

These days, I see my M.O.M. a couple times a week.  Every Sunday we have a family lunch or dinner.  We catch up on gossip and life.  Inevitably Rice Kernel will tell his grandmother to stop talking to me… that we talk too much and that we should focus on playing with him.  My M.O.M. and I laugh and shake our heads.  But, really, I can only hope that Rice Kernel and I will have the depth of relationship and love that I had with my mom and continue to share with my M.O.M. 

So to all the Moms –  a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day. 

On a lighter note.  This is a strawberry cheesecake.  Not a plain cheesecake topped with strawberries.  And not a plain cheesecake with a swirl of strawberry puree.  Fresh strawberries are infused throughout this cheesecake – in the base, with an extra swirl of fresh puree, and with sliced fruit perched atop the lovely pink cake.  (For serious strawberry afficionados, consider making extra puree or strawberry coulis to drizzle atop the cheesecake.)  I’m crazy about this cake.  So crazy Rice Kernel and I had to eat some warm from the oven.  (In case you’re curious, it’s warm and mousse-like.)  Tall, light, creamy, and full of freshness, it will make any strawberry lover swoon. 

Strawberry Cheesecake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake from Baking: From my Home to Yours (via The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Rice Kernel's request: I want the BIGGEST strawberry!

1½ cups graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Earth Balance, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages reduced fat cream cheese or Neufchatel, at room temperature
1⅓ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup strawberry puree, divided


  1. Place washed and hulled strawberries in a blender (about 1½ cups whole) and puree until smooth.  Place through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
  2. For the crust:  Spray the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick spray.  Either grind the graham crackers with a food processor or place them in a ziptop bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Add sugar, salt, and butter to the crumbs and stir until evenly mixed.  Press the crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom of the prepared pan.  Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the crust for 7-10 minutes, until fragrant.  Let cool on a wire rack, then wrap the bottom of the pan in foil.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  4. For the cheesecake:  With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed until smooth.  Add the sugar and salt; continue mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one a time, mixing just until each one is incorporated. Mix in ½ cup of the strawberry puree.
  5. Pour the batter onto the cooled crust.  Spoon the remaining strawberry puree over the batter and use a butter knife to gently swirl it.  Place the wrapped springform pan into roasting pan; pour the hot water into the roasting pan.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon; let the cheesecake set in the water bath for another hour.  Remove the cheesecake from the hot water and let it come to room temperature on a cooling rack.  When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours.

Strawberry Coulis


2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice


  1. Combine strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in blender. Purée until very smooth. 
  2. Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

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If you have day-old Bioche, this is the perfect way to enliven the stale, but decadent, bread.  The French created this recipe to use up leftover Brioche by painting it with orange syrup and almond paste and then baking it until golden and crisp.  The combination of almond and orange imparts incredibly bright flavors.  At the San Francisco shop Patisserie Philippe, their bostocks are also topped with beautiful, thinly-sliced apples.  Serve it for breakfast, tea, or for an unexpected dessert.


Patisserie Philippe's rendition.


Bioche bread, thickly sliced (or challah bread)

Almond Cream

    1/2 cup almond paste
    4 tbsp butter (at room temperature)
    1/4 cup flour
    1 egg
    1/4 tsp almond extract
    1/2 tsp fiori di sicilia (orange-flower water), optional


    1/4 cup sugar
    zest from half an orange
    1/2 cup sliced almonds
    1/2 apple, sliced almost paper-thin


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Make the almond cream: cream together the butter, almond paste, flour, egg and almond extract in a food processor until smooth and set aside.
  3. For the topping, combine the sugar, orange zest, and almonds.
  4. Spread the almond cream (about 2 tbsp) on a slice of bread.  Arrange a thin layer of apples atop the cream.  Liberally paint the sugar topping (with a pastry brush) and sprinkle sliced almonds.  Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, until crisp and golden.  Serve warm.


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Several large storms sidelined our trip to Lake Tahoe this past weekend.  We were planning to go with friends who, earlier in the week, had stocked up on groceries in anticipation of the the trip.  (Four boys and two sets of parents.  Plenty of mouths to feed.)  With the trip cancelled and the skies fully opened and dumping rain in the Bay Area, we decided to have pajama day and a potluck.  I threw open the pantry and knew this would be the perfect rainy day dessert.

Mochi is sweet glutinous rice flour.  Someone probably intended to call it “gluttonous” rice flour but mispelled it.  It is the key ingredient and it cannot be substituted.  Really, no substitutions.  I used Koda Farms Mochiko, which is a Japanese American family-owned farm in California.  You can find it in most grocery and health food stores (it’s gluten free), including Safeway and Whole Foods.  It’s great for savory or sweet dishes and is often used as a thickening agent. 

The preparation of this cake is as simple as it gets – dump, whisk, and bake.  It does take significantly longer than a standard cake in the oven, however, clocking in at one and a half hours.  Place it in the oven, walk away, and enjoy the sweet custard smell permeate the house. 

The result is delicious in taste and texture.  The coconut milk and eggs add a rich, creamy flavor and the texture is delicately chewy with a crunchy edge.  FHE suggested a topping or filling and my neighbors concurred.  (FHE topped his share with pistachio gelato tonight.)  To stay with the Asian profile, next time I’ll add a middle layer of red bean paste and a green tea frosting.  But even in pure form, good luck practicing self-restraint when faced with a pan of these chewy bars.  It’s not easy.  What is easy is whipping up a batch.  Which I encourage you to do. 

Sweet Rice-Flour and Coconut Cake, adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2005


3 cups mochiko (sweet glutinous rice flour; 1 lb)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (14-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk (I used low-fat; the original recipe calls for full-fat)
4 large eggs (original recipe uses 5, but I found it a bit too eggy)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk together coconut milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla in another bowl.  Add coconut mixture to flour mixture, whisking until batter is combined.
  3. Pour batter into an ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking pan, smoothing top, and bake until top is golden and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.  Cut mochi into 24 squares before serving.  Leftovers will keep, covered and chilled, 3 days.

Matcha Green Tea Frosting, adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop


2 sticks butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip butter until fluffy.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cream and matcha until well combined.
  3. To the electric mixer, add 1 cup sugar and beat until combined. Scrape down bowl, then add 1/3 of the cream-matcha mixture. Beat to combine, scrape down bowl, then add another cup of sugar. Continue alternating until you have used up all of the remaining ingredients. Turn the mixer to high, and whip until frosting is light and fluffy.
  4. Top on fully cooled cake.


Red Bean Filling

1 jar Red Bean Paste (found at Asian supermarkets)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream


  1. Whip ingredients together until a frosting-like consistency is reached.  Add additional sugar if necessary.
  2. After preparing the cake batter, spoon 2/3 of the batter in the pan.  Then carefully add the red bean filling.  Top with remaining 1/3 of the batter.  Bake as directed.

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I’ve had my eyes on this cake for a long while.  With antioxidant-rich blueberries, vitamin-packed citrus, whole grains, and protein-, calcium-, and probiotic-rich yogurt …. oh who am I kidding, the health benefits of this loaf are but a footnote.  I mean, the original recipe is one of Ina Garten’s most famous!  In Ina’s language that means, (1) “how bad can that be?” and (2)” how good can it be for your waistline?”  All kidding aside, this is a great snack cake to keep around when a craving for sweets occurs (which tends to happen regularly in this household) – and partly because it can be made less sinful. 

Rice Kernel decided to skip his afternoon nap today so I enlisted his help.  Not a bad idea, per se.  Let’s just say my “helper” made a few unexpected modifications.  First, he claimed the alluring container of full-fat yogurt I had purchased for the recipe (we only buy Fage 0%).  Thinking I better pick my battles wisely with a sleep-deprived toddler, I let him have it.  I could see his expression: “Why have you kept this rich goodness from me?!”  While he was eating, I grated and squeezed some lemons.  In the time I threw away the peels, Rice Kernel decided the yogurt in the mixing bowl (for the cake) needed some citrus.  And, in a heartbeat, the cake inherited fat-free yogurt and an extra 1/3 of a cup of liquid.  New motto: baking is an art, not science. 

Despite the personalizations, our loaf was delectable.  The inclusion of yogurt  and oil create a moist, custard-like center with a tender crust.  (Ours was probably a bit more cheesecake-like, rather than poundcake-like, with the substitution of nonfat yogurt and additional liquid.)  The blueberries and lemon add a tart and refreshing lightness.  If you prefer the taste of oranges, grapefruits, or limes to lemons, don’t hesitate to make the substitution.  This cake can handle your imagination – poppy seeds, raspberries, nuts, chocolate.  Utterly simple and versatile, this cake will certainly become a part of your repertoire.

(Will report on my Orange Creamsicle (Popsicle) and Orange Olive Oil Pignolia Nut versions of this cake soon!)

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Cake, from Smitten Kitchen, with minor adjustments


    1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat will make the tender cake a bit too tough)
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup plain yogurt (we used non-fat; full-fat was used in the original recipe)
    1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of agave nectar (or 1 cup granulated sugar)
    3 extra large eggs
    2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil)
    1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
    1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil.  Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.
  4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack.  Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan.  While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better).  Cool.

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Last pumpkin post of the Spring.  I promise.  Because (1) I’ve used up the remainder of the pumpkin from the pumpkin chili and pumpkin loaf recipes and (2) I cleaned out the pantry and there are absolutely no more cans left over from Thanksgiving.  I have to say, though, we saved the best for last – these little gems are guilt-free and melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious!

These Pumpkin Clouds are cookie-shaped but taste soft, ethereal, and cakey.  They are full of pumpkin flavor, with just the right amount of rich chocolate to add some decadence. 

The little cakelets are a pinch to make and healthy and delicious to boot.  I can’t be the only one with a forgotten can of pumpkin in the back of the pantry.  But if I am, I suggest you buy a can – I will be doing so shortly.

Pumpkin Clouds, adapted from La Fuji Mama


    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
    1 egg, beaten (or vegan egg-substitute)
    1 cup pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
    1 tsp milk
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup white whole wheat flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1 cup chocolate chips (I used mini – thought the bigger chunks might interrupt the soft texture too much)
    1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and oil, then blend in egg, pumpkin, milk, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour with rest of dry ingredients, then blend into wet mixture. 
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by tablespoons onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Note:  The flavors are so good we whipped up half the recipe and placed it in a loaf pan.  The result is a denser version of the cookie clouds.  For a loaf, bake 45-50 minutes.

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Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Sometimes you don’t want chocolate for dessert.  Who am I kidding.  It’s rare I pass up chocolate… unless it has dried fruit in it.  I don’t do dried fruit.  So I eat the chocolate that surrounds the shriveled fruit and spit out the remainder.  Sorry for the image.  And for wasting.  But I love chocolate.  Unfortunately for me, my guests (and husband and family) do not always share my enthusiasm.  I could feign ignorance, whip up some chocolate delight and say, “Oh no.  You’re not in the mood for chocolate?  Sorry, I’ll know better next time.”  But that would set a poor example for Rice Kernel, right? 

Well, there’s no need to tell a whopper with these lemon cheesecake bars.  They are creamy, cool, and deliciously, refreshingly tart – with the bonus of a buttery sweet cookie to offer some substance and crunch.  I promise you’ll be asking, “Chocolate, who?”

Lemon Cheesecake Bars



    1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups flour
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Cream cheese layer

    8 oz package of cream cheese
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg

Lemon Layer

    4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I’ve heard an equal amount of honey adds a different sweetness.  Have you tried?)
    2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    2/3 cup flour



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13 baking sheet.
  2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl.  Add flour and salt until just mixed.  Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Leave the oven on.
  3. For the cream cheese layer, whisk together the ingredients.  Pour into hot crust.
  4. For the lemon layer, whisk together the ingredients.  Gently pour over the cream cheese layer.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The filling should be just set in the center. 
  6. Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate. 
  7. To serve, cut into squares or triangles.  Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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