Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Marshmallow is not just for kids anymore. In the past few years, there’s been a surge of gourmet marshmallows. I frequently see lavender, lemon, and chocolate flavored marshmallows for sale in clear plastic bags with a bow at price that usually exceeds $5. Even the good old Jet Puffed marshmallows from the grocery store have expanded into different sizes and flavors. This may be why I love marshmallows more now than I did as a child. The light fluffy texture is irresistible and when combined with chocolate, it’s easily one of the best confectionary combinations.

Homemade marshmallows take these sweet airy puffs to another level. Not only can you control the texture, you also have some control over the sugar content. This recipe is based on a classic version by David Lebovitz. A process similar to Italian meringue, the use of egg whites makes a super fluffy, almost spongy marshmallow that can easily be eaten on its own. If you’ve never made marshmallows, this is the recipe to try.

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Mini Chocolate Almond Meringue Tarts

Mini Chocolate Almond Meringue Tarts

Mini Chocolate Meringue TartsI know this may seem like an odd selection for a recipe post just a few days before Christmas. It’s not holiday specific and it doesn’t contain peppermint, molasses or ginger, or any other Christmasy baking ingredient that is usually expected this time of year. What you have here is a tasty little party dessert that covers all your festive baking bases. Almond paste is the dominant flavor in the crust, which then accents the rich chocolate ganache filling. But lets not forget the meringue. These lovely white peaks are the finishing touch that brings all of the components together into one delicious mini dessert.

I developed this recipe solely based on inspiration. It is not a Paula Peck recipe nor one from her colleagues. I happen to try a version of these little delights at an Italian Bakery in New Jersey that I often frequent. A chocolate tart with an almond flavored crust seemed brilliant to me and I’m always a sucker for meringue. I had seen the recipe for Almond Short Pastry in my grandmother’s book , “The Art of Fine Baking,” and the use of both ground almonds and almond paste convinced me it would make the perfect tart dough. The richness of the hard cooked egg yolks (one of her best tart-making techniques) combined with the nutty almond pairs beautifully with the chocolate filling. The meringue may be over kill but it definitely gives these tartlets the snowy-peak feel appropriate for holiday entertaining. Besides, who can resist the pillowy white marshmallow texture on top of almond chocolaty morsels of magic?


Almond Short Pastry
1/2 cup almond paste
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup unbalanced almonds
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup butter
pinch cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 hard boiled egg yolks, pushed through a sieve

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1-12 ounce bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly grease a muffin pan.

Cream almond paste with raw egg yolks until soft. Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.

Mix flour and ground almonds together and place in a bowl, making a well in the center. In the well, place sugar, salt, lemon zest, softened butter, spices, hard boiled egg yolk, and almond-paste mixture.

With finger tips, combine the center ingredients, gradually incorporating flour and nuts to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Chill until firm enough to roll between sheets of wax paper (about 1 hour).

Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter or top of a glass, cut out rounds of dough and gently place them in muffin tin, lightly pressing down to line each cup. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until just barely beginning to lightly brown. Half way through baking, prick centers of cups so they do not continue to puff up. Allow to fully cool.

While tarts cool, make the ganache filling:

Heat the heavy cream and milk in a pot over medium-low until it simmering slightly. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until well incorporated. Beat the eggs and add them to the chocolate mixture, stir until completely combined. Pour the filling into the cooled tartlets and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes until the filling is set and the surface is glossy. Cool completely.

While tartlets cool, make the meringue topping:

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Pipe mixture onto tartlets. Raise oven heat to 350 and place tartlets in oven, until meringue is golden (about 5-10 minutes). Cool.

Yield about 12 mini tarts.

Mini Chocolate Ganache Meringue Tarts



Poppy Seed Caramel Rolls

Poppy Seed Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon and caramel rolls seem to be everywhere these days, or at least photos of them are. The gooey texture is both photogenic and irresistible. I often see these well-known breakfast rolls prominently displayed on large white plates or cake stands at cafés around New York City. I almost always have to buy one. A version of my own was long overdue yet perfectly timed with the Holidays.

The base of this recipe came from the “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard but the inspiration came from two very different sources: a nostalgic Christmas memory and a popular babka bakery in New York City. Growing up in a cozy Minneapolis neighborhood, our neighbors exchanged small gifts (usually of homemade goodies) every Christmas. My family looked forward to the plate of Caramel Rolls that was routinely included in these gifts every year. Each roll was always the perfect size, not too big nor too small, with just the right amount of caramel. We would save them for breakfast on Christmas morning.

The addition of poppy seeds to this nostalgic replication was inspired by Breads Bakery, one of my favorite bakeries in New York City. They are known for many delicious breads and pastries but their chocolate Babka is particularly impressive (they even ship it nationwide!). The deep chocolate swirls remind me of black poppy seeds and inspired me to combine them into this indulgent sweet bready treat.

These delectable rolls can also be made plain, without poppy seeds, for a classic version. However, those of us who love poppy seeds, will enjoy the light crunch and texture that the spattering of poppy seeds provides. These caramel rolls may be different from those that I looked forward to every Christmas as a child, but they are better than what I find at most cafes here in the city. They just might make it on the table with the holiday desserts this year (as well as for breakfast, of course).


2 (1 1/2 tablespoons) packages active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm milk
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon salt
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

4 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 brown sugar
cinnamon and poppy seeds for sprinkling

Mix the yeast in a large bowl with ½ cup of the warm milk, honey, and sugar. Let stand a few minutes to proof. Melt butter in remaining milk and add the salt. Combine with the yeast mixture.

Add the flour a cup at a time and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Continue mixing until dough is thoroughly blended. If you are using an electric mixer with a dough hook, knead at slow speed for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If kneading by hand, turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead until dough is very soft, smooth, and elastic. Transfer to a well-buttered bowl and allow to rise in a warm spot until double in bulk (around 1-2 hours).

While dough rises, grease bottom and sides of a 9 inch round cake pan or 8 inch square baking pan. Mix Melt 4 tablespoons of melted butter with ¾ cup brown sugar. Pour into prepared pan.

Punch down dough and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Roll out with a rolling pin into a rectangle, about ½ inch thick. Spread with softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and poppy seeds.  Roll up and cut the roll into 1 – 1 ½ inch slices. Arrange slices in the prepared pan.  Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt tablespoon. Brush the rolls with the butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds and cinnamon. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then run a butter knife along the sides of the pan to release the rolls. Place a serving plate on top of the rolls and while holding the bottom of the baking pan, flip upside down onto the serving plate so that the bottoms of the rolls are facing up and the caramel sauce covers them.

Yield 9 large rolls or 18 small rolls.

Poppy Seed Cinnamon Roll



Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

There is no shortage of cookie recipes this time of year. Everyone seems to have a favorite type of cookie or baking tradition that they don’t normally stray from during the holidays. I am no different. I have few really good cookie recipes that I repeat for special occasions. A recipe has to be both special and scrumptious to make it into that repeat category. But this year, I used a familiar good cookie recipe and promoted it to an amazing one by creating these sandwich cookies. These are delicious cookies. Seriously. After taking just one bite, a friend commented “you should sell these,” and he doesn’t even like dessert.

Ginger is an obvious go to flavor this time of year and I’ve been making these tasty almond cookies from “The Art of Fine Baking” for a few holidays now. I even shared the popular recipe in culinary school when we were required to make a gourmet buffet of sorts. Molasses, cinnamon, cloves, and ground ginger provide these buttery cookies with a rich spicy kick. Sliced almonds add a tender crunch to the soft (but not gooey or crumbly) finished cookies. Since the dough (if you don’t eat most of it first) is formed into a log, chilled, and then sliced into even symmetrical rounds, these are easy candidates for sandwiches. Lemony butter cream was the logical choice to help balance the strong spices that accent the deep molasses flavor. Piping this sweet cream onto the cookies proved surprisingly quick. I had to stop myself from eating each cookie sandwich as I made them.

It’s easy to fall back into the same habits and bake the same desserts every holiday season but without trying anything different, you may never establish your next favorite baking tradition. This is the lesson I’m learning…as I gobble down another gingery lemon scented sandwich cookie.


1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sliced almonds
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Lemon Buttercream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, molasses, spices, baking soda, and almonds. Mix in flour. Form dough into two logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice dough logs 1/4 inch thick and place slices on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned.

While cookies cool, make the lemon cream:

Beat butter with sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.

When cookies are cool, fill a piping bag with lemon cream and pipe an even layer of cream on half the cookies. Top each cream filled cookie with a plain one to create sandwiches.

Yield approximately 30


Pumpkin Cake Roll

Pumpkin Cake Roll

Pumpkin Cake Roll We can’t seem to get enough pumpkin these days. From pumpkin spice Oreos to pumpkin spice latte burgers (yes, really), there’s more and more of this popular flavor combination every year. And why not? The pairing of this seasonal squash with sugar and comforting cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg can be almost addictive. This is also why many classic recipes are so easily adaptable to a pumpkin spice version. Although Pumpkin may not have been a common ingredient at the height of my grandmother’s career, the spice mix was. My grandmother used these spices in her simple spiced sponge cake recipe, which I used as a base for this pumpkin cake roll.

I often wonder what my grandmother would think of this pumpkin explosion. I’m sure she would have first perfected pumpkin pie and then possibly expanded to pumpkin cookies or bread. She may have stopped at that point or continued on a quest to master the best of the pumpkin recipes. This type of cake roll would have been somewhat abstract for her but I was inspired by the pumpkin craze and decided to merge her chocolate roll/yule log recipe with her spiced sponge cake one. The light whipped mascarpone cream is what differentiates this from other cake roll recipes that often use cream cheese frosting. I have nothing against cream cheese frosting (love it on carrot cake) but those of us who are somehow offended by it may prefer this light whipped cream to help balance the spice of the cake. The rich buttery taste remains but without the sourness often experienced with cream cheese. If you’re not tired of pumpkin yet but don’t want to stray too far from the classic pumpkin desserts, a cake roll could be the sweet finish to end your Thanksgiving meal.


4 eggs
pinch salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbs sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sifted corn starch
3/4 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mascarpone Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 11 x 16 jelly roll pan or a 9 x 13 pan and line with parchment paper.

Separate eggs. Beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, sprinkling it in a little at a time. Continue beating until whites are very firm, about 5 minutes in all.

Stir yolks with a fork to break them up. Whisk in pumpkin. Add vanilla. Fold a quarter of the stiffly beaten egg whites thoroughly into egg yolks. Pour egg yolk mixture on top of remaining whites. Sprinkle corn starch, flour, and spices over mixture. Fold all very gently together until no pieces of egg white show. Careful not to over mix.

Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cake is very lightly browned.

While cake sheet cools, make the whipped cream:

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. Carefully bear in mascarpone cheese until just combined.

To assemble the cake roll:

Place cake on a sheet of wax paper large enough to extend at least 1 inch on all sides and dusted with powdered sugar or a little flour. Spread cake with whipped cream. Lifting one long side of the wax paper, roll pastry inward. Continue to lift wax paper while pastry rolls up, jelly-roll style. Twist wax paper firmly around cake roll to help give it shape. Dust with powdered sugar.



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