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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Mauritian Banana Tart

Don’t let the startling geometry fool you. Today’s Banana Tart is for those who like mellow desserts. Big bites of health. An entire banana tree in the belly, topped off with delicate lattice goodness. I know. It’s craziness. You can thank the dreamy island of Mauritius, way out in the Indian Ocean, for teaching me this ingenious way to use up ripe bananas. The ingredient list is so simple and pure, I almost can’t believe it. Bananas, barely a smattering of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a vanilla bean. That’s it. Let’s just say I’d be proud to serve this tart to the tiniest tot. Now, if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’ll be in the corner, daydreaming about going back in time so I can bring this tart to Ava’s first birthday party. The dense mashed banana would have made a fantastic, healthy first birthday “cake” (you could probably even leave the sugar out without harming the taste – just use very ripe bananas). P.S. If you’d rather, you can always fly to Mauritius, …

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Vanilla Bean n’ Tropical Fruit

Vanilla beans might as well be jewels. The insides are full of teeny, tiny black caviar – the likes of which I can’t help but want all over my ice cream and baked goods… I even like to dab vanilla extract on my wrists when baking. Suffice it to say, I’m a fan. Now, imagine yourself in a country like Madagascar, where there are enough vanilla beans to pave the streets. There, thanks to such quantity, the people use vanilla bean caviar much more whimsically than I can ($8 per bean, anyone?). Even just this little bit easily perfumes my entire home… Can you imagine how intoxicating the air must smell in Madagascar, where clumps of vanilla beans hang heavy in the humid air? So what about today’s fun recipe? Well, we’re following the Malagasy style, and using the bean used in it’s most pure form, tossed with fresh, tropical fruit. The juices become infused with the most amazing, haunting vanilla flavor. While I thought I was going to make a mixed fruit salad (hello, did …

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Lithuanian Honey Spirits | Krupnikas

The holidays are over. We stuffed our wrapping paper back into the closet and swept the confetti into the trash, right on top of the party hats that say 2012. The cookies and the friendly buffets of family favorites are long since gone, replaced by soulless detoxes and way-too-skinny drinks. I know some of us are even thinking about spring – scanning the frozen ground, vainly hoping to see some stray spot of green, willing a warm gust of air to come our way, instead of a moveable wall of ice. But can we just… pause for a second, in the interest of good planning? Would you be very mad if I asked you to make a few presents for next year? Right… now? Hear me out. They say Lithuania has the largest collection of amber in the world – known as the gold of the baltics – but I uncovered a far more enticing “gold” in their liquor cabinets: Krupnikas, or Honey Spirits. This boozy drink tastes like heaven on fire – a sweet, fragrant blend that …

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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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Pumpkin Flan

Makes one 10″ bundt pan Cubans love flan in any shape, size, or flavor. This week we’re cooking a pumpkin flan in honor of American Thanksgiving. This is the creamiest, sweetest, most luxurious pumpkin dessert ever. There are several tips for making excellent flan use high quality ingredients strain the flan mixture to get rid of all the little eggy bits and other yuckies that get in the way of perfect smoothness cool completely to allow the flan to set up firmly (it helps to make it the day before you need it) cook in a water bath follow important, high tech jiggle procedure to loosen the flan from the pan (see detailed instructions in recipe below). have a tall lipped plate to catch all your caramel. Don’t ask me how I know this. if you’re taking the flan to a pot luck, wait to unmold it there. That way there’s less of a chance of damaging the beautiful form. Ingredients: For the caramel 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup water cream of tartar, pinch For …

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Vanilla-Shallot Dipping Butter

makes 1/2 cup This rich dipping butter has warm vanilla undertones, mellow onion/garlic flavor from the shallot, and a bright acid note from the white wine. Recipe inspired by the New York Times. Ingredients: 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter 1 shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup) 1/3 cup white wine 1/2 vanilla bean, split salt pepper Serve with Boiled Lobster Method: Melt a tab or two of butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook. Shallots are incredible. I don’t think I’ve used one in 5 years. Thank goodness this recipe came along, to knock me to my senses! Once the shallot is soft and translucent, add white wine. Take a sip, if you have some extra. Simmer for several minutes, until almost all the liquid evaporates. Then, whisk in the rest of the butter. And add the scrapings of half a vanilla pod. Fresh vanilla scrapings take this dipping butter over the edge, into the realm of the divine. A little salt and pepper seals the deal. At this point many smart people – like the people …

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