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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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Coconut Curd | Kaya

Singapore is a true melting pot. In every kitchen, you’ll find time honored traditions from around the world, especially India, China, Malaysia, and Europe. Today’s recipe, Kaya, belies the British influence on the islands. Think tea time and crumpets. But Asian-style. Here’s the skinny: Kaya is Coconut Curd. Curd is a spread that’s thickened with egg yolks… In this sense, Kaya is just like Britain’s much adored lemon curd, but with the hauntingly addictive flavor of rich, velvety coconut milk instead of tart lemon juice. While the tropical spread would be incredible between cake layers, the most traditional use in Singapore is on toast for breakfast or teatime. Kaya is smooth and silky on the tongue, and makes any breakfast instantly feel special. The best part is that there are only three ingredients, the luscious blend is vegetarian, and, just by chance, gluten-free. Win. Win. Win. I suggest sipping a little tea or coffee on the side… perhaps with a mega view, like this: P.S. I think kaya would also be divine on crumpets, scones, or biscuits. P.P.S. Kaya would …

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Creamy Coconut & Banana Tart

Imagine sitting by the sea one lazy afternoon, focused on the tattered nets of nearby fishing boats, when something big and hard bumps against your foot. When you look down, you see a giant, two lobed coconut has washed up, onto the sand. From end to end, this coconut is as long as your forearm, with tufts of hair poking out between the brown, oblong lobes. She would have traveled hundreds (thousands!) of miles to reach you, all the way from the Seychelles. And you’d know she came from there, because it is the only place where these incredible coconuts grow. Once you saw her, you’d never forget her.  She’s called Coco de Mer, or coconut of the sea. And she really is quite… shall we say… graphic. I had the awkward pleasure of sitting next to one this week, hand delivered from the Seychelles by my friend Barry. Weighing in at 40-50 pounds, these are the world’s largest coconuts, stars of countless legends and pirates tales (one of which we’ll hear from Barry in a …

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Polish Apple “Pie” | Szarlotka

We don’t always do what’s expected in my family. We laugh in the face of drama. We cry whenever happy. We eat pizza for breakfast. And we’re generally 10 years out of fashion (note: I’ll never slip into skinny jeans, so don’t hold your breath on that one). P.S. We never had normal birthday cakes. I liked to have the unusual and highly troublesome (in the best possible way) German Tree Cake on my birthday. Half the time my brother Damien requested apple pie for his. If we were Polish, homemade, sugar dusted Szarlotka is surely what he would have gotten. Since it’s apple picking season, any excuse is a great excuse to make apple pie. And I’m thrilled Poland has such a fun version… Now, I should clarify – this is not exactly pie per se – that’s simply the translation most often given for this sweet treat. Instead it looks more like a fruit bar with apple pie filling. The “crust” is like a cross between a shortbread cookie and pie crust. The dough is made …

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Dulce de Leche Stuffed Cookies | Alfajores

Sometimes we need a do over. A chance to get it right. And a little forgiveness. Because in every mishap is a silver lining. Especially when it comes to sweet, crumbly dulce de leche filled alfajores – the popular South American cookie. One bite instantly dissolves on the tongue into a cloud of tender lemon zest deliciousness. Divine. But back to forgiveness. Specifically, I need to forgive my sweet, bumbling husband for being so thoughtful as to fill up the cooler with ice for our 3 1/2 hour road trip, yet being so forgetful as to overlook returning the cookie dough to the cooler. I need to let go of the grief that the cookie dough rode in the bed of our pickup truck, saran wrap in the wind, balanced precariously on top of my red suitcase, all the way to our family vacation in Beaver’s Bend. And I need to accept that, because it was 100F and sunny, the cookie dough could never be cooked. In situations like this, it’s all about the silver …

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Frankincense Ice Cream

I like a little mystery in the midst of routine. A drizzle of scented massage oil makes the evening fly by. A simple puff of incense fills every crevice of my home with glorious serenity. And of all possible aromas, Frankincense reigns supreme. Ever since I was a little girl, poised with wonder under the glittering Christmas tree, Frankincense has captivated me. My little brain could never quite grasp what on earth Frankincense was or why it was so special, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming of the magical era when a gift of Frankincense was as beloved as gold. In fact, the mystery only made it seem more special. Then, thundering in from the far reaches of Oman comes Frankincense Ice Cream. Each nibble is creamy and sweet – Frankincense has an alluring bite of pine, sweet ginger, something like orange zest, and foggy twilight smiles. In my research I  learned that Frankincense is resin (a.k.a. dried sap)  from the Boswellia tree. The highest quality flows creamy white and is called luban, meaning …

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Rice Pudding | Sutlijash

Looking back, I’m not sure how I resisted for so long. Honestly. We’re more that halfway done eating the world and, yet, I haven’t made regular ol’, plain Jane, rice pudding (something altogether different than the exotic sticky rice coconut pudding I made for Laos). I find this fact is so surprising because, whenever I crack open my cookbooks to research the food of another country, I run into rice pudding. Rice pudding iseverywhere, on every continent, in all forms. Since globalization has made rice easily available to most peoples, this basic dish continues to spread throughout the world like wildfire. The dessert is a staple on our world “menu,” especially for the tropical countries, along with anything plantain, avocado, or banana. So, here we are. I’m giving in. I’m going for it! You can thank Macedonia, where they enjoy a version called Sutlijash. The simple recipe brings a happy stick of cinnamon and fresh lemon peel to the pot, which adds a subtle, sunshiny note to an otherwise sweet, hearty pudding. As for my delay? Perhaps I didn’t broach …

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Nutmeg Ice Cream

Makes 1 1/2 quarts Pull up a chair. I have a secret to tell you. You are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures if you’ve never made homemade ice cream. I’ve spent many a summer day hovering over a spinning, whirring ice cream machine…  waiting – rather impatiently- for the liquid to solidify into creamy goodness, just so I can eat it up with a spoon directly out of the container. The milk and cream mixture completes its glorious transformation in less than thirty minutes in a machine (which is a great plug and play alternative to the hand cranked models of yore). Today’s recipe comes all the way from Grenada yet tastes so familiar, almost like summertime eggnog, thanks to the addition of their pride and joy – the noble nutmeg. I call it ever-so nutmeg because it is ever-so good. The bonus? Our recipe is a little lighter than some ice creams, which typically include equal parts milk and cream. NOTE: If you purchased a 2 cup container of heavy cream, …

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Starfruit Curd with Tropical Fruit

Makes about 1 1/4 cups of curd Read this recipe at your own peril. Inspired by the bountiful tropical fruit of Gabon, you’ll be inevitably faced with a choice. Spend an extravagant $12 dollars on 2 star fruit to make this simple treat, or live a life untouched by the smiles this dessert could bestow upon you. While Gabon certainly grows mangoes, bananas and starfruit – and most likely serves up a great fruit curd in the capital (they were a French colony after all) – this particular recipe is my own creation. And, since I’m not exactly Gabonese, I must admit … that makes this recipe not exactly authentic. Once you taste it, though, you’ll forgive me. I promise. Ingredients: 1 cup strained, fresh starfruit juice (about 2 starfruit) 3 egg yolks 1/4 cup sugar 1 Tablespoon flour 1 Tablespoon cornstarch butter, as needed For the parfait Banana slices Mango cubes Method: Sing a few rounds of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” while you make this recipe. Use ripe starfruit. They’ll be heavy for size, …

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Grapefruit and Ginger Tart

Celebrate late winter with this French-inspired, bright citrus tart, featuring grapefruit and ginger flavored pastry cream on top of a spicy gingersnap crust. The candied ginger garnish is the exclamation point to this perky citrus dessert. I created this dessert for a contest on Food52. The flavor was so good – tart and sweet and gingery – I thought I’d share it with you here, during French week. I came up with this happy combination while playing around with a classic French citrus tart recipe in “The Cordon Bleu at Home.” The result is a far cry from tradition. While the flavor combination is unusual, the ginger and grapefruit really complement each other. Even Mr. Picky gave it rave reviews, exclaiming “I could eat the whole thing.” As you know, that’s a pretty good review, coming from him. SERVES 6-8 For the Grapefruit & Ginger Pastry Cream: 1 cup strained, fresh grapefruit juice 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger 3 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon flour 1 tablespoon corn starch 1 teaspoon brandy (optional) butter, as needed For the garnish: 1 teaspoon finely …

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Chocolate, Espresso & Vanilla Pots de Crème

Makes 8 individual desserts Some days are so good – so deliriously happy, happy, happy – that I cannot limit myself to just one dessert to celebrate, even if it is a fabulously good French one… Today is such a day because, when I told Ava “I love you,” she smiled big and lovingly, and gave me…. two… thumbs… up. She only just learned how to give a thumbs up yesterday, so I’m feeling pretty special right about now. In honor of her cuteness, we’re going with a sampler style celebration – 3 different flavors – perfect for parties, potlucks, or elegant dinners. The key to a good pot de creme isn’t a thick, creamy interior. In fact, despite the name, the dessert doesn’t even have to contain cream. It can be as delicate as a custard, which this is most definitely. Our version is an adaptation from Le Cordon Bleu at Home. Ingredients: 3 cups milk 1/4 cup heavy cream 3/4 cup sugar 1 vanilla bean, scraped 3 eggs 3 egg yolks 1 tsp vanilla …

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Strawberry Rhubarb & Cream Tart

Want a bite of Estonian springtime? Go for rhubarb, the most beloved, cold-climate vegetable around. It looks like celery with lipstick, but tastes fruity and tart. Elizabeth Schneider explains the special place rhubarb has in countries like Estonia: Imagine that you’ve spent the winter eating fruits and vegetables rationed from a root cellar and canning jars. Now imagine the first rosy rhubarb of the year, welcome as new grass. Not so long ago, rhubarb held a special place in the culinary calendar as a unique fresh food, the earliest harbinger of spring. Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini 5 Fun facts about Rhubarb: Never eat the leaves, cooked or raw. They are toxic. Never cook rhubarb in aluminum – it will dull the fruit’s color. Look for flat, deep red stalks. They have the most flavor. Rhubarb can be mild or extremely tart. You may need to adjust your sweeteners accordingly. Rhubarb season begins in March, but hothouse rhubarbs are available as early as January. RECIPE Serves 8-10 A casual dusting of confectioner’s sugar gives this …

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