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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dingel’s Oven Shortbread & Gingerbread (The Best!)

Dingel's Oven Shortbread

Three-inch monogrammed shortbread tiles,
with a back coated with salted caramel.
Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.


A few months ago we were introduced to Dingel’s Oven, located in Beaverton, Oregon. What a find! And what a solution to gift-giving throughout the year. Because anyone who receives a box of cookies from Dingel’s Oven will look forward to another one, and another, and another.

Bakers Uta and Ego specialize in the most delicious shortbread cookies and gingerbread cookies. Both are made in three-inch square “tiles” with crimped edges and a large monogram in the center.

The cookies themselves are perfection, made even more perfect because each batch is hand-baked to order. In a cookie tin (provided by you), they’ll last for more than two months. That would be a theory, because no mere mortal can resist devouring them.

But in the name of research, we’ve kept a few for almost three months now. While not as perfect as the fresh-baked—for example, the terrific fresh butter flavor we initially tasted is now a normal butter flavor—they are still delicious. No one who hadn’t tasted the originals would know the difference.

The cookies freeze well, too.


Salted Caramel Shortbread Tiles

The shortbread tiles have a surprise: The bottom of each cookie is covered with salted caramel. Shortbread and salted caramel together is wedded bliss.
Glazed Gingerbread Tiles

Requests for the gingerbread tiles continue beyond the holiday season, so the cookies are available year round. Centuries ago, ginger was expensive and a holiday splurge; that’s why gingerbread is associated with Christmas. Today, there’s no reason not to enjoy it year-round—especially with memorable cookies like these.
Cookie Details

  • Many companies say that they only use the freshest, simplest, purest ingredients of the highest quality. That may be so; but Dingel’s Oven ingredients are even fresher and higher in quality. The butter in the shortbread really sets the bar, as does the ginger in the gingerbread.
  • The cookies are sold by the dozen. One dozen 3″ x 3″ cookies are $24.
  • The recipes contain no peanuts or nut products. No artificial additives, preservatives or extenders are used whatsoever. Sorry, but there is no gluten-free option.
  • Your personal message will be written on a gift card. For corporate gifts, the card can feature a 4-color logo.
    But don’t tarry. Since every the cookies are hand-baked to order, the bakers need two-week lead time for the holidays; and as much lead time as possible is greatly appreciated.



    Think of Dingel’s Oven tile coookies year-round for:

  • Bachelorette parties
  • Wedding favors
  • Baby showers
  • Corporate gifts
  • Custom cookies for any occasion
    Instead of an initial monogram, you can have a logo or other image on your cookies.

    Thank you, Dingel’s Oven, for creating a memorable cookie that solves just about all gift-giving needs.


    Gingerbread a la Mode

    Serve the cookies à la mode, with vanilla, coffee or rum raisin ice cream. Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Fiori di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence that translates to “flower of Sicily,” was used by our friend Ruth’s mother to flavor almost everything she baked. Biscotti, brioche and sweet breads, cookies, cheesecake, angel/pound/sponge cake, pie, macarons, meringues, yellow and white cakes got the fior di sicilia treatment, especially during the holidays.

    Ruth’s mom no doubt inherited the tradition from her mother and grandmother, who were born in the old country. Italians use it to add flavor and aroma to panettone, pandoro and ricotta cookies.

    The essence is a combination of floral, citrus and vanilla extracts, with a lovely floral aroma. Some Americans might identify the scent and taste as an elegant take on “Creamsicle.” Most will find it beguilingly mysterious, and will ask you what the taste is. (Note that essences from different manufacturers may vary. One friend notes flavors of lemon, lime and strawberry in her brand.)
    Is It Fiori Or Fior Di Sicilia?

    The terms are used interchangeably. We see bottles with both the singular, fior di sicilia, and the plural, fiori.


    Fiori Di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fiori di Sicilia adds floral and citrus “mystery” to baked goods. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

    How To Use Fiori Di Sicilia

    We like to use it to add something special to holiday baking. Add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia to a basic cookie or cake recipe. If that isn’t enough for you, use more next time. If the half teaspoon seems meager, it’s because the essence is potent, and should be used with light touch.

    Other popular holiday uses:

  • Biscotti
  • Butter cookies and shortbread
  • Cream cheese and ricotta fillings
  • Hot tea, sparkling water
  • Pound cake and layer cake
  • Ricotta cookies
    We’ve been known to add it to a cup of warm milk (hot or warm milk is a better-for-you comfort food for us). You can add your sweetener of choice to create a cup of “hot fiori di sicilia.”

    In the summer, add it to iced tea and fruit soup.

    You can try it in a one-ounce size ($9.95) from King Arthur Flour; there’s also a 4-ounce size ($19.95). The smaller size is a nice stocking stuffer for people who bake.


    Christmas Butter Cookies

    Christmas butter cookies with fiori di sicilia. Here’s the recipe, from King Arthur Flour.



    Thanks to King Arthur for developing these delicious recipes:

  • Holiday Butter Cookies Recipe
  • Lemon Brioche Recipe
  • French Toast Recipe
  • Cranberry Nut Fruitcake Recipe
  • Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake Recipe
  • Meringues Recipe
  • Pandoro Recipe
  • Panettone Muffins Recipe
  • Panettone Recipe
  • Shimmer Cookies Recipe
  • Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe
  • Springerle Cookies Recipe
  • Spritz Cookies Recipe

    There are 60 more fiori di Sicilia recipes at Enjoy the voyage of discovery.



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Easy Variations

    This recipe, from blogger Jaclyn at Cooking Classy, reminded us to substitute pumpkin for carrot cake during “pumpkin season.” When baking, we tend to focus too much on family favorites and not enough on new seasonal recipes.

    For this recipe, Jaclyn takes a carrot cake approach to pumpkin cake, adding a seasonal cinnamon accent to carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese frosting. She adds a third cake layer to make the cake more impressive.

    If you love raisins and nuts in a carrot cake, you can add them here, too, either in the batter or in or atop the filling between the layers (for the filling, plan for 1/2 cup of each). You can also add pieces of crystallized ginger in the frosting for a spicy crunch.

    An entertaining idea: Make the cake for a cider party, serving fresh cider and mulled cider with brandy and rum.

    Prep time is 40 minutes, Cook Time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 3 hours

    Find more delicious recipes at


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 2-3/4 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1-1/4 cups (270g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (172g) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup (424g/15 oz) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup milk

    Carrot Cake With Chopped Pecans

    TOP PHOTO: Serve pumpkin pie at a cider party, with regular and mulled cider. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: You can garnish the sides of the cake with chopped pecans or walnuts, as shown in this carrot cake from

    For The Frosting

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (Jaclyn used 6 tablespoons salted and 6 tablespoons unsalted butter)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Optional inclusions: chopped pecans or walnut, crystallized ginger, raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
    Optional Garnishes

  • Chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Candy/marzipan pumpkins, acorns or leaves; pomegranate arils

    Pumpkin Layer Cake


    TOP PHOTO: This pumpkin layer cake adds
    raspberries for a festive effect. You can
    instead add dried cherries, cranberries or
    raisins, pomegranate arils, chopped
    crystallized ginger, or a combination.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Food fun in the form of a
    deconstructed layer cake, with streusel
    crumble topped with ice cream, and
    decorated with meringue cookies and a
    ribbon of pumpkin pie filling (you can
    substitute caramel sauce). Photo courtesy
    Caviar Russe | NYC.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and set the pans aside.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisking for 20 seconds and set aside.

    3. USE the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and whip together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, until pale and fluffy. Occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, throughout the mixing process. Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg.

    4. WHISK together the pumpkin and milk in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.

    5. DIVIDE the batter among the three prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the layers in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen. Invert the layers onto wire racks to cool completely.

    6. PREPARE the frosting while the cake cools. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and whip until pale and fluffy.

    7. FILL the cake layers with frosting and then frost the top and sides. If you prefer the look of the three-tiered cake with raspberries, at the top of this section, you can save a bit of time with an unfrosted top and sides. If the frosting is runny, cover and refrigerate just until it no longer is runny before spreading on cake.

    8. STORE the cake in an airtight container such as a cake carrier, in the refrigerator; chill for 20 minutes or as long as you want to store the cake. Let it rest at room temperature to eliminate the chill before serving. Chilling the cake firms the frosting and allows for cleaner slices.




    PRODUCTS: Biscotti & Ice Cream In Holiday Flavors

    This time of year, supermarkets are filling with limited edition seasonal items, from Red Velvet Oreos to Starbucks Holiday Blend to Pumpkin Spice Coffee-Mate.

    We don’t indulge in any of them; but here are some of the treats we look forward to each holiday season:


    At Ciao Bella, you can sink your spoon into three holiday flavors.

  • Honey Almond Nougat Gelato blends honey almond torrone and roasted almonds in a base that does approximate torrone flavor. It’s great idea, but our pint seemed to be lacking in the almond torrone. There were plenty of almonds, however.
  • Mulled Apple Cider Sorbetto is a very cinnamon-imbued apple cider sorbet. This tasty sorbetto called out to us to be made into some kind of cocktail. We took the easy way out and scooped it into glasses of hard apple cider—a hard cider float.
  • White Chocolate Peppermint Gelato churns crushed peppermint candies into white chocolate Gelato. Peppermint ice cream is one of our favorite seasonal foods. We could have wished for more crushed inclusions; although those who like a less heavy dose of peppermint will be satisfied.
    Discover more a

    From Talenti, get your fill of:

  • Pumpkin Pie Gelato: brown sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices with real pieces of pie crust. It inspired us to spoon the gelato into tartlet shells for even more crust. (Ice cream tartlets is a good idea for any of these holiday flavors.)
  • Old World Eggnog Gelato is pretty close to a frozen eggnog experience, laden with nutmeg. We enjoyed it from the pint, spooned into hot chocolate, and in a cocktail made with rum and ginger beer, a kind of Dark & Stormy Eggnog. Did we mention it tastes great with hot fudge?
  • Peppermint Bark Gelato puts all the peppermint into the gelato, and studs it with flakes of semisweet Callebaut chocolate. It’s so refreshing, we ate the whole pint.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/egg nog pint 230

    TOP PHOTO: Holiday sorbetto from Ciao Bella. BOTTOM PHOTO: Peppermint Bark gelato from Talenti. Talenti has styled the top of the gelato with tiny edible evergreens and sleds.

    Discover more at



    Pumpkin Spice biscotti are a seasonal hit.
    Photo courtesy Nonni’s.



    Nonni’s Biscotti, which produces delectable seasonal biscotti in limited edition Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice, has added two new holiday flavors this year.

  • Caramel Apple Biscotti is a bit on the sweet side. We’ll stick with the Salted Caramel Biscotti, a year-round flavor and a favorite.
  • Cranberry Cioccolati Biscotti adds bits of dried cranberry to the year-round chocolate-dipped Cioccolati Biscotti. We’re a fan, but next year, Nonni, please add more or bigger cranberry pieces.
    You can give eight-piece boxes as holiday gifts, enjoy them with your holiday ice cream, or with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. We won’t put into print how many we’ve polished off in the writing of this article.

    Discover more at




    RECIPE: Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

    This fall and Thanksgiving dessert from King Arthur Flour has the wisdom of Solomon. When you can’t decide between pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake, go zebra* and combine them into one dessert!

    Prep time is 25 to 33 minutes, bake time is 40 to 45 minutes.


    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Pie, 10-12 Servings

    For The Crust

    Make your favorite pie crust or purchase a deep 9″ prepared crust. You can also use a cheesecake crust of graham crackers or gingersnaps.

  • Cheesecake crust variations
  • Gingersnap crust
    For The Cheesecake Layer

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/4 cup crushed crystallized ginger (photo below)
    For The Pumpkin Layer

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup light cream or evaporated milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pumpkin pie cheesecake kingarthur 230L1

    The bottom layer is cheesecake, the top layer is pumpkin pie. Photo courtesy

    *A zebra is a cheesecake bottom and a brownie top, or vice versa. Here’s a recipe.



    Crystallized Ginger

    TOP PHOTO: A slice of Pumpkin Pie
    Cheesecake. Add a pinch of ground ginger
    from the whipped cream. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO:
    finely diced crystallized ginger. You can buy it at in a small dice for baking. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.


    For Serving

  • Optional garnish: candied pecans (recipe)
  • Whipped cream (recipe)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F.

    2. REMOVE the crust from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature until it’s warm enough to work with (10 to 30 minutes, depending on how long it’s been refrigerated).

    3. FLOUR your work surface, and roll the crust into a 13″ round. Transfer it to a pie plate that’s at least 9″ wide and 2″ deep. A giant spatula works well for this task. IMPORTANT: Be sure the pan is 2″ deep or all the filling won’t fit. If you find yourself with too much filling, pour it into a ramekin and bake it until the center is set. You’ll have an individual dessert or snack.

    4. GENTLY SETTLE the crust into the plate, and crimp the edges.

    5. MAKE the cheesecake filling: Combine the room-temperature cream cheese and sugar, beating slowly until the mixture is fairly smooth. It may appear grainy, or a few lumps may remain; that’s OK.

    6. STIR in the egg, vanilla and optional ginger. Spoon the filling into the pie crust.

    7. MAKE the pumpkin filling: Whisk together the sugar, salt and spices in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, cream or evaporated milk and eggs, and whisk gently until smooth. (You don’t want to beat a lot of air into this mixture; just be sure it’s thoroughly combined.)

    8. GENTLY SPOON the pumpkin filling atop the cheesecake layer, filling within 1/4″ of the top of the crust. NOTE: Do this carefully at first, so as to not disturb the cheesecake layer. Once you’ve covered the cheesecake, you can be less careful.


    9. BAKE the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 40 to 45 minutes, covering the edges of the pie with a crust shield or aluminum foil if they seem to be browning too quickly. The pie is done when it looks set, but still wobbles a bit in the center when you jiggle it. If you have a digital thermometer, the pie will register 165°F at its center when it’s done.

    10. REMOVE the pie from the oven, allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it until serving time. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a pinch of ginger and teaspoon of vanilla.



    HALLOWEEN: Layer Cake With Candy Corn

    Halloween Layer Cake Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/halloween layer cake tasteofhome 230

    TOP PHOTO: Halloween Layer Cake from
    Harry & David. BOTTOM PHOTO: Make your
    own Halloween layer cake with this recipe.
    Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.


    If yesterday’s Spider Web Brownies didn’t blow your cobwebs away, how about a layer cake?

    In addition to Halloween, the recipe below, from Taste Of Home, is also spot-on for October 30th, National Candy Corn Day.

    There are two orange-colored labels and one chocolate layer. You’ll need three 9-inch round cake pans.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 30 minutes plus frosting and glaze.


    Ingredients For 12-16 Servings

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa (not cocoa drink mix)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 10 drops yellow food coloring
  • 6 drops red food coloring
    For The Frosting

  • 3 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 5-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 8 drops yellow food coloring
  • 6 drops red food coloring

    For The Glaze

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Candy corn for garnish

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CREAM the butter and sugar in a bowl, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

    3. COMBINE the flour, baking powder and salt; add alternately with the milk to creamed mixture. Mix well.

    4. COMBINE the cocoa, water and vanilla; stir in 2 cups of the cake batter. Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch round baking pan.

    5. ADD the orange extract, peel and food coloring to the remaining batter. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake tests done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks.

    6. MAKE the frosting: In a bowl, beat all frosting ingredients until smooth. Place one orange cake layer on a cake plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with chocolate layer; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with second orange layer. Frost the sides and top of each.

    7. MAKE the glaze: Microwave the chocolate and cream on high 1-1/2 minutes or, stirring once. Stir until smooth; let cool 2 minutes. Slowly pour over cake, letting glaze drizzle down sides. Garnish with candy corn.


    Candy Corn Cake Recipe

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/candy corn cheesecake 230

    TOP PHOTO: Edge the cake with rolled wafer cookies and top with candy corn. Recipe from BOTTOM PHOTO: Candy Corn Cheesecake. Recipe from from




    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Spider Web Brownies

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/spider web brownies kingarthur 230

    Brownies for Halloween. If you want to place an edible spider in your web, sandwich two chocolate wafers with icing and add candy eyes and string licorice legs. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.


    Need to bring something to a Halloween party? How about a twist on that party favorite, chocolate brownies?

    This recipe for Spider Web Brownies is from King Arthur Flour, the source of everything wonderful for baking. Prep time is 18 to 22 minutes, baking time is 28 to 30 minutes.


    Ingredients For 24 Pieces
    For The Brownies

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups dark cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
    For The Spider Web

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flourr
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon mint flavoring

    Notes Prior To Preparation

  • The order in which the ingredients are mixed is important.
  • The cream cheese for the web must be soft, so the sugar and flour can be incorporated smoothly.
  • Be sure there are no lumps in the mixture BEFORE adding the egg yolk and flavoring to the web ingredients. If you forget, you can press the mixture through a strainer to get rid of lumps, but it’s a lot of work.
  • Note that the image above shows a round spiderweb, while the directions and step-by-step photos show a 9″ x 13″ rectangular pan. You can make either shape from the same recipe. To make round spider web brownies, divide the batter into two 8″ round cake pans.
  • Here are step by step photos of how the cream cheese web is made.


    1. MAKE the brownie base. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan or two 8″ round cake pans.

    2. CRACK the eggs into a bowl; add the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder and vanilla and beat at medium speed for about 4 minutes.

    3. MELT the butter in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot but not bubbling, 110°F to 120°F. It will become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will help produce a shiny top crust on the brownies.

    4. ADD the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth. Add the flour and chips, stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the pan(s).


    Mummy Brownies

    More Halloween brownies: round, bite-size, wrapped in fondant, by Blissful Brownies. Available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma.

    5. MAKE the “spider web.” Combine the cream cheese, sugar and flour in a small bowl, and mix until smooth. Add the egg yolk and optional flavoring, mixing until smooth once again. Transfer the mixture to a disposable pastry bag and cut just the very tip off the end.

    6. PLACE a small pool of the mixture in the center of the brownie batter. Draw concentric circles around the pool, about 1 inch apart, moving out from the center. Once the circles are drawn, take a table knife, wet the tip, and draw it back and forth through the circles. The knife will draw the cream cheese filling into arcs. When the arcs are finished…

    7. USE the remaining filling in the pastry bag to trace the path where the knife traveled, to create the spokes of the web.

    8. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, until the brownies just barely pull away from the edge of the pan. The center will rise while baking, but will sink back level once the brownies are cool. Remove them from the oven and cool before cutting.

    When testing to see if brownies are done, insert a cake tester into the center of the pan, digging around just enough to see the interior. You should see moist crumbs, but no uncooked batter. You’ll be left with a small divot in the center of the brownies; cover it up with a dab of the cream cheese frosting.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Slab Pie

    Apple Cranberry Slab Pie

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rasperry pecan crumble slab pie driscolls 230r

    You can use a standard top crust or exercise your creativity. TOP PHOTO: Apple Cherry Slab Pie with a lattice top. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home. Here’s the recipe. BOTTOM PHOTO: Raspberry Pecan Crumble Slab Pie (here’s the recipe). Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.


    In the 15 years that we’ve been publishing THE NIBBLE, slab pies have been under the radar. They didn’t even make it into the different types of pies collection in the early editions of our Pie Glossary.

    Slab pies have been getting a bit of play lately, but when did they originate? We found a recipe in our Mom’s recipe box that dated back to the 1950s. Surely, they’re older than that. But try as we might, we could find no history of slab pie online. If you have a reference, please let us know.


    A slab pie is a shallow pie that’s baked in a jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet. It has a much higher crust-to-filling ratio than a standard pie, so it’s definitely for the crust-loving crowd (or the hand pie-loving crowd).

    But there’s another reason to make a slab pie: It stretches pricey ingredients like fresh fruit and feeds quite a few more people than a standard 9-inch pie: almost as much as two pies.

    Nor do you need to roll out two set of crusts for two pies. Just roll out one crust and make a streusel top if you don’t want to roll out a top crust—although two crusts enable people to eat their slices like a hand pie. Of course, you can plate it like a conventional slice of pie and top it with ice cream or whipped cream.

    You can use any filling in a slab pie; but anticipating the holidays, we have two cranberry recipes below (plus links to other recipes).


    In this recipe from McCormick, prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes. The recipe is faster to make using purchased crusts. To make crusts from scratch, see the recipes below.

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie crusts
    (4 crusts), divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 peeled, thinly sliced Fuji apples (subtitute McIntosh or any sweet red apple with a bit of acidity)
  • 50 drops red food color
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Bring the crusts to room temperature according to package directions. Unroll pie crusts and press two of them onto the bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Press together the seams of the overlapping crusts in middle of baking dish to seal.

    2. MIX the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in large bowl. Add the apples; toss to coat well. Add the food color; toss to coat well. Spoon into the pie crust and top with the remaining 2 crusts. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together to seal. Cut small slits in top crust (you can make them artistic; see this photo and this one).

    3. BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

    Another easy McCormick recipe, this pie uses cranberry sauce in the filling instead of having to prepare whole cranberries. A meringue top replaces the top crust. Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes.


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 package (14.1 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
  • 1-2/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup 100% cranberry juice
  • 6 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pure orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Bring the crusts to room temperature according to package directions. Unroll the pie crusts and press onto the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ glass baking dish. Fold the edges of the crusts under and press together to form a thick crust edge. Press the seams of the overlapping crusts in the middle of the baking dish together to seal. Pierce the crusts with a fork. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.


    2. MIX 1 cup of sugar and the cornstarch in large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cranberry juice until well blended. Whisk in the egg yolks and the cranberry sauce until well blended (some lumps may remain). Whisking occasionally, bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the orange extract. Pour the hot filling into the baked pie crust. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight until chilled and set. Then…

    4. MAKE the meringue. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Mix the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and the cream of tartar in a small bowl. Gradually add the sugar mixture to the egg whites, beating until stiff peaks form.

    5. SPREAD the meringue evenly over the cranberry-topped pie, sealing the edges of the crust. Bake 4 to 6 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. For the best results, top and bake with the meringue just before serving.


    Candy Apple Slab Pie

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/Cranberry Meringue Slab Pie mccormick 230

    TOP PHOTO: Candy Apple Slab Pie. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO: Cranberry Meringue Slab Pie (recipe below). Photos courtesy Julie Gransee | Lovely Little Kitchen.



    It turns out that Martha Stewart has been publishing slab pie recipes since 2006. Here are some of them, each with a different crust treatment:

  • Blueberry Slab Pie Recipe
  • Berry Or Stone Fruit Slab Pie Recipe & Video
  • Peach Raspberry Slab Pie Recipe (with a polka dot top crust)
  • Quince & Sauternes Slab Pie Recipe
  • Sour Cherry Slab Pie Recipe
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Slab Pie Recipe
  • Slab Pie Recipes From Buzzfeed
  • Slab Pie Recipes From Huffington Post


    RECIPE: Boston Cream Pie

    October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day, but don’t let the name fool you. Boston Cream Pie is a cake: two layers of buttery sponge cake sandwiched with crème pâtissière (pastry cream or vanilla cream filling) or custard filling, and topped with a glaze of chocolate ganache.

    The modern Boston Cream Pie was created for the opening of the Parker House Hotel in Boston, in October 1856. An Armenian-French chef, M. Sanzian, sandwiched two layers of sponge cake with crème pâtissière, and topped the cake with a chocolate ganache glaze.

    His recipe was a re-working of the early American pudding-cake pie. The first reference, a recipe published in 1855, calls it a “pudding pie cake.” It had a powdered sugar topping.

    According to What’s Cooking America, the cake was originally served at the hotel with the name Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie. “Boston” came later.

    As a throwback to its origin, the ganache top of the cake is sometimes decorated with confectioners’ sugar, or icing designs can be made in the ganache, as in the second photo. For a more festive cake, the bare sides can be covered with pastry cream and toasted almonds (which is how the cake is currently prepared at the Parker House—here’s their recipe).

    According to Omni Parker House, what made the dessert so special was its chocolate icing. Back in 1856, chocolate was mainly consumed as a beverage or in puddings; the chocolate bar was yet to be perfected (here’s the history of chocolate timeline). So chocolate icing was an innovative use of chocolate at the time. [Source]

    So why is it called a pie?



    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Cara Fealy Choate | Wikimedia. Bottom photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.

    The answer is most likely that, in the mid-19th century pie tins were more common than cake pans. The distinction between calling something pie or cake was more flexible than it is today. The cake might well have been baked in pie tins. (By the same token, cheesecake is not a cake, but a cream cheese-flavored custard pie.)

    Boston Cream Pie was declared the official dessert of Massachusetts in 1996. The pie beat out other iconic Massachusetts desserts, including Fig Newtons, Toll House Cookies and Indian Pudding.

    This recipe was sent to us by It was developed by Taylor Mathis of

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes.
    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake
    For The Sponge Cake

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra for the baking pans)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
    For The Vanilla Cream Filling

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    For The Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    *Substitute quality chopped chocolate in 70% cacao.



    Boston Cream Pie

    Boston Cream Pie. Top photo by Taylor
    Mathis | Taylor Takes A Taste for Go Bold
    With Butter. Bottom photo courtesy Kraft



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. BRING the milk to a boil in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter melts. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, stir and set the pan aside.

    4. BEAT the eggs on medium high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer, for 7 minutes. Add the sugar and mix an additional 8 minutes.

    5. REDUCE the mixer speed to low. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. After the flour has been mixed in, add 1/2 of the milk mixture and blend. Add the next 1/3 of flour and blend. Add the remaining milk mixture and blend. Add the remaining 1/3 of the flour and blend. Turn off the mixer and scrape the batter down from the sides of the mixing bowl.

    6. DIVIDE the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and let the layers cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

    7. PREPARE the vanilla cream filling: In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a fork until the flour and sugar are well mixed with the egg yolks. Set aside.

    8. BRING the milk to just boil in large heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove the pan from stove. Add 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture; stir to blend. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining 2/3 of the milk; stir to blend. Return the saucepan to medium high heat, stirring constantly. When custard begins to boil…

    9. REDUCE the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream thickens. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the butter and stir until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and almond extracts; stir to blend. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

    10. PREPARE the chocolate glaze: Place chocolate chips, milk and salt into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir the chocolate until melted and well blended with milk. Remove from the heat. Add the butter to the chocolate, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add the vanilla and stir to blend. Set chocolate glaze aside.

    11. ASSEMBLE the cake: Place 1 sponge cake layer on a cake plate. Generously cover with chilled vanilla pastry cream. Top the cream with the second layer of cake. Cover with chocolate glaze. Some of glaze should run over the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the glaze sets, about 30 minutes. Serve.

    What’s the deal with two different spellings, cream and creme?

    Cream is the appropriate spelling in the U.S. Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French spelling.

    To make things appear more fancy or exclusive, some Americans began to use the French spelling without the accent, pronouncing creme as KREEM.

    It may be pervasive, but it isn’t correct.

    And for a different twist, here’s a Boston Cream Cheesecake recipe (actually a pie).



    HALLOWEEN: Barmbrack, An Irish Tradition

    Fruitcake lovers and tea cake lovers: It’s time for barmbrack, also known as barm brack, barnbrack or simply brack.


    The original barmbrack was a sweet yeast bread with raisins and sultanas. Barm is the term for the yeast filtered out of beer in the final stage of production, a cheaper yeast source than commercial yeast.

    In Ireland it is sometimes called bairín breac, Gaelic for “speckled loaf.” The speckling refers to the raisins and sultanas in the loaf. It is usually made in flattened rounds. The dough is sweet but not as rich as cake, so it can be enjoyed any time of the day. It is similar to Irish soda bread, minus the baking soda.

    In Ireland, barmbrack is often served with afternoon tea, toasted with butter. But barmbrack evolved into an Irish Halloween tradition.


    For Halloween, the traditional loaf was baked with talisman-like items inside. They formed a kind of fortune-telling game. Whoever received a slice with a talisman could interpret it thusly:



    Barmbrack, an Irish tradition for Halloween, reinterpreted. Photo courtesy

  • The pea meant that the person would not marry that year.
  • The stick foretold an unhappy marriage or a continuously quarrelsome one.
  • The cloth indicated bad luck or penury.
  • The coin meant wealth or other good fortune.
  • The ring meant that the recipient would be wed within the year.
  • The thimble meant that the recipient would be permanently single.
    To us, the talismans imply that this cake was meant for single people. An optional talisman included a medallion of the Virgin Mary, foretelling that the recipient would go into a religious order (priest or nun).

    Hmm: Do we want a bread or cake to predict our fortune? We think not. And as British baker Vicky of notes, “It kind of seems like a choking hazard now when I think about it!” (Commercially produced barmbracks for Halloween still include a toy ring.)

    Vicky has created her own take on bambrack, a denser speckled loaf, a fruit cake with the dried fruits steeped in tea and whiskey.



    The original barmbrack loaf resembled Irish soda bread. This one is from


    “Even though I wasn’t a fan of this fruit cake as a kid, I loved when we had barmbrack at Halloween. The reason I liked the cake so much was because it contained hidden fortune-telling treasures. For kids this was all kinds of fun, but we never cared much for the actual cake. As an adult though, I’ve grown to love fruit cakes—but I don’t bother adding trinkets.”

    For this recipe, says Vicky, ”I went for a more adventurous selection of fruits than the traditional ones used in a barmbrack.

    “This cake contains a colorful mix of dried cherries, apricots, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins and dates [you can also add dried figs]. It’s a really simple cake to make, and as it’s very moist, it keeps fresh for well over a week.

    “This barmbrack is best served with lots of salty butter and a nice, strong cup of tea on the side.”

    It’s her Halloween tradition. Make it one of yours. Here’s the recipe, trinkets optional. Well, maybe just the ring.

    As for the tea: How about a spiced tea like Constant Comment or chai?


    Halloween has its origins in the festival of Samhain (sah-WEEN), celebrated at the end of the harvest by the ancient Celts of what is today Great Britain. (Pronunciation: It’s KELTS, not SELTS.)

    Samhain marked the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half.” The Halloween colors of orange and black represent the lighter side (fall harvest) and the darker side.

    The Celts believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased returned to cause havoc.

    To fool the spirits and ghosts that roamed the countryside, people began to wear masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human. To keep away spirits and ghosts on Samhain, they placed candles in their windows, using hollowed-out turnips and other vegetables as the holders. (Pumpkins, a New World fruit, took over when Irish immigrants discovered them in the U.S. in the 19th century.)

    Around 600 C.E., Christian missionaries replaced the pagan festival of Samhain with All Saints Day, also called All Hallows Even (even means evening), abbreviated as Hallow’een. The name Halloween is first found in 16th-century Scotland, evolving from All Hallows Eve.

    Afraid of Halloween? That’s called samhainophobia.



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