Frozen Strawberry Cream Torte

Frozen Strawberry Tort Sliced

Few Paula Peck desert recipes really lend themselves to Summer. A couple of fruit tarts, a mousse or two, and a few fruit tortes are summery as is without modification. Maybe because she spent most summers in France, renewing her tastes and inspirition or maybe she just didnt bother much with the heat of baking in a hot humid Manhattan building before AC was a regular commodity. Whatever the reason, this frozen torte is part of this small exclusive group of her summer desert recipes. Not exactly quick or easy, if meringue is foreign to you, but the construction is fairly simple and the finished torte is impressive. There are two methods used in the original recipe for which I have strong opposing feelings. The first is the suggested baking time of the meringue to ensure it doesn’t brown. Though technically incorrect, in my opinion the baking time for meringues takes long enough without having to worry about making sure it maintains pure white and doesn’t brown. In this particular instance, I don’t mind if the meringue is slightly tan on top. It speeds up the baking/drying process and has little effect on the taste.
The second method, which I agree with, is adding gelatin to whipped cream. This works well to stabilize whipped cream if using it like a frosting, which in itself is an interesting technique that I’m not quite used to. Substitute powdered agar-agar or vegetarian gelatin for vegetarians.
A last point that needs to be emphasized is to serve the torte frozen. It just doesn’t taste the same when it begins to thaw. A finished frozen slice should taste creamy and light, like strawberry shortcake and meringue cookies smashed together in a giant sandwich then hidden beneath a layer of silky cream and frozen to combine the textures into a cool summer treat.

Swiss Meringue

5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and dissolved gelatin (see note)
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

Sprinkle strawberries with 1/4 cups sugar and set aside.

Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a  mixer. Beat at medium speed until egg whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating continuously until stiff peaks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper or grease and flour two large baking sheets. Trace four circles in flour, each 6 inches in diameter. Spread a thin layer of meringue within each circle. Sprinkle one layer with sliced almonds.

Bake meringue layers at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake meringue until puffed and cracked, about 50 minutes. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let cool in oven for 30 minutes until room temperature.

Drain sweetened berries. Combine with about 2 1/3 cups of whipped cream. Working as quickly as possible to prevent meringue from softening, sandwich layers with whipped cream mixture. Place the almond studded layer on top. Place in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until cake is frozen.

Spread the remaining whipped cream around sides. Place again in the freezer. When sides are frozen, the torte can be wrapped for freezer storage for up to 6 weeks.




Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Slice

Similar to strawberries or asparagus, rhubarb has always been a common spring staple for me. Growing up, we had a rhubarb plant amongst a strip of overgrown bright orange flowers (daylilies?) along our driveway. Though its size changed over the years, it never failed to produce. I remember checking the stalks to see if they were long or thick enough to use, and at least once or twice a year my mother would make strawberry rhubarb cobbler, or sort of a cross between a cobbler and a pie because she couldn’t be bothered with pie dough. This combination has since been a nostalgic favorite of mine and I’m a big fan of this tart fruity celery-like vegetable. You definitely can’t sit around munching on it but I always felt it was an underused fruit on the east coast.

This pie was actually adapted from the rhubarb tart recipe in “The Art of Fine Baking.” By changing from a flan mold to a pie plate and the addition of strawberries, it morphed into a whole new dessert that’s fairly different from its original precise tart parent. Rhubarb and strawberries are just too good to separate.

Other than distinctly tasting both the strawberry and the rhubarb instead of jellylike globs, there are 2 things that make this pie different (and more delicious) than many other strawberry rhubarb pies. Both involve the crust:
1. A layer of ground nuts is spread across the bottom of the pie crust before the filling is added.
2. lemon zest is added to the pie dough
The nuts are a great idea from the original recipe. Not only does it add a toasted nutty flavor but it helps soak up some of the juice from the strawberries and rhubarb without making it soggy. The Lemon zest brightens the taste of the crust and compliments the freshness of the fruit. It’s pleasantly surprising what a difference these small additions make.
If your looking for a replacement for that apple pie whose season ended months ago, this sweet and sour pie will get you ready for the fruits of summer…

3 cups rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 beaten egg mixed with
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup ground walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
1 recipe rich tart pastry

Grease a 9 inch pie plate and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pastry on a floured surface until 1/8 of an inch thick. Line pie plate with pastry. Save trimmings for top of pie. Chill.

Press ground nuts into the bottom of pie shell. Mix together, rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cinnamon sugar, zest, flour, cornstarch. Fill pie shell.

Roll out remaining pastry dough. Brush with egg milk mixture and cut into strips the length of the top of the pie. Layer lattice pastry strips on pie.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until juices are bubbling and the top is lightly browned.


Croquets aux Filberts/Citrus Hazelnut Cookies

Croquets aux Filberts/Citrus Hazelnut Cookies

After a few fans of my grandmother’s books proclaimed Croquet aux Filberts as their favorite cookie, this recipe from “The Art of Fine Baking” became a priority. I realized while making the log, baking it, slicing it, and then baking the sliced cookies, that these are fairly similar to biscotti. In my opinion though, thick slices and the combination of citrus zest and hazelnuts make these much better than any biscotti out there.

I wasn’t sure what filberts were. After researching it, I’m still not quite sure if they are the same as hazelnuts or just similar. I’ve found conflicting articles stating both. Some say filberts are just a European version of hazelnuts. While others say they are the same and the names are interchangeable. Either way, hazelnuts are readily available. If you’re like me and have a hard time eating anything hazelnut without chocolate, bittersweet chocolate chips or shavings can be added to the batter or pressed into the log before baking. Other than this potential addition (which really isn’t necessary), this recipe is pretty much perfect as is. Hope I do it justice!


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and sliced or chopped
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water

Set oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Cream butter and a 1/2 cup sugar together. Add orange and lemon zest, vanilla, egg, and 1 cup hazelnuts. Gently stir in flour mixed with salt. Chill slightly.

Divide dough in half. Form each half into a long, slim loaf about 2 inches wide. Place loaves well apart on baking sheet.

Brush each loaf with egg white mixed with water. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and sliced hazelnuts.

Bake about 25 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown. Cool slightly.

Reduce oven tempurature to 300 degrees.
Cut straight or diagonally in 1/2 inch slices. Replace slices in oven for 10 minutes or until they are lightly toasted and dry.

Yield Approximately 44

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking”


Hazelnut Macaroons

Hazelnut Macaroons

I was looking through both of my grandmothers books, “The Art of Good Cooking” and “The Art of Fine Baking” for an appropriate holiday recipe – either Easter or Passover. I skimmed over Gefilte Fish convincing myself that I would make it at some point but that now just wasn’t the time. Instead, I found a quick and simple recipe for Soft Filbert Macaroons, which I quickly renamed Hazelnut Macaroons. A twist on the traditional coconut or almond macaroons, hazelnuts are one of my favorite nuts and I used this recipe to try a couple of different versions: Hazelnut Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Macaroons, and Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Coconut Macaroons. Any of these versions are good ( I of course prefer anything with chocolate – especially chocolate hazelnut combinations). If coconut is added, make sure to cut the amount of sugar in half. Also, the recipe calls for blanched whole filberts – as you can see from my photos, I used whole hazelnuts with their skin, but I’m sure these would be prettier with blanched ones.


3 cups ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
3 to 4 egg whites
30 blanched whole filberts
sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
melted/tempered bittersweet chocolate for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet well or line with parchment paper.

Combine ground filberts, sugar, vanilla, and spices in a bowl. Add coconut if using. Add enough egg white to make a medium-firm dough. Pinch off pieces slightly smaller than a walnut. Roll into balls.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly. Stick a whole filbert into center of each cookie.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops of cookies are firm.

Dip in melted chocolate, if using.

Yield: approximately 30.

Adapted by Megan Peck


Strawberry Kiwiberry Mascarpone Cream Parfait

Strawberry Kiwiberry Marscarpone Parfait

Yes, it’s as delicious as it looks. It is also very easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I used kiwiberries because I like their combination of tart skin with the sweet flesh but regular chopped kiwi, banana, raspberries, blueberries, or any combination of fruit all work well here.
If you’re a kiwi lover but not familiar with kiwiberries, you should be. These miniature kiwis with fuzz free tart edible skin, may seem like baby kiwis but they are actually an entirely different fruit. Often from New Zealand, Kiwiberries or Hardy Kiwis can be difficult to come by and expensive. Here in NYC, they’re available at most gourmet food stores and according to Wikipedia (Kiwiberries on Wikipedia), more commercial production is now taking place in the U.S. so this “historically unsuccessful fruit” may become more available. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour combinations like I am, you should definitely try kiwiberries.

You may be wondering if or how this recipe relates to Paula Peck and her cookbooks. Well, the recipe itself may not (no kiwiberries in the 1960’s, that’s for sure) but the inherent pound cake recipe comes directly from “The Art of Fine Baking.” I also think she would love the beauty and simplicity of this recipe, though she would probably add cognac or kirsch to the cream layers.


1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 – 6oz package kiwiberries, sliced
1/2 loaf Basic Pound Cake (recipe follows), sliced and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Continue beating, gradually adding remaining sugar, until the cream holds stiff peaks. Beat in mascarpone cheese.

To build the parfaits: in clear dessert glasses, begin layering cake, cream, and fruit. Cover the bottom of the glass with 1-2 pieces of cake followed by a few dollops of cream. Build a ring of kiwiberries around the glass by sliding them down the side (cut side out). Add strawberries. Continue layering and top with cream and strawberries.

Serves 4-6.

Basic Pound Cake


3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and dust with flour.

In a large bow, combine eggs and sugar. Beat for a minute. Set bowl over saucepan of hot water. Place saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until eggs are slightly warmer than lukewarm. Do not let water boil. Stir eggs occasionally while they are being heated to prevent them from cooking on bottom of bowl.

While eggs are warming, cream butter and flour till light and fluffy. Add vanilla.

When eggs are lukewarm, beat them until cool, thick, and tripled in bulk. Quickly stir 1/4 of beaten eggs into creamed mixture. Pour mixture over remaining beaten eggs. Fold in gently. Be careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake about 40-50 minutes or until cake is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of pan.


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