February 20, 2012

Bananas Foster Pudding Pie

Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) is the day on which the goal is to indulge in as much rich, unhealthy food as possible before the 40 days of Lent. Some of the most famous celebrations are in Louisiana, and Bananas Foster is an iconic Louisiana dessert. The flambéing of the bananas in the rum is very impressive, and the brown sugar, rum, and vanilla combine in a sticky, gooey, yummy mess. Igniting fruit can be a daunting task, so I decided to make mine in a pie. It's banana pudding meets bananas foster, and it tastes SO good! To complete your Mardi Gras meal, go to for some Jambalaya!

You can't have a pie without a crust, and this one uses a vanilla wafer crust. You can make it at home, but I have found that it shrinks and becomes crooked, so I buy them premade. All good banana puddings are full of vanilla wafers, so it makes perfect sense to use them instead of a normal pie crust.

Next is the pudding. It's surprisingly easy to make, and you'll never go back to box mixes again! I flavor mine with vanilla, but you can add rum to boost the flavor if you want to. 

The bananas are coated in a thick, velvety caramel sauce. To mimic the flavors of bananas foster, I make it with brown sugar and rum. Instead of making a brittle or other caramel candy, I make more of a liquidy sauce. It coats the bananas and melts into the pudding far better than anything else.

Finally, the pie is topped with whipped cream. It's light and fluffy, and you have to make it from scratch. It's so easy and SO much better than the canned stuff.

1 Vanilla Wafer Pie Crust
3 Ripe Bananas, Sliced
1 3/4 Cups Cream
3 T Butter
2 1/2 tsp Vanilla
Rum, Optional
2 T Powdered Sugar
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Flour
2 Eggs
4 Egg Yolks
2 Cups Milk
25 Vanilla Wafers

Combine the dark brown sugar, 3/4 cup cream, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until thick enough to coat a spoon, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Add rum to taste, if desired.

Combine the sugar and flour until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks, then continue whisking until it forms a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in a cup of milk, then whisk in another. Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tsp vanilla. Strain to remove any bits of cooked egg.

Slice the bananas and fold into the cooled caramel. Arrange half the slices on the crust and top with half the pudding. Repeat, then spread the vanilla wafers on top.

Whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Add the remaining vanilla and powdered sugar. Spread over the pie.

Makes 1 Pie
Recipe Adapted from Ann Thornton

February 14, 2012

Caramel Brownie Pie

This is it: the third and final day of my Valentine's Day Countdown. Those other two recipes were delicious, but they don't compare to my Caramel Brownie Pie. I made this at Taste of Atlanta 2011, and the entire pie was gone in five minutes. I said it then and I'll say it now: everything good in the world is in this pie. Instead of a regular pie crust, it's a brownie. There's caramel. There's caramel whipped cream. There's more caramel and brownie bits sprinkled on top. How could you not love this pie?

It's pretty obvious that this is a pie recipe. However, there was a little too much batter for the pie pan, so I scooped some into mini muffin tins. They make a great snack, and every chef needs to taste their food!

Let's start with the crust. I had to find a new brownie recipe (that one will remain secret, at least for now) because my old one resulted in sinking brownies. The crust was an inch taller than the middle, and that just wasn't right for an edge-hater like me. I set off to find a new recipe but kept the old one just in case. Turns out that was a good thing. I don't want a slab of brownie as a crust; I want a brownie that has room for caramel on top without it oozing over the sides. I remembered my old recipe whose only "flaw" was that it sunk. A lot. Well, that's perfect for this recipe! You can pour in as much caramel as you want, and it won't spill over!

The secret to a dense, fudgy brownie is using as little flour as possible. If you've ever had a flourless chocolate cake, you know what I'm talking about, so these brownies have just enough flour to hold them together.

The caramel is more of a caramel sauce than a brittle or chewy candy. I personally love the gooeyness and lusciousness because everything melts together when you eat it. I don't want to have shards of glass-like candy, for this recipe at least. Make sure you don't pour all of the caramel into the pie or eat it all before you fold some into the whipped cream and drizzle some on top because it ties all of the flavors together.

That brings me to the whipped cream. Let's be honest; whipped cream from a can or a tub, "real" or not, is nasty. It's full of preservatives, oils, and chemicals, none of which are truly necessary. Fresh whipped cream tastes completely different (in a good way!), and it is so easy to make, especially if you have a stand mixer. You pour in some cream and turn on the mixer and you have whipped cream in minutes. I dare anyone who says they can't cook to make their own whipped cream. The only way you can mess up is by making butter, and that's not much of a mistake if you ask me or Paula Deen. To make it even better, I fold in some of that caramel sauce. Like I said, it ties everything together and sweetens it with more complex flavors than plain sugar.

1 2/3 Cup Sugar
6 T Butter
12 oz Semisweet Chocolate
2 Eggs
4 tsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 2/3 Cup Cream
2 T Powdered Sugar

Combine 3/4 cup sugar, the butter, and 2T water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot butter mixture over it. Stir to combine and chill until just warm.

Heat oven to 325F. Grease a 9" pie pan and line a dozen mini muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Whisk into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and spread the rest into the prepared pie pan. Bake the pie for 20 minutes and the mini muffins for 15, or until cooked through.

Heat 2/3 cup cream in a small saucepan until warm. Combine the remaining sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium pot. Heat until amber, then whisk in the cream and 2 tsp vanilla. Cool until just warm, then set aside 1/4 cup of the caramel. Pour the rest into the cooled pie crust.

Whip the remaining cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Fold in the remaining vanilla, powdered sugar, and most of the reserved caramel until ribbons of caramel remain.

Spread the whipped cream onto the pie. Drizzle with remaining caramel and crumble on a mini muffin, if desired.

Makes 1 Pie + 12 Mini Muffins
Brownie Recipe Adapted from the Kosher Cookbook for Kids

February 13, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

It's day two in my Valentine's Day Countdown, and that means another chocolate recipe! This one is a tart filled with two types of luscious ganache, one of which contains hazelnut praline, and I decorated it with a hazelnut praline heart. Nutella addicts will love this!

The base of the recipe is my chocolate pie crust. It is quick, easy, and very light and flaky. The key to a good pie crust is keeping everything cold, especially the butter. When the butter melts, it creates steam, which results in a flaky crust. Another tip is to handle the dough minimally. Rolling and kneading develops the gluten in the flour, making it tough and unappealing.

There are two types of ganache in this tart. One is fudgier and made with milk chocolate while the other is satiny and bittersweet. You can change the types of chocolate, but I recommend keeping the proportions of liquid the way they are to have different textures.

Praline refers to caramel-coated nuts. How could this not be delicious? When you coat it in chocolate, it gets even better! I like to chop up some of the nuts before I drizzle them with caramel so that I can arrange them into a shape for the top (I made a heart for Valentine's Day!), but I leave the rest whole so that the praline is cut into the mixture when I make the filling. I do not add cream to the caramel because that turns it into chewy candy or a sauce, depending on how much you add. When it's just sugar and water, it becomes brittle and fragmented. This is a great way to add texture to the tart.

1 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Cocoa
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled
1 Egg Yolk
2/3 Cup + 1/2 Cup + 2 T Cream
1/6 Cup Milk
7 oz Chocolate Chips
7 oz Milk Chocolate
6 oz Whole Hazelnuts, Roasted & Skinned

Pulse the flour, cocoa, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the egg yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in.  Pulse until almost cohesive, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Heat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-11" tart pan.

Roll the dough out to fit the prepared pan and prick with a fork. Grease a sheet of foil and press, greased-side down, onto the dough. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 25 minutes or until firm. Remove the foil and weights and bake for 5 minutes more or until cooked through.

Chop 2oz nuts. Spread all of the nuts on a foil-lined tray, separating the whole and the chopped and arranging the chopped nuts into a shape, if desired. Combine the remaining sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until amber. Pour over the nuts and cool until hard. Chop the whole nuts.

Heat 1/2 cup + 2T cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk chocolate and fold in the previously whole nuts. Spread the mixture into the cooled crust and chill until set, 1-2 hours.

Combine the remaining cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Spread over the milk chocolate praline and chill until set, about an hour. Top with the remaining praline.

Makes 1 Tart
Recipe Adapted from The Gourmet Traveller

February 12, 2012


Truffles are the stereotypical Valentine's Day treat, so this is the first in a line of chocolate recipes for Valentine's Day. I can spend a day in a chocolate store inhaling a dozen varieties, but I find it much more satisfying to make them myself. I can experiment with flavors, textures, and decorations, and the base recipe couldn't be easier.

I've made truffles many different ways; at the bakery I work at, they spread ganache into sheet pans, cut it into cubes, and drench them in chocolate using their industrial chocolate melter-temperer-enrober. Unfortunately, I do not have one of those godly machines, but I can make truffles almost as well with a cookie scoop and a bowl of chocolate. Simply shape chilled ganache into balls and dip in the chocolate using your hands, a fork, or special candy making tools.

As for flavoring the truffles, I love plain chocolate. You can use milk, dark, or white, and you can swirl in some caramel, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, various extracts (there's more than just vanilla!), or chunks of candy. However, I have found that jams prevent the ganache from setting well.

Temperature is key when making truffles. You need to melt the chocolate for the ganache and the shell, but the ganache must be frozen solid to keep its shape when dipped in the hot melted chocolate. It helps to place the chocolate-covered ganache balls on a chilled surface just after dipping to promote solidification.

5 oz Chocolate, Chopped
1 Cup Chocolate
1 1/2 T Butter
1/4 Cup Cream
1 T Corn Syrup
Add-Ins (i.e. nuts, candy, caramel, etc.)

Melt the butter and 5oz chocolate in a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and corn syrup until simmering. Pour over the chocolate mixture and let stand for two minutes. Stir to combine, then mix in any add-ins. Chill for an hour or until fudgy.

Scoop the chilled ganache into small balls. freeze until hard.

Melt the cup of chocolate. Dip the frozen balls of ganache into the chocolate, decorate with sprinkles, nuts, etc., then chill until hard.

Recipe Adapted from Alton Brown

February 4, 2012


This chili is easy, delicious, and perfect for Superbowl parties! There are many types of chili, but this has just about everything in it: ground beef, sausage, tomatoes, beans, and a variety of vegetables. It can even be Kosher, depending on what sausage you use!

I wanted my chili to have balanced but complex flavors. To do so, I cooked the vegetables and meats before I combined everything. That simple technique allowed the meat to brown and caramelize and the flavors of the vegetables to mingle. Once I mixed everything together, the flavor of the vegetables infused the rest of the dish, and the meat didn't completely dissolve.

In chili, you have to use chiles. It's in the name. There are plenty of bell peppers in the recipe, but I also added an Anaheim. They are sweet with a slight kick, so you can add more spice via other chiles (i.e. jalapeños or habaneros) or dried, ground up chiles (I used a few spoonfuls of cayenne). Canned diced green chiles add a gentle heat.

This specific batch of chili was meant for a Superbowl party at a Temple. Everything needed to be Kosher, so I used sweet Italian Beef Sausage. If that's not available or if you prefer something else, that is perfectly acceptable, but I do recommend sticking with some sort of Italian sausage. If you want even more heat, try a spicy variety!

As for my opinion on the chili vs chile debate, I refer to the dish as chili and the ingredients and country as chile.

1 1/2 lbs Ground Chuck
3/4 lb Italian Sausage
45 oz Canned Kidney and/or Navy and/or Cannellini Beans, Drained & Rinsed
42 oz Canned Petite Diced Tomatoes with Juice
4oz Diced Green Chiles
4 oz Tomato Paste
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Anaheim Chile, Diced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
3 T Chili Powder
1 Cup Chicken Broth
2 tsp Oregano
1/2 T Cumin
3/4 tsp Basil
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Pepper
2 T Cayenne
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Sugar
1 T Worcestershire
2 tsp Hot Sauce

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Set aside and slice into coins when cool.

Return the pot to the heat. Add the onions and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cook until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, Anaheim chile, and jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and sliced sausage and cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, worcestershire, and hot sauce. Combine the chili powder, oregano, cumin, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir into the chili. Add the beans, tomatoes with juice, and green chiles.

Cover the pot and simmer on low for at least two hours.

Serves 8
Recipe Adapted from