Category Archives: Desserts

Sea Salt Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

You Mean Black Tar Heroin Bars?

Full disclosure: these gems don’t even pretend to be good for you.  But alas, sometimes you just need a little trouble to get by.  Though I am far more salty than sweet, this recipe is the perfect amalgamation of all that I love in a good dessert.  The usual suspects of butter, vanilla, chocolate chips and brown sugar are all present, but what makes this one truly special are the flecks of sea salt crowning the golden bars.  Once you mix the majesty together, sprinkle some sea salt for good measure, and bake, you are treated to fudgy decadence.  Gooey, salty-sweet glory that you will scrape out of the pan to steal bite after bite.

Salty Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars. Photo © Angela Gunder (Spice or Die).

Continue reading Sea Salt Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis

Sweet Sassy Molassy

I’m not going to lie – this recipe is a little banana cakes. But here’s the skinny. Marx Foods, fine food experts and foodie dream, held a contest to turn fregola sarda (a Sicilian treat similar to Israeli couscous) into *gasp* a dessert. So my brain got to working and did a lily pad leaping move from rice pudding to beignets to arancini to a coulis in lieu of marinara. Wait, what? Now factor in that I have to include star anise or saffron or vanilla bean. Or all three. Can it be done? Continue reading Sweet Fregola Sarda Arancini with Spiced Blackberry Coulis

Toffee Macadamia Nut Bars

I’ve always been partial to blondies, but these bars are just ridiculous.  Adding buttery macadamia nuts and sweet toffee chips to the batter is luxe and a half.  Top the whole thing off with salty coconut and I am in dream land.  These little babies are sweet, sticky goodness with the most minimal amount of effort. You may want to bake two batches, because they go super fast.  And then have me over to lift the extra bars off your hands. Continue reading Toffee Macadamia Nut Bars

Lemon Pound Cake with Fresh Berries

Is This a Recipe?

Lemon Pound Cake with Fresh Berries © Photo by Angela GunderYou’re gonna laugh when you read this recipe.  Because it’s not.  Aside from the slightest, and I mean the SLIGHTEST, bit of doctoring of this amalgamation, it is scarcely a recipe.  When the name of the dish is “pound cake” and the first ingredient is *cough* pound cake, you know that there ain’t much goin’ on.  So why post this at all?  Because it’s good.  Damn good.

Recent trips to my grandmother’s house have all included a care package of countless cookbooks and photocopies of tried and true recipes.  It’s been glorious and at the same time humbling – so much to cook, so few mouths to feed, and above all else, so little time.  It’s as sad as the number of clichés that I used in the previous sentence.  She recently gave me the recipe for “The Best Damn Lemon Cake” which upon tasting, my husband and I agreed was the only name this cake could ever have.  But much like life, this good thing involved a hell of a lot of steps to mold it into majesty.  So what do I do, non-baker that I am?  Create a yummy lemon glaze for a Sara Lee pound cake, top with seasonal berries and garnish with whipped cream and lemon zest.  Let me tell you, it was sexy through and through, all the while saving me precious time to deal with the other courses of the meal I was preparing.  So maybe I should call this the gift cake.  I mean, it did manage to give me precious minutes of my life back.  L.O.V.E.

Lemon Pound Cake with Fresh Berries

Lemon Pound Cake with Fresh Berries © Photo by Angela Gunder1 pound cake
2 pints of mixed berries (I like blueberries, hulled and halved strawberries, raspberries and blackberries)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3/4 c. of sugar
1/4 c. of water
fresh whipped cream

In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice, sugar and water until boiling.  While it heats up, take a chopstick and poke a crapload of holes into the top of the poundcake.  Pour the boiling syrup over the cake.  Let cool.

Once the cake has cooled completely, pour the excess syrup over the berries and toss.  Stack a piece of poundcake with whipped cream and berries.  Top with another piece of poundcake, whipped cream and lemon zest.  Spoon additional berries around the side and serve.

Strawberries with Elderflower and Mint

I adore putting together a menu, but like a grocery shopper entering the store with a rumbling tummy, I find that I often set myself up for a challenge.  Between my need to feed my guests with reckless abandon, to a love of a seemingly daunting menu, I face the issue of running out of steam.  Couple that with my lack of prowess in the realm of desserts, I find that many of my menus end up being a bit front-loaded in terms of the serious cooking.  Which is why, lovely readers, I am a sucker for a dessert that is simple to prepare, with a heavy dose of wow factor.

Summertime on the east coast (or pretty much anytime on the west coast – you guys have easy access to berries!) always meant an abundance of ripe strawberries just begging to be picked up and taken home.  In my house growing up, we always kept it simple – cut the tops, halve the berries and toss with a few teaspoons of sugar.  As the berries hung out, they’d give off the most lovely scarlet juice, which we then used to sauce the little shortcakes you could pick up in the produce section of the store.  A little whipped cream, and we were in business. Continue reading Strawberries with Elderflower and Mint

Apple Crumble Ice Cream

Back when I bought the ice cream attachment for my Kitchenaid standing mixer, I snagged a copy of the Ben and Jerry’s cook book at the same time.  What a dream – in a sheer moment of atavistic delight, I poured through the book marveling at reckless abandon at which the recipes had been shared.  And all before I’d actually made a single recipe in the book.  Once I discovered that their cream base recipe was pretty damn close to the real thing, it was time to raise the culinary dead from the grave.  Many years before, I’d fallen in love with the Ben and Jerry’s flavor Apple Crumble.  It was apple pie a la mode by the spoonful and nothing but goodness.  Alas, the flavor was retired to the B&J graveyard and I was left in the lurch in terms of getting my Apple Crumble fix.

Apple Crumble Ice Cream © Photo by Angela Gunder

After a bit of tinkering and some hoping and praying, I made my first batch of Apple Crumble knock off, and all I could do was revel in the results.  It was ever so wonderful – a reminder that nothing in this life is ever truly lost.

Apple Crumble Ice Cream © Photo by Angela Gunder

The secret to making this recipe well is getting all of the components good and cold before putting them in the ice cream maker.  Make sure to leave plenty of time to stage all of the ingredients and know that when you are done, you’ll be rewarded with a quart of loveliness that will last you for a goodly while.  Well, maybe not so long depending on whom you decide to share it with.  I absolutely authorize you to share with no one if you like 😉

Recipe for

Apple Crumble Ice Cream

6 tbs of butter, softened
1/2 c. of brown sugar
2 tbs. of white sugar
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
3/4 c. of flour

2 apples, cored and diced
2 tbs. of vanilla sugar
1 tbs of butter
1/4 tsp of cinnamon

2 eggs
2 c. of heavy cream
1 c. of light brown sugar
1 c. of milk

Preheat the oven to 350°.  In a small bowl, mix the softened butter, sugars, cinnamon and flour with a pastry knife or a fork, forming large crumbs.  You can also squeeze the mix into chunks with your fingers to form large crumbles.  Bake in the oven on an ungreased cookie sheet until browned, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and gently crumble the mixture with a fork.  Chill.

In a skillet, melt the 1 tbs. of butter.  Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon and saute until apples are tender.  Set aside and chill.

Begin making the ice cream base by beating together the eggs, cream, sugar and milk until frothy and lovely, about 5 minutes.  Pour base into your ice cream maker and chill according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Once the ice cream has finished churning, fold in the chilled apples and crumbles.  Transfer into an airtight quart container and chill.  Eat with reckless abandon.

White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding © Photo by Angela GunderBread pudding is the dessert of my dreams – unlike anything else in baking which requires precision and accuracy, bread pudding is forgiving and versatile.  Best of all, the basic recipe holds up with a plethora of changes to the ingredients list – the bread can be anything from challah to croissants, the filling can be chocolate, fruit or nuts and the spices can run the gammut from cinnamon, vanilla, almond, rum or cloves.  The entire mess is bathed in a luscious egg custard and baked to perfection.

This particular bread pudding is the perfect celebration of flavors and textures – the creamy white chocolate melts into the custard and the cherries stud the spongy bread with tart sweetness.  Best of all, your prep includes very little chopping and some basic whisking.  Easier than pie (or cake or cookies or streudel).  This also gets better with age – let the bread pudding chill for a day and then warm the slices the next day for a denser, moister treat.  Which means that you can make this a day before guests show up and you’ll be the star of the show two days in a row.

Recipe for

White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

1 large loaf of challah or pannetone
12 eggs
4 cups of heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum or almond extract
2 c. halved cherries (or well-rinsed Amarena cherries)
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon

Begin by buttering a 13x9x2 pan (or festive casserole pan, lol).  Cube the bread into rough, 1 inch chunks and add to a large mixing bowl.  Toss with chocolate chips and cherries.  Dump mixture into the casserole and let hang out while you make the custard.

In the same large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, extracts and cinnamon.  Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and press down to allow the bread to soak up the liquid.  Let it sit for fifteen minutes and then press cubes down again.

Bake on 375° for 1 1/2 hours, or until the middle of the bread pudding is mostly firm and no longer jiggly.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Simple Gingerbread Cookies

Not gonna lie, I wholeheartedly think Sandra Lee is a hot mess.  Most of her recipes strip the fun out of cooking, replacing fresh ingredients and unique spices with prepackaged, frozen ingredients, all for the sake of saving time.  Which I believe is reserved for getting drunk, based on the heavy emphasis on “cocktail time” in each and every one of her episodes.  A group of us were watching her show Semi Homemade (aka Semi Disgusting) like a horror film – a friend turned to us all and said that she couldn’t get over how batshit crazy she seemed.  Watching her show is like a car accident in slow-motion – from recipes for Kwanzaa cake to jello shots (Um, we need a recipe for jello shots? How old are we?), Food Network Humor has a wide array of just the recipes and techniques that make me groan every time I see her trying to teach people how to cook.

So with all of the vitriole above, and my straight up disgust with Sandra Lee, maybe I need to put down the haterade for a second in that her gingerbread recipe is damn good.  I found the recipe in passing while getting together my list of Christmas goodies to bake, and to my horror, the one that seemed like some majesty was hers.  With a few tweaks made by my expert baker of a sister, this recipe absolutely goes into the pantheon of keepers for all time.  Given that there’s no shame in my game, I do have to give her (or, more likely, whatever peon employee of Food Network Test Kitchen who wrote the recipe) credit where credit is due.  But I can’t forgive all transgressions as your Espresso Martini featured on the Today Show was like a cloyingly sweet White Russian in a martini glass.  Plus, the chapter about you in Anthony Bourdain’s “Medium Raw” is truly cringeworthy.  I guess I’ll just focus on the gingerbread and pretend to forget about your many other transgressions in the kitchen.  And I’m Sandra Lee doesn’t care about any of us haters out there as she cashes those fat checks from her media empire and kicks back with myriad vodka tipples in the Governor’s mansion.

Enough of the negativity – Lexi and I had a hell of a time decorating with the help of some strange Swedish animal shapes from IKEA cookie cutters and some well-placed decorative candy.  We warmed Starburst with our hands and rolled it out like fondant to cut into ribbons and bows.  We sliced red and green fruit roll ups into strips and pressed them together to make a Christmas striped sheet for cutting into scarves, sweaters and top hats.  We used cinnamon candy dots to make necklaces and eyes.  And rather than making royal icing from scratch, we used the prepackaged muffin glaze in a squeezable tube (found in the baking aisle at the supermarket) to stick on the decorations.  I’m sure Sandra Lee would approve.

Recipe for

Simple Gingerbread Cookies

1 package of dry sugar cookie mix
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tbs of crystalized ginger, finely ground in a coffee grinder or pulverized in a food processor
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 tbs. of maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. of almond extract

In a standing mixer, blend the mix, egg, flour, butter, pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger, crystalized ginger, molasses, maple syrup, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Once a dough forms, remove from the bowl, wrap with plastic and chill for about an hour.  If you chill for longer than an hour, make sure to remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to roll out the dough.  Flour a board and rolling pin and roll out the dough to around 1/4 of an inch thick.  Cut cookies with cookie cutters and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Bake in a 350° oven for 7 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack and let cool.  Decorate as you see fit and store in a tupperware to keep soft and chewy.

Lemon Curd Muffins

These suckers are stupid easy to make, which is up my alley as you know that I am no baker.  One of my greatest failures in the kitchen, and a dish that lives on in infamy, were the Wolfgang Puck Lemon Bars I attempted to make many years ago.  My grandmother had brought us a bounty of grapefruit-sized lemons from her garden, and I knew I had to do something other than a million citron pressés with the mess of citrus.  Why not lemon bars?  Wolfgang Puck is kinda awesome – this must be a good recipe.  Ugh, they were so bad – too tart, not entirely set, just awful.  I don’t blame Wolfgang so much as myself for not being able to pull things off.  Worst of all, I kept on making my sister eat them so that we could get rid of them.  To this day, she is terrified of the words “lemon bar” – I take the blame.

Fast forward to this Christmas and I myself was stuck with a bumper crop of lemons from my tree in the back yard.  I found a recipe for Lemon Shortbread Bars on Chow that featured an ever so easy lemon curd with no precooking or tempering of the eggs and lemon.  Just mix, bake and go.  I planned to tackle the recipe with my sister, but after a marathon of baking and decorating gingerbread, it was time to keep things simple.  Using sugar cookie dough out of the Pillsbury tube, I pressed out mini tarts into a muffin pan and topped them with the lemon curd.  A short bake later, and we were all treated to chewy, lemony goodness with a snowy topping of powdered sugar.  I didn’t even have to get my sister to eat them – she just went to town on a truly good thing.  Here’s to the little victories in life, to include my ability to actually bake something awesome.


Recipe for

Lemon Curd Muffins

1 tube of pillsbury sugar cookie dough
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
3 tbs. of flour
pinch of salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with large cups (mine has 6) with cooking spray, preferably the kind for baking with flour mixed in.  Cut the sugar cookie dough into 6 chunks and press each chunk in the bottom of the muffin tins, slightly raising the sides to form a mini tart. Place tarts in the stove and bake dough for 12 minutes.

In a mixer or a large bowl with an egg beater, beat together the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, flour and salt.  Take the dough out of the oven and prick with a fork to release the air from the dough.  Pour the lemon curd over the dough and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes in the oven.  Let the muffins rest for a few minutes and then remove to a plate.  Using a sifter, sprinkle powdered sugar over the muffins.  Serve warm or cold.