Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

We love Lisa Wheeler’s children’s books, and Ugly Pie has been one of our long time favorites.

Ol’ Bear has a hankerin’ for pie. Not just any pie…ugly pie. He wanders around visiting friends, each of whom has a taste-bud tempting pie, but he’s just itchin’, truly whishin’ for some ugly pie. Each of his neighbors does give him something ugly from their kitchen: “Ugly apples, raisins, too, sweet molasses, nuts–WAHOO!” which he takes home and commences to mix together to make his own ugly pie.

Our version of Ugly Pie

Well, the book has a recipe for ugly pie at the end, and-as you might expect-the kids have been pestering me for years to make it. So here is the finished ugly product!

As you can tell the ugliest thing is my pie crust. There are really only two kitchen projects that really intimidate me: pizza crust and pie crust. Just can’t seem to make either of them well.

One of the coolest things about this pie, though, is that it is the first pie I have had the chance to make using one of my mom’s pie dish. I had a chance to snag it this summer on a trip back to Toledo. It has a special place in my heart. (Now if I can just figure out how to weasel her doughnut cutter from my brother.)

If this has you itchin’ for some Ugly Pie, today is your lucky day! Here’s Ol’ Bear’s recipe, handed down from bear to bear for generations.

Ugly Crust:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shortening (we used butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 tablespoons icy cold water

Ugly Filling
6 cups peeled, sliced Granny Smith apples (we used apples given to us by a family from their apple tree)
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice. Then mix in molasses until apples are completely coated with ugly brown goo. Set aside.
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients listed above. Add to the ugly apple mixture until everything is nice ‘n’ moist.
3/4 cup red raisins or cran-raisins
1/4 walnuts chopped fine (we left out the nuts)

Toss raisins and walnuts into apple mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well coated. Place into pie crust. Your pie should look fairly ugly by now.
Top with second pie crust and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cover pie with an aluminum-foil tent to prevent over browning. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes.
When your pie is done, you will have the most delicious, most beautiful UGLY PIE you ever did see!

And here are the variations I employed:

  • I used America’s Test Kitchen butter crust, since I don’t have a ready supply of lard, and shortening makes a pretty tasteless crust. (This crust was the best attempt I have ever made, at least it was the easiest to roll out and it didn’t tear too much. We’ll see how it tastes. I have been really, really tempted to try ATK’s trick of using vodka r/th ice water in crust. The alcohol cooks out but it allows you to use more liquid than just water and the crust is easier to roll out. However, due mostly to my upbringing in a fundamental church, I am a teetotaler. While I cook with wine, I don’t drink any alcohol. I can explain to family that visits the cooking wine and beer for beer-battered fish, onion rings, etc. It might be a bit harder to ‘splain the vodka in the pantry! Ah the angst of ‘growing up fundamentalist; I’m scarred, scarred I tell ya!)
  • I also used a combination of Yellow Delicious and Granny Smith apples and baked them to just tender to keep their moisture down so the pie doesn’t get soupy. After baking them with some sugar and cinnamon, I mixed them into the other ugly stuff and cooked it a bit longer to let the four thicken some of the molasses and brown sugar goo.
  • And finally, I used a crumble topping that ATK sent out in one of their email blasts. Halving this recipe worked great for the 9″ pie.
  • Topping
    • 3/4cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 3/4cup pecans, chopped fine
    • 3/4cup old-fashioned rolled oats (see note)
    • 1/2cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
    • 1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2teaspoon table salt
    • 8 Tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

btw, almost all of Lisa Wheeler’s books are rollicking good fun to read. I want our kids to love language, and her books contribute to that with great rhymes, stories, and rhythmic lines.


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For some reason recently I remembered Mother, every once in a while, making some sort of spice cake and a pot of warm lemon sauce. As I recall, most of my siblings weren’t too fond of the sauce in particular, because it was quite tart. But it brought back fond memories for me, so I decided to see if I could find a reasonable facsimile.

My normal search starts (and usually ends) with America’s Test Kitchen. It is usually pretty easy to find a blogger who has put their recipe on the web. ATK is helpful because they test each recipe so many times and then explain why they went the direction they did with it. The explanation makes it easy to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of the recipe, rather than just giving a list or ingredients and processes. Understanding makes it easier to personalize.

Anyway, here is the ATK recipe for the Spice Cake. I followed this closely, except the cardamom was $13 for about 2 oz and I just couldn’t justify that expense, so let’s call this Cardamomless Spice Cake.

2 1/4 Cs unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting pans
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
16 tbsps unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 Cs granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
2 tbsps light molasses or mild molasses
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 C buttermilk, at room temperature

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Combine spices in small bowl; reserve 1/2 teaspoon for frosting.

2. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 tablespoons butter with sugar and molasses at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl twice with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Zigzag the tip of a metal spatula through batter, pulling it to pan edges. Lightly tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles; smooth surface with spatula.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 32 to 37 minutes. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.

Lemon Sauce

I scrounged around on the web and found a number of different recipes before settling on this one, that I then adjusted.

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. + 2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. grated lemon peel
Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a sauce pan. Gradually add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir it for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice and lemon peel.

I bumped up the amounts of everything. Used the juice of one lemon (1/4-1/3C), plus zest of the entire lemon (almost 2tbsp?). Added probably 2 Tbsp lemon juice from the ubiquitous green bottle. Used 1 1/2C water and probably close to 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Only used 1/2C sugar even with the added lemon, but it was still sweet. Alot like thicker lemonaide. I’d like it to be still thicker, especially when warm.

Comments: We loved the aroma of the spices as they bloomed. The cake came together pretty easily and baked up nicely. I was surprised that the spice flavor was not more assertive. I might try adding more spices next time. The lemon sauce needs to be more tart for my taste, so I will likely cut back on the sugar next time.

Jill likes it, which automatically puts it into the winner-make-again category. Aubrey has adult tastes, cuz she won’t keep her hands off the cake. So now I have extra lemon sauce and leftover fresh ginger root…so I guess I’ll have to try a gingerbread cake now. Shucks:)

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My Mom made Moonshine.

How many kids can say that? I guess I was destined to live in the Southeast.

Here’s the recipe:

  • Mix a couple packages of jello (we usually used cherry) according to directions. Refrigerate it till soft-set. At that point, drop banana slices into the jello and let it set completely.
  • Mix up a couple packages of lemon pudding and pour that over the jello. Use the same number of pudding packages as jello.
  • When that sets, spread whipped cream over the pudding.
  • Top with whatever strikes your fancy. M&Ms, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and shredded coconut have all had their rightful place. But it is especially good if salted peanuts are included.
Now here is the story behind the name. My Mom grew up in England and was a little girl during the Blitz. She and her siblings were among the children evacuated from London to escape the German bombing raids.
When the American soldiers began filling up Great Britain in advance of invading the continent, many British families hosted them for dinners. Mom’s family made this simple dessert because it was one of the few that could be done with the available ingredients. One of the soldiers saw the bananas peeking through the jello and said it reminded him of the moon shining at night back home. The name stuck.
It would be ironic if that soldier happened to be from Tennessee, but I guess we’ll never know.

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Ghiradelli brownie mix + oreo cookies (+ walnut, optional) = yummm

  • Spray muffin tins well with cooking spray.
  • Mix up the brownies and drop in enough batter to cover the bottom.
  • Place oreo cookie on top of batter. (This is good job for a 4 year old who wants to help…as long as you don’t mind constant suggestions that she eat a cookie for each cookie she puts in the tin.)
  • (Option-place a walnut or pecan half on top of oreo. I tried marshmallows, but they just dissolved.)
  • Cover with more batter.
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 12-15 minutes.
  • Cool in tins
  • Eat when you can restrain yourself no longer.
  • Repeat last instruction as long as necessary.

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Cinnamon Bread Pudding w/Creme Anglaise

The planning for our Valentine’s Day steak dinner was almost complete, but what to do about dessert? Looking around the kitchen, inspiration struck. We had purchased cinnamon rolls/muffins from Costco a week ago and two remained. These are cinnamon roll-type things. Not quite rolled up, more like the layers are folded on one another and then stuffed into a large muffin tin to bake.

I’ve been wanting to make a cinnamon bread pudding after seeing a recipe in Cooks Country about a year ago. Now’s the chance! They used some kind of cinnamon bread from Pepperidge Farm, if I remember correctly. Surely, these Costco things will do the trick.

Well, I knew it would take too long to find the magazine, so I cobbled together the following recipe from Paula Deen, Emeril Lagasse, and Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman).

Cinnamon Bread Pudding


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large beaten eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups cubed cubed cinnamon roll/muffin
  • 2 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.
Mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl; add vanilla. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, butter, and pecans.
Pour bread mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

Creme Anglaise Sauce:

  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3ish cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks


In a saucepan, over high heat, whisk the cream together with the sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. In a bowl beat the egg yolks until thick and frothy. Temper the egg yolks by stirring just 1/4 cup of the sauce into the yolks, until incorporated. Turn the egg yolk mixture into the sauce and stir until thoroughly blended. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

analysis and explanations:

Oh. Wow. This is insanely rich and incredibly delicious! Wouldn’t change much of anything in this recipe.

Paula Deen’s recipe called for just 3 cups of bread. I added the sourdough after seeing it in Ree Drummond’s site. I like this ration of bread to custard better than I suspect PD’s recipe would yeild.

I adjusted Emeril’s recipe for the creme anglaise because I had three egg yolks left over after making a birthday cake two weeks ago. I hate to waste food (why pour money down the drain?) so I stored them in a small container till I figured out what to do with them.

His recipe called for 5 egg yolks, but I’m not going to waste two egg whites anymore than wasting three yolks. Call me a miser. He also wants a vanilla bean to be steeped in the heavy cream, but have you seen the price of those things?

So if this is the cheap version, I’m pretty content to be cheap.

Now to explore some other bread pudding variations. I saw a chocolate bread pudding recipe in another issue of CC. And I wonder if I can lighten it up without losing any flavor.

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Jill’s birthday cake

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

The Cake: Using a White Layer Cake as the base (you can find the Cook’s Country recipe here, stir 1 cup of mini chocolate chips into the batter, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract, and 5+ drops of green food coloring (5 drops didn’t make it very green. I’ll try 7 next time).

Divide among three prepared cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean.

The Icing:

  • 22 Tblsp butter, softened
  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules (add to chocolate as it melts)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 C confectioner’s sugar

Using a whisk attachment, beat butter, melted chocolate, vanilla and salt on medium-high speed till combined. Reduce speed to medium-low.

Slowly add confectioner’s sugar till smooth. Increase speed to medium-high and beat till light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

Assemble: spread a crumb coat of icing on top of each layer. Place one on serving platter, and spread about 2/3 Cup icing over top. Top with second layer and repeat, then with the third. Spread remaining icing on sides of cake. Press mini-chocolate chips into sides. (It’s kinda messy at this point, but Emma and Gideon are glad to come help you clean up!)

I forgot to mix the mini chips into the batter, so I spread a good handful over top of each cake layer.

It has a distinct, but by no means overpowering, mint flavor. This is well worth making and enjoying with your better half!



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Emma helped me make these cookies in December. They are delicious. Light and, somehow, both crispy and a bit chewy at the same time. Great flavor.

Emma’s Coffee Cookies
● 2 C ap flour ● 1/4 tsp salt ● 16 Tblsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened ● ½ C packed brown sugar ● 1/4 C granulated sugar ● 1 Tblsp instant coffee granules


● Combine flour and salt in one bowl. Beat (med-high speed) butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and coffee powder till light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add flour mix. Divide dough and shape into flat disks, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 2 hours. ● Oven racks – upper-mid and lower-mid positions; heat oven to 300. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each disk till about 1/4″ or less. Cut out cookies. Gather and reroll dough (freeze for 10 minutes before rerolling) ● Space cookies about an inch apart (they will spread a bit while baking). Bake till set (18-22 minutes). Switch and rotate sheets halfway through baking.  ● Cool 5 min on sheet pan, then transfer to cooling racks. ● Cookies can be drizzled with melted chocolate to gild the lily.

adapted from a Cooks Country recipe.

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