Looking back, I feel so guilty. It was the late 60’s. I was in my teens–the years my Mom referred to as “my little hippy daughter’s crazy time.” For some reason I became obsessed with making homemade bread and culturing my own yogurt for the family. I made a loaf of fresh bread every single day and drove my family absolutely nuts in the process. I was convinced that if someone shut a door too forcefully or raised their voice too loudly while the bread was still in the oven, it could cause the bread to fall. That poor family. For one hour every single day, they had to tip-toe around and whisper until my loaf came out safe and sound. For some reason, they put up with it, and I don’t think the bread was even that good. That was just bread. Can you imagine what a mess I would have been had I obsessed over soufflé instead? Ah, soufflé. Whether savory or sweet, it’s one of those things that people tend to fret over. Will it puff up? Will it fall? Where did I go wrong? So when I came across a very old soufflé recipe in a school fundraising cookbook, I almost passed on it. But that would have been a huge mistake. This recipe for Broccoli Soufflé is about as delicious and fool-proof as it gets, and is now one of my very favorite veggie dishes. Interestingly, the recipe calls for heating the milk and adding chicken bouillon to it, which I had never heard of before. It added so much flavor to the dish that I wish I would have known about that technique years ago! Somebody knew what they were doing with this Broccoli Soufflé and I’ll bet they didn’t even drive their family crazy in the process.
It’s kind of like the cowboy who swaps out his black hat worn in fall and winter for a lighter color or straw hat for warmer seasons. So it is with desserts. As we approach summer we tend to move away from heavier, chocolaty desserts to lighter, brighter treats, and lemon is right there on top of the list. Recipes for Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Chiffon Cake, Lemon Squares, Lemon Tarts, Lemon Mousse and Lemon Cookies seem to come out of hibernation this time of year and appear regularly at Easter buffets, picnics and pool parties. Then there’s the luscious Lemon Angel Dessert with alternating layers of homemade lemon custard, angel food cake pieces and whipped cream. Light yet rich, it’s the perfect make-ahead dessert that can sit in the refrigerator for several days and it just gets better as it sits. There are tons of old-timey recipes for Lemon Angel Dessert where the egg yolks are cooked and the raw egg whites are folded in, which is a concern to many people. So, I was delighted to find this recipe for Lemon Angel Dessert that replaces the eggs whites with whipping cream. (The egg yolks are cooked with sugar and lemon juice.) By itself, the flavor and texture of angel food cake is unmistakable, but when layered and soaked with lemon custard and whipping cream, Lemon Angel Dessert is just pure heaven!
They’re too good. Too good for my own good! If you can imagine the perfect ginger snap or molasses cookie—only soft and chewy—these would come as close to the top of the list as you can get! Just my opinion, of course. But I can’t quit making them and I can’t quit eating them! The black pepper in this recipe threw me off just a bit, even though it’s just a half a teaspoon. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I sunk my teeth into this moist, full-of-flavor cookie, I realized exactly what the pepper contributed to the recipe—a cookie with a spicy kick and the perfect chew. In doing a little research about the Black Pepper Cookie, I discovered that just about every nationality has its own version on this scrumptious munchy. Now you have a recipe with the description that that is spoken is every language and culture on earth- “Mmmm!”
You get two Italians together and it’s not long before the conversation settles food and family. Thus began my friendship with Vinny Dejohn, who worked in the wine shop at Whole Foods when I met him. Getting his suggestions for a good vintage was great, but getting his vintage family recipe for an Italian fig cookie was even greater. It’s one of the most delightful and delicious Sicilian holiday treats called Cucidati. Thankfully, Vinny’s mission a few years ago was to rescue this recipe! “Great Auntie Antoinette Arnone was 93 years old when she died. Ten years ago during the holidays, I went back to New York and I made arrangements to spend time with Auntie Arnone and have her teach me how to make ‘Goog-i-dottie’ as she would call them. We spent all afternoon making the cookies. Not only did I leave with Cucidati, but also her hand-written recipe card and her grandmother’s meat grinder that she herself has been using to grind the fig mixture for 60 years! I was so appreciative of her for taking the time to pass along her recipe. I often think of those treasured moments together.” Vinny’s version of this soft, flavor filled fig cookie with icing and little colorful candies is now part of my own holiday tradition. What better way to honor my Sicilian father!
There’s something so wonderful about fall baking, and it all seems to kick off with pumpkin season! So here are three of my favorite cookies and bars with pumpkin as the star! Whether it’s for your Thanksgiving dessert table or Christmas cookie exchange, these treats will get you in the holiday spirit in the most delightful way!
One cake covered in edible cob webs. Another is strewn with white chocolate skeleton bones over a graveyard cake. A third cake is just scary inside and out. Here are three fun last minute cakes Halloween cakes. It’s never too late to scare up some fun!
Watch my Video for Spooky Cakes here!