Wednesday, 22 December 2010


For Christmas, I always make at least one tiramisu, which I bring to my cousin's house. It has become something of a tradition, and I thought I'd share the recipe, since it always goes over so well. It is one of those things that is slightly labor-intensive, but so worth it. It is also one of those things that is heavily customizable, especially with regard to the choice of liquor used.

Tiramisu is a delectable dessert made of cookies dipped in coffee and liquor layered with sweetened mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is a fresh triple-cream cheese, that is to say, a cheese that is over 75% butterfat by dry weight. In fact, it is not a true cheese at all, since it is not make with any rennet or starter, it is closer to a clotted cream. The process used to make it is most similar to the process used to make yogurt.

Although there are many town in Italy that claim to be the birthplace of tiramisu, the first documented mention of the dessert only dates to 1971.

There are a lot of varieties of mascarpone cheeses to choose from, especially around the holidays. I like Bel Gioioso the best, but see what is available in your local supermarket. I don't recommend it if you can find true mascarpone, but you can substitute regular cream cheese using the following method: 16oz cream cheese beaten with 1/3C sour cream and 1/4C heavy cream until smooth. But trust me, try to find the real deal if you can.

Start off by taking your yolks and sugar, and placing them in a heat-resistant bowl. You need to temper the yolks, so set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk continually until the temp of the yolks is 160F.

Then, place the yolks and sugar mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for several minutes until pale and fluffy.

Add in the mascarpone, and beat until combined.

Now, it is time to whip egg whites. Do this in a separate bowl, I normally use my hand mixer.  You can use regular egg whites if you wish, but I use the pasteurized whites for safety reasons.

If you decide to use pasteurized whites as well, use a tablespoon of merengue powder, to help them whip. Pasteurized whites definitely do not whip as nicely as regular whites.

Whip the whites until fluffy. This is easy in the case of regular whites, just fold them into the cheese when stiff peaks form.  However, fluffy is a relative term with pasteurized whites -- the bubbles will be really small, and they will triple in volume. For pasteurized whites, scoop fluffed whites from the top -- the bottom is hard to whip and will stay liquidy, so you will have to beat and scoop several times.

If there is a tablespoon or so of pasteurized whites that won't whip, don't worry. Just leave it in the bowl and don't mix it into the cheese.

Fold the whites into the cheese.

In the meantime, brew coffee -- about 30oz, or 5-6oz cups.

Put it into something that will be easy for you to dip from later. I use an 9"x13" pyrex casserole dish. To the coffee, add 2 tbls of espresso powder and 4 tbls sugar, plus 1/2C liquor.

I normally use a combination of brandy and chocolate liquor, but you can choose whatever you like.

Now, open your packages of ladyfingers. I prefer the hard imported dry ones with a tiny bit of sugar on top, not the soft and spongy ones.

Carefully, dip your ladyfingers into the coffee/liquor mixture. I do this with a fork supporting the bottom of the cookie. I dunk it in, flip it over, and then lift it out. Only leave it in for a few seconds, it absorbs quickly!

Layer the bottom of the pan you want to make your tiramisu in with the soaked ladyfingers. I make mine in a 9"x13"x3" so it will be high enough for 2 layers. But, you can make it in whatever you want.

After the ladyfingers go down, spread half the cheese mixture over them, covering completely. I ladle my cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, it is pretty liquidy at this point.

Sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder over the cheese. You can also use dark chocolate cocoa or whatever else you have on hand.

Then, repeat! Ladyfingers:



Then, store it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, although overnight is best. Let those flavors mingle and get happy.

The next day before you cut into it and serve it, sprinkle a little fresh cocoa powder on it.

Then, slice and serve.

This recipe is fantastic. It is very basic, very traditional, and huge on taste! Using pasteurized whites means that the final cheese filling is slightly less-structured than if you had just used regular whites, but it is a trade-off with safety, since you can't temper the whites. Whether to go pasteurized or regular whites is a decision I leave to you.

You can also use whichever liquor you like. My favorite is brandy and chocolate liquor, but I have on occasion used all chocolate liquor, as well as a mix of dark and white chocolate liquors. You could even use something a little non-traditional: Kahlua, Bailey's or Frangelico spring to mind. The cheese is a neutral taste, so anything that pairs well with coffee and chocolate will do well in this recipe. You can even leave it out all together if you wish, and add a little vanilla or coffee flavoring syrup to the coffee if you want a non-alcoholic version.

Whatever you decide, this recipe will be a great addition to your holiday dessert table!

(Printable Recipe)

For cheese filling

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1.5 lbs mascarpone cheese
  • 1 C pasteurized egg whites plus 1 tbls merenge powder or 3/4 C egg whites

For coffee/cookie layers

  • 30oz strong brewed coffee
  • 2 tbls instant espresso powder
  • 4 tbls sugar
  • 1/4 C brandy
  • 1/4 C chocolate liquor
  • 1 package ladyfingers
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting.


  1. Place and sugar in a heat-resistant bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk continually until the temp of the yolks is 160F.
  2. Place the yolks and sugar mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for several minutes until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add in the mascarpone, and beat until combined.
  4. Whip whites in second bowl until peaks form.  See blog for additional notes about pasteurized whites.If you decide to use pasteurized whites as well, use a tablespoon of merengue powder as well, to help them whip. 
  5. Fold the whites into the cheese.
  6. In the meantime, brew coffee -- about 30oz, or 5-6oz cups. 
  7. Put it into something that will be easy for you to dip from later. 
  8.  To the coffee, add 2 tbls of espresso powder and 4 tbls sugar, plus 1/2C liquor.
  9. Carefully, dip ladyfingers into the coffee/liquor mixture. Only leave it in for a few seconds, it absorbs quickly!
  10. Layer the bottom of the pan you are using with the soaked ladyfingers.
  11. After the ladyfingers go down, spread half the cheese mixture over them, covering completely. 
  12. Sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder over the cheese. 
  13. Then, repeat for a second layer, ending with cocoa
  14. Cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight
  15. Next day, sprinkle extra cocoa on before serving

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Recipe Rifle is on holiday

I mean, if you call being ill and the size of a house a HOLIDAY.

But I'll be back in 2011 with:


Monday, 20 December 2010

Peanut Butter Pie (No Bake)

Here is an incredibly easy no-bake dessert that is great if you need a quick holiday treat: No Bake Peanut Butter Pie. It has few ingredients, and is a snap to put together! It has peanut butter, Hershey's Kisses, cream cheese and Cool Whip, all in a graham cracker crust. Pretty simple!

I have the original recipe from a "Hershey's Holiday Favorites" mini-mag from 2004, but it can also be found online here. I tweaked it just a bit, to be more peanut buttery!

The first thing you need for this easy dessert is a pre-made graham cracker crust, 6oz.

Then, you take 26 Hershey's kisses and a little milk, and melt them in the microwave. Melt them carefully, in 30 second intervals (stirring between each interval) until smooth.

Spread the chocolate on the bottom of the crust and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, beat some softened cream cheese with some sugar until light and fluffy.

Then, plop in an entire 16 oz jar of peanut butter. Yes, the whole jar. Mix well!

Then, fold in about 8 oz of Cool Whip into the peanut butter mixture, stirring well to turn this:

into this:

Once everything is smooth and homogeneous, spread it in the pie crust on top of the chocolate, cover, and chill for several hours or overnight.

If you buy a 12 oz or larger Cool Whip, you can spread Cool Whip on the top, and decorate with leftover Kisses...

This recipe makes one dense peanut buttery pie. If you want an even stronger flavor, try natural peanut butter!

The major virtue of this pie, other than its peanut buttery goodness, is that it is super easy to assemble. It is a perfect dessert to put together during the holidays, especially if you are short on time!!

Peanut Butter Pie (No Bake)
(Printable Recipe)

  • 1-8" (6 oz) pre-made graham cracker pie crust
  • 1- 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 16 oz peanut butter
  • 16 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed
  • Bag of Hershey's Kisses

  1. Melt 26 Kisses and 2 tbls milk in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval until smooth
  2. Spread on the bottom of crust and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm
  3. Beat cream cheese and sugar until luffy
  4. Add in peanut butter and beat until combined
  5. Fold in 8 oz Cool Whip and mix until combined
  6. Spread peanut butter mixture into crust and refrigerate several hours until firm
  7. Decorate with remaining Cool Whip and Kisses if desire

Rocky Road Candy

Here's a quick and easy holiday candy recipe that can be made entirely in your microwave. It is a great and tasty treat, and especially easy to do with kids!

Rocky road ice cream was invented in 1929 by William Dreyer, who was in the ice cream business with his partner Joseph Edy -- and yes that is today's Edy's ice cream for those of you in the east, and Dreyer's ice cream for those of you in the west -- the ice cream is marketed under 2 names to honor both founders. As the story goes, William Dreyer added walnuts and bits of marshmallow (snipped with his wife's scissors) to chocolate ice cream. Prior to this point in time, the only ice cream flavors available i he US were vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, so Dreyer's new flavor became a hit. Dreyer and Edy decided to call the flavor "Rocky Road" as a nod to the Great Depression, and the flavor took off from there.

This version of rocky road candy is made with peanuts, but you can substitute any nuts (or any mix-ins in general) that you want. The original recipe came out of one of those little recipe mini mags, but I tore the page out, so I don't recall which one. The original recipe can also be found on the Eagle Brand site.

First, melt some semi-sweet chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk in the microwave. Do this on high in the microwave at one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the chips are dissolved. When the chocolate is close to melted, shorten the intervals to 30 seconds.

Let the chocolate cool down about 5 minutes.

Then, combine the peanuts and marshmallows in a large bowl, and stir in the chocolate

Mix until well-combined, and spread in wax paper-lined 9"x13" pan.

Chill in the fridge until solid (around 2 hours), and then cut into squares. This candy can spend several days at room temperature.

Because this is such an easy treat, requiring no baking, it is great as an activity to do with kids, or to whip up if you want a quick treat to bring to your office or give as gifts.

It is easily customizable, I used marshmallows and peanuts, but you could easily substitute whatever you want, in whatever amounts you wish.

Rocky Road Candy
(Printable Recipe)

  • 2C (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 2 C dry roasted peanuts, salted
  • 1-10.5 oz package mini marshmallows

  1. In microwave safe bowl, combine chips, butter and condensed milk
  2. Microwave on high in minute and half minute intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth
  3. Let cool 5 minutes
  4. Combine peanuts and marshmallows in large bowl. Add chocolate and stir to combine.
  5. Spread mixture in a wax paper-lined 9"x13" pan, and refrigerate 2 hours
  6. Lift candy out of pan and cut into squares. Cover loosely and store at room temperature.

Gingerbread Bread Pudding

I love me some gingerbread. Normally, I make several batches throughout the holiday season, as well as the occasional gingerbread man and decorated gingerbread house. This year, I decided to add a twist and combine two of my favorite things, and make Gingerbread Bread Pudding!

I got the idea from Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread pudding (which I would also like to try someday), but I tweaked the recipe a decent amount, not the least of which was making use of gingerbread, and using mixes that Betty Crocker sells, for added convenience!

But before we get to the recipe, let’s take a quick time-out to explore the origins of that wonderful treat known as “Gingerbread”!!

Gingerbread as a term can actually be applied to a great many baked goods. The only things they have in common are ginger, and a propensity for using molasses or honey in place of granulated sugar. Originally, the term gingerbread didn’t even mean a sweet confection flavored with ginger, but rather any bread with ginger sprinkled on top – which was most loaves, because ginger was used as an early preservative and was also believed to ward of colds and upset stomachs.

Gingerbread has a long history. Originally from the Middle East, where ginger was first used as a preservative, it was brought to Europe in 992 AD by Gregory of Nicopolis, a monk. There are many different variations, including treacle and parkin (England), lebkuchen (Germany), licitar (Croatia), pepperkaker (Norway), and pierniczki (Poland).  In Poland, Torun gingerbread (ToruĊ„ski Piernik) has been produced ever since the Middle Ages. Gingerbread became so popular in Europe that there were gingerbread fairs held at various times throughout the year, the most famous being in Nuremberg, Germany.

Gingerbread also has a long history of being molded into shapes. Originally, gingerbread dough was pressed into molds, although later it took on the shapes we are more familiar with: gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. Gingerbread house-making has its origin in Germany, where it is called lebkuchenhaeusle.  It caught on after the Brothers Grimm popularized what is arguably the most famous gingerbread house of all time: the Witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel, and German immigrants brought this tradition of gingerbread house-making to the US.   The first documented instance of a gingerbread man actually dates back to Elizabeth I of England, who used to have them baked and decorated in the likenesses of her guests, in an effort to awe them.

The widespread association of gingerbread with Christmas had to wait until the mid 19th century, when Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Prince Albert, imported the tradition of gingerbread making (along with the tradition of Christmas trees) to England.

In making this pudding, I decided to keep it simple and start off with the boxed mix of gingerbread. It’s easy, and it has the traditional taste of gingerbread that I was looking for, without a lot of the fuss of a from-scratch recipe. But if you have a favorite gingerbread recipe, this bread pudding recipe can certainly be adapted, just skim down the post until you get to the part where I talk about chopping up and toasting the gingerbread cubes.

For this recipe, I made 2 boxes of gingerbread, according to the directions on the box, and baked them in 2-8” square disposable cake pans, because that’s what I had on hand. The box gives directions for multiple size pans, so you can look on the box to find the directions that fit the pans you are using. One thing I would make sure, though, is not to combined both boxes into one plan, like I did for the gingerbread cake balls, because having smaller, thinner cakes makes the toasting process a lot easier than one big thick cake.

So, make, bake and cool 2 boxes of gingerbread cake.

Then cube up both cakes into cubes that are maybe a half inch wide by whatever the depth is of your cake (hence why it is better to have 2 thinner cakes than one fat one).

Spread the cubes out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and toast for about 10 minutes at 350. You’re not making croutons, you’re just trying to dry them out a tad, so don’t make my initial mistake and bake until they are rocks. You can see the toasted to the left, and the untoasted to the right. Put these cubes into a 9”x13” pan once they are cool.

Then, you make the custard: egg yolks, heavy cream, milk and vanilla. Whisk it until it is well-combined, and then slowly pour it over the gingerbread cubes. Gently press the cubes into the custard a little bit, and let it soak in for about 15-20 minutes.

Then, you bake it for 50 minutes to an hour. Gingerbread pudding is best warm, but if you try to dig into it at this stage, it will probably be runny and fall apart. My advice is to let it cool fully, cover it, and refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight.

Then, when you are ready to serve it, cut it, and zap it in the microwave piece by piece. My microwave took about a minute or so to get to the right temp, wait until you can hear it sizzle! Put some good quality vanilla bean ice cream over it, and enjoy!

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this pudding while I was making it. I over-toasted the bread cubes, I didn’t feel like there was enough custard, I forgot to add sugar to the custard period, and I felt that the top of the bread pudding was too hard. But, I gave it a break overnight and came back the next day, microwaved a piece, and man! It was good!! I didn’t miss the sugar, and in fact, I think the whole thing would be too sweet with it, so I am permanently leaving it out of the recipe from now on. I am toying with the idea of increasing the amount of custard by 50% (3C heavy cream, 1.5C milk, 2 extra yolks and a bit more vanilla), because I think I ended up with more cubes of gingerbread than the original recipe was supposed to accommodate, so keep that in mind if you want to try this recipe, although I haven’t tried that. But even as-is in the amounts specified below, this gingerbread bread pudding is delicious, relatively easy, and definitely a different twist on an old favorite!!

Bobby Flay also has a caramel apple sauce that he puts over his pumpkin bread pudding that I think would be equally delicious on this gingerbread pudding. I didn’t have time to try it, but the recipe is at the above link.

Gingerbread Bread Pudding
(Printable Recipe)

  • 2 14oz boxes of gingerbread mix (Betty Crocker) plus ingredients specified on the box (water, eggs)
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 C milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 yolks

  1. Make and bake 2 boxes of gingerbread according to the directions on the box
  2. Cool completely
  3. Cube gingerbread into ½” cubes, place on a cookie sheet, and toast for 10 minutes at 350F.
  4. Cool cubes completely and spread in a 9”x13” pan
  5. Assemble custard: whisk yolks, cream, milk and vanilla in a bowl until smooth
  6. Pour over the cubes
  7. Push cubes slightly into custard, and let soak for 15-20 minutes
  8. Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes
  9. Serve warm (see above) or cool completely, cover and store
  10. When serving, place pieces of gingerbread pudding in microwave, cook for ~1 minute (until warmed through and slightly steaming) and top with vanilla ice cream