Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding


A few weeks ago we catered two Super Bowl parties for our clients, happening at the same time, but with entirely different menus. In order to be two places at once we needed a dessert that could be done in advance and would sit well for hours in the fridge. None of us had made the Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding before but we decided to go for it (usually this is a HUGE professional no-no). Plated in short wide mouth jars made for perfectly sized single portions, they’re easy to eat while watching the game. To be honest we were quiet skeptical of the ingredients; Jello vanilla pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and Nilla wafers are not on our usual grocery tab. Alas we set aside our semi-homemade snobbery and followed the recipe. We let the layered jars of fluff sit overnight in the fridge and on game day we tried the “tester”. It was the BEST thing we have ever eaten. EVER.


Layers of vanilla wafers, banana slices and the whipped vanilla pudding cream are piled up in squat wide mouth jars.


A few banana slices and wafer cookies peeking out from under their fluffy whipped cream comforters. The gelatin in the pudding mix stabilizes the whipped cream so it does not fall even when left in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t make individual portions in jars you can layer all in a trifle bowl/pyrex dish/industrial sized trash can. The spooned out pudding portions will not be beautiful but will taste outstanding.

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding

adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

serves 12 in a trifle bowl or yields about 10 small jars


1 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup vanilla pudding mix

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy cream

1 (12 ounce) boxes Nilla wafers (reserve a few wafers for garnish)

5 bananas, sliced


Blend the water, pudding mix and sweetened condensed milk until well mixed. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated, no streaks of pudding showing. In a trifle bowl or individual jars layer wafers, sliced bananas then pudding mixture. Continue until all of the mixture is used up, topping with the pudding mixture. Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours so the wafers get wet and cakey from the pudding. Serve with a wafer on top for garnish.


Classic Rice Pudding


Rice pudding haunts me. Not like the best ice cream you ever had haunts you, but like a wind in the door or a dark feeling on a sunny day.  When I think rice pudding, I remember smudged glasses of cold, wet rice glistening in the halogen glow of a diner in Montclair, NJ where friends and I stopped on our way back to school the night George W. was elected.  We were tired from a long day of job interviews and feeling defeated by the rain, the long drive ahead, and the radio coverage of the confusion down in Florida.  I don’t remember our dinner conversation, but I can’t forget that the rice pudding was gelatinous and faintly blue.

Time for an exorcism.

Special thanks to La Femme Epicure who added almond extract to the whipped cream and brought all the flavors together.  Did you know that almonds are actually stone fruit? Apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries taste so good with almond-flavored crusts and creams because the nut enhances what flavor the fruit already pulled from its pit.  That’s why the French leave pits in their cherry clafoutis. Personally, I prefer a little extract to a broken tooth.

The result is something to celebrate- cold, creamy and comforting with traditional pudding spices and a surprising freshness from summer fruit and almond cream. Poor rice pudding will never have the visual appeal of a chocolate chip cookie or a tall piece of cake, but that just means more for those of us who know to look past the lumps.

Ghost, be gone.

Classic Rice Pudding Topped with Nectarines and Almond Whipped Cream

Serves 4

Make 1 day ahead to chill


3/4 cups uncooked white rice (sushi, jasmine, plain old medium-grain)

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 vanilla bean

3/4 cup golden raisins

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 cups heavy cream, divided

pinch confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2-3 pieces stone fruit, diced (we used nectarines)

cinnamon, for dusting


In a medium pot, cook rice in water according to the package directions.

In a separate pot, combine the milk, sugar, salt and cinnamon stick.  Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape all the “caviar” into your milk mixture.  (Save the bean for vanilla sugar).  Add the golden raisins and bring milk to a low simmer.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let the flavor steep for at least 15 minutes.

Add the cooked rice to the steeped milk and return to the heat, stirring occasionally over medium heat, for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the egg and 1/2 cup cream.  Cook for 2 minutes more and remove from the heat.  Let cool and chill overnight, either in individual serving glasses or in one bowl.

To serve, whip the remaining cream into soft peaks, adding a pinch of confectioner’s sugar and one teaspoon of almond extract to as you go.  Dice your stonefruit.   Top the chilled rice pudding with a dollop of cream and a spoonful of fruit. Dust with cinnamon and serve.

xx Sarah

Accidental plum compote



The plan was to make this roasted plum and vanilla mascarpone pie.  Stunning, right?

I had some near-death pistachios that I thought toasting and sprinkling over the top would make the presentation even more beautiful.

So I followed the directions for roasting the plums, tossing very firm black ones with vanilla bean and sugar and roasting them cut-side down in a 350 oven.

Firm as they were, those plums deflated fast.  After only 30 minutes in the oven, I had what looked like a natural disaster on my hands.   They emerged sad jellyfish caught in a sticky, red tide.

So I scooped them into compote glasses and chilled those sadsacks in the fridge until I could look at them again without shame.

I dolloped the vanilla mascarpone on top and sallied forth with my toasted pistachios.  Letting go of the image of that beautiful pie (it is so, so beautiful!), we had us some cold plum compote for dessert and then again for breakfast a few days later.  Hardly a failure.

Have you ever had a recipe mishap turn out ok?

xx sl

Meatless Monday: Cherry Clafoutis


When is a pancake not a pancake?  When it’s a bona fide dessert.  Like this cherry clafoutis.  See, I was feeling bad about sharing another oven-baked pancake.  I’m a little obsessed with them.  But this pancake is really a custard and fresh cherries are so juicy right now that I can’t resist.

Cherries bubbling away in butter & sugar

The French serve it at dinner parties with the pits intact!  Talk about a buzzkill.  Supposedly the pits enhance the cherry flavor.  This is one situation in which I’d willingly sacrifice flavor to keep my teeth.

I used fresh, pitted cherries and followed this recipe.  First I made the batter then sauteed the cherry halves briefly in butter and sugar in a cast-iron skillet.

Next, I poured the batter over the softened cherries and placed the skillet in a preheated 425 oven.

20 minutes later we had a puffer ready to be powdered. I’ve read that clafoutis can be made ahead and served room temperature, but doing it that way detracts from the whole effort.  You want to see it puffed, smell the warm cherries and watch the powdered sugar and cherry juice thicken to a sweet syrup.

Would you serve pancakes for dessert?


Sprinkles Cupcake ATM


Sprinkles storefront

I made a detour through Beverly Hills yesterday to stop by the Sprinkles cupcake ATM.  It was 11:30 AM and 8 people were lined up outside, even though the store was open!

Sprinkles ATM

Why can’t all ATMs look this bright and cheerful?

The women in front of me were repeat offenders.  They swear the novelty hasn’t worn off, even though the cupcakes cost $0.50 more than they do inside.  It was fun to dip my card and choose from the array of flavors that popped up on the screen.

sprinkles cupcake atm

There was no capturing it on camera but once you make your selection the screen shows a mechanical arm reaching back to grab your freshly-baked cupcake.  Then it’s down the chute and out onto the hot pink landing platform.  Adorable!

Sprinkles milk chocolate cupcake

Opening my box revealed a Madagascar bourbon vanilla cake topped with fudgy milk chocolate cream cheese frosting, smelling like it was just baked and frosted.  Heaven on Little Santa Monica Boulevard.

Watch out NYC!  Rumor has it you’re next to receive your 24-hour hot pink cupcake machine.

xx Sarah

Chesapeake Blondies


blondie recipe

Pepperidge Farms is the OPI of cookie companies.  Just like a certain raspberry shade tells you a girl is Berry Daring, certain flavor combos familiarize you with the residents of Sausalito, Montauk, Captiva and Santa Cruz.   It makes total sense that they everyone in each respective town likes milk chocolate with macademia nut, milk chocolate chunks, dark chocolate brownie, and oatmeal raisin cookies, right?

I made blondies for the first time ever on Monday, using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. Inspired by the Chesapeake Pepperidge Farm cookies I stare at daily while waiting for my morning coffee at the campus cafe, I added dark chocolate and toasted pecans.

butter and brown sugar blondie recipe

All it takes is one bowl, one baking dish, one measuring cup and one measuring spoon.  Practically no mess!  Use your microwave to melt two sticks of butter then add two cups of brown sugar.

Beat until combined.  It will look greasy and gross at first but don’t worry, it comes together.  Beat in two eggs and two teaspoons vanilla extract plus a generous pinch of salt.

Add flour to make your batter blonde.  Two cups, of course.

It would be hard not to memorize this recipe.

Two cups chocolate followed by your pecans, already toasted then cooled.  I used all the pecans I had left, about a cup and a half. An even two cups would be just fine.

Pour into a buttered 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees until almost done in the center.


While they cook the kitchen smells like warm vanilla. Not butter, not chocolate, not cookie dough, just pure, unadulterated, amazing vanilla. Consider me converted.

After 35 minutes mine were set along the edges and gooey with warm chocolate.  Not bad for one bowl and five minutes work time.

You can add whatever flavors you want to the basic blondie blueprint- espresso, white chocolate, dried cranberries, bourbon, etc.  The Chesapeake blend was crunchy and a little too sugary.  I should have know those imaginary Southerners would have a sweet tooth!

What would you put in your blondies?


Vanilla Bean-Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce


This sauce is so easy to make and elevates any old dairy product or cake varietal to “bursting with spring flavor” level. I served it over Lemon Yogurt Olive Oil Cake with vanilla ice cream last weekend to rave reviews. We tried it on cheesecake at work and it was DIVINE. Drew and I put it on Greek yogurt and have no complaints.


Slice up your cleaned rhubarb stalks (pink nails optional)

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Toss the rhubarb, strawberries, lemon zest and juice, sugar and a scraped vanilla bean in a pot and let it cook down into a soft rustic sauce (pink spatula mandatory)


Strawberry Rhubarb

See those black specks of vanilla bean, the warm sweetness of the vanilla tempers the tartness of the rhubarb


Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce and Lemon Cake


Vanilla Bean Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce

makes about 3 cups


1/3 cup sugar (add more if your sauce is too tart)
1/3 cup water
1 pound rhubarb stalks, cleaned and diced (you can use frozen Rhubarb if fresh is not available)
1 quart strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Vanilla Bean, split lengthwise and scraped of seeds


In a heavy saucepan over medium heat combine sugar and water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add rhubarb and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Add strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and the scraped vanilla bean seeds and whole pod. Simmer for 10-15 minutes more until the fruit has broken down into a soft sauce. Remove vanilla bean pod and allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.





Meatless Monday: Fig and Raspberry Crostata


fig tart recipe

This is it, my sweets. The transition point.  Call it summer’s last hurrah or fall’s hello.   At our house we marked the moment with a fig and raspberry crostata.  Jammy and fragrant with crushed almonds, this tart takes all of 5 minutes to assemble.

I thawed a dough ball made from this recipe, placed my pizza stone on the middle rack and preheated the oven to 400 degrees.  You can also use a lined baking sheet, but I got the idea for this tart from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Fruit, the beautiful book Lydia gave me for my birthday.  Alice uses a pizza stone for her crostata.

The base of this tart can be used with any fruit.  Mix 1 tablespoon flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons ground almonds.  Done.  The almond flavor works beautifully with summer fruit and berries as well as pears and apples when the time comes.  You can change it up with the same amount of ground walnuts.  Whatever floats your boat.   The touch of flour keeps your fruit from getting too runny and the sugar sweetens it all up.

On a piece of parchment paper, roll your dough into a 12-inch round about 1/4- inch thick and sprinkle with your sugar/flour/almond mix, leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.

cut figs

Cut 1 pint fresh figs into quarters the long way. Toss with 2 tablespoons sugar.  Placing each fig on its bottom cut side up, arrange them in concentric circles on your almond base, working from the outside in.  Planting each fig on its chubbiest part gives your tart a little height and creates a pretty layered effect.  Gently fold the extra inch of dough up and over the fruit filling, crimping as you go.

fig tart recipe

Brush your crust with a little melted butter and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.  Transfer the crostata, parchment paper and all, to your preheated pizza stone and bake for 40 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking.  After 40 minutes, toss a few fresh raspberries on top and continue baking until the berries are warm and soft, about 20 minutes more.

fig tart

Enjoy plain or with almond-scented whipped cream.

The verdict? At first I was unhappy with the raspberries.  They detract from the beauty of those crowns of figs.  But taste and you’ll know, the softly sour raspberries are what let you really savor the sweet figs.


Macarons from Bottega Louie



Angus and I live on campus at USC and every other Tuesday we host a dessert reception for the Arts & Humanities students.  This week, our favorite graduate student brought macarons from the gorgeous Bottega Louie, a restaurant and gourmet market right here in downtown Los Angeles.  We’ve mentioned it before in our field guide to Los Angeles breakfasts.

different colored macaroons

When they first opened, Bottega Louie offered rainbows of pale, pastel macarons like you’d find at Ladurée. In the past year or so, they’ve changed their look to rich hues like the raspberry above and the clementine centered below.  The saturated colors certainly sets them apart in the market.


The salted caramel is practically leprechaun green!  What do you think?  Do you like gem-toned macarons as much as the traditional pale pinks and pistachios?

bottega louie

Unwrapping the box is half the fun.


1 2