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Archive for Desserts

TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.


There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.


Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.


    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Figgy Pudding

    “Oh, bring us figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer,” goes the carol, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Don’t know the carol? Sing with the bouncing ball.

    If you start now, you can have a homemade figgy pudding at Christmas.


    A distant cousin of the fruit cake, figgy pudding is a traditional fig-based cake, which became common in England in the 1600s. Christmas pudding has been celebrated in song at least since then. Countless carolers sing for it every year. (But do they get a slice?)

    Thought to bring luck and prosperity to all who share it, a figgy pudding is typically made five weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent.

    Also called plum pudding and Christmas pudding, this dessert is, in the manner of British puddings, a steamed cake. Essentially, it’s a very wet, alcohol-soaked, boiled fruit cake. British recipes use fruits such as plums, figs and dates; Irish recipes vary the recipe with raisins, currants, sultanas and citrus peel. Here’s the difference between British pudding and American pudding.

    Even if you don’t have five weeks, you can make one this weekend and still have figgy pudding on Christmas.

    The Christmas pudding is served on Christmas day, traditionally decorated with a spray of holly (which is not edible). In some homes, it is doused in flaming brandy and brought to the table in a darkened room. Here’s how to flambé a dessert.

    The steamed pudding trend hasn’t caught on in the U.S. (or at least, it hasn’t returned since it fell out of fashion at the beginning of the 19th century), but we think it’s ripe for a comeback.


    Christmas Pudding

    Christmas Pudding

    TOP PHOTO: Figgy pudding with hard sauce. Photo by Gerry Lerner | SXC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Figgy pudding with toffee sauce, from Mackenzie Ltd.


    First, here’s a figgy pudding recipe. You can add figs, dried plums (prunes), raisins or other dried fruits and still be authentic.

    A good pudding needs a good sauce, of course. Christmas pudding can be served with:

  • Brandy- or rum-flavored white sauce (here’s a a recipe from England)
  • Custard sauce (recipe)
  • Hard sauce (recipe)
  • Toffee sauce/sticky pudding sauce (recipe)
  • Lemon sauce (recipe)
  • Whipped cream (plain and holiday flavored recipes)
    Or you can be very untraditional and serve your pudding with some vanilla ice cream. For delightful overkill, try rum raisin ice cream.



    A wassail bowl. Wassail is neither the bowl nor the punch, but a toast to good health. Photo courtesy Feasts From The Pantry.



    You may have heard of the wassail bowl. Wassail is neither the bowl nor the spirited drink inside it. Rather, it is a toast to good health. What’s in the bowl can be anything from eggnog to punch.

    The toast is not limited to England. From the Spanish salude to slainte in Irish Gaelic, many languages wish good health when glasses clink.

    Wassail (WOZ-ul) is an Old English toast, adopted from the Old Norse “ves heill,” meaning “be healthy.” It has been served to carolers for centuries.

    Wassail has its own song, too: Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green.

    But should you serve it with figgy pudding?

    Nay. Drink from the wassail bowl before or after dinner; but with the pudding, have a nice cup of tea. Coffee, if you prefer.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Compote

    First: What’s a compote?

    A popular medieval European dessert that faded out of style in the mid-20th century, compote (COM-poat), also referred to as poached or stewed fruit, is mix of fruits cooked in a syrup. Although a single fruit can be cooked in the same manner, a variety is more interesting.

    In fact, the name derives from the Latin compositus, mixture. Think of it as a cooked fruit salad. It was once so popular that people of means served it from a stemmed compote dish, designed to show off the fruits (see a photo below).

    The syrup is made from the cooking liquid—typically water or wine—plus sugar and spices.

    The syrup could be seasoned with the cook’s choice of cinnamon, cloves, lemon or orange peel, vanilla or other spices. The cooked fruit could be enhanced with candied fruit, grated coconut, ground almonds and/or raisins.

    In the absence of fresh fruit, compote could be made entirely with dried fruits, plumped in water that was optionally enhanced with kirsch, rum or sweet wine.

    Thus, compote was especially popular in fall and winter, when fresh fruit was limited. Our Nana made it at least once a week during the season.

  • Compote can be served either warm or cold, with or without a dab of whipped cream or mascarpone. Except in Italy, the mascarpone is a modern touch. Nana and the rest of her generation had never heard of it.
  • You can use compote to garnish panna cotta or custard, in an ice cream parfait, even atop plain cake like angel food or pound cakes.
  • You can even serve compote with a cheese course, with or instead of fresh fruit.



    Apple Cherry Compote

    TOP PHOTO: Apple and cherry compote on ice cream. BOTTOM PHOTO: Compote with a cheese course. Photos courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    This recipe, from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, combines classic seasonal fruits—apples, pears, quince and dried fruits—with modern touches like star anise, another ingredient that wasn’t in American grocery stores in Nana’s time.

    For a holiday version, here’s another recipe: compote with cranberries, oranges and maple syrup.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups water or juice
  • 1 cup dry or off dry white or rosé(juice may be substituted)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole star anise*
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 apples, pears or quince (2-3 pounds), peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup dried plums, apricots or cranberries
    *If you don’t have star anise and don’t want to buy it, for each star you can substitute: 3/4 teaspoon crushed anise seed, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon anise extract, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder or 1 tablespoon anise liqueur or other licorice liqueur.

    1. PLACE the first nine ingredients (up to and including the bay leaves) into a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar; then reduce the heat to low and add the fruit.

    2. COVER the pot and simmer, removing the fruit with a slotted spoon as it softens.† Arrange the fruit in a glass bowl. (Nana mixed everything together like fruit salad, although you can layer the fruits if you wish.) Once all the fruit has been removed…

    3. BRING the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce it by half (it takes 5 to 10 minutes). Taste; if necessary add more lemon juice to balance the flavor. Strain the syrup and carefully ladle it over the poached fruit. The cooked fruit will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
    †The fruit should be tender but not mushy. Cooking times vary for different fruits: 10 to 15 minutes for dried fruits, 20 to 30 minutes for pears, 30 to 45 minutes for apples and one hour for quince.


    Compote Dish

    A simple compote dish. They could be quite elaborate: etched crystal, garnished in gold, etc. Photo courtesy Abigails | Amazon.



    No doubt, fruits have been stewed since the invention of clay pots, some 17,000 years ago in China. But the oldest known recipe we have, for a pear and fig kompot, dates to the early Byzantine Empire (330 C.E. to 1453 C.E.). Here’s the recipe for that ancient fruit compote, it’s made with dried fruit, date syrup and pomegranate molasses.

    Compote ultimately made its way to Europe. According to Wikipedia, in late medieval England the compote was served as one of the last courses of a feast. Later, during the Renaissance, it was served chilled at the end of a dinner, e.g., a predecessor of the modern dessert.‡

    Because it was easy to prepare, made from inexpensive ingredients and contained no dairy products, compote became a staple of Jewish households throughout Europe.

    Make it one of your household’s desserts!

    ‡Sugar was little known in Europe until the 12th century or later, when the it was brought back from the Crusades. Even then it was rare and costly; honey or dried fruits were the common sweeteners. In southeast Asia, where sugarcane originated, it has been in use for 1,000 years or so.



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Coconut Mousse

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pumpkin coconut mousse ingridhoffmannFB 230

    You don’t need special dessert bowls. Use juice glasses, rocks glasses or stemware. Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.


    We made this mousse for the adults on Halloween, but the pumpkin theme works throughout the holidays. This is an easy recipe. Here’s a more elaborate pumpin mousse recipe.

    This recipe is from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann, who has many more on her website.

    You can serve it in meringues or puff pastry shells, in glass dessert dishes, in wine glasses or rocks glasses, or in scooped out mini pumpkins.


    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup fine sugar*
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice†
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • Toasted coconut (instructions below)
  • Optional garnish: mint sprigs for garnish
    *You can use superfine sugar, or can pulse table sugar in a food processor or spice mill to make it more fine.

    † You can buy it or make it, combining 3tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1½ teaspoons ground allspice and 1½ teaspoons ground cloves.

    1. HEAT the pumpkin purée, coconut milk, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in a small sauce pan and and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.

    2. BEAT the whipping cream and rum with an electric hand mixer, until peaks form. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream, until well mixed.

    3. CHILL for at least 2 hours. Garnish with toasted coconut and a mint sprig.

    You can buy toasted coconut, but it’s very easy to toast your own in the oven or microwave.

    1. HEAT the oven to 350°F. Spread shredded coconut evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring occasionally.

    2. WATCH closely to avoid over-browning.



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

    Bread pudding is a Southern classic that can be tweaked to become a fall special with the addition of pumpkin purée.

    This recipe, from Heidi of FoodieCrush, not only adds the pumpkin, but tops the bread pudding with a bourbon pecan sauce.

    Says Heidi: “With bourbon pecan and caramelized pecans topping a bread pudding made from cinnamon-raisin bread, this dessert is destined to become a classic.”

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 60 minutes.

    See the history of bread pudding below.


    Ingredients For 8-10 servings

    For The Bread Pudding

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1-pound loaf cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
    For The Bourbon Pecan Sauce

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

    2. WHISK together the eggs, heavy cream, pumpkin purée, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl, stirring until smooth.




    TOP PHOTO: Will Pumpkin Bread Pudding become a new Thanksgiving classic? Photo courtesy Foodie Crush | Go Bold With Butter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pastry chefs at top restaurants make pumpkin bread pudding, too. This upscale treatment, with crème fraiche ice cream and rum-spiced cherries, is from Chef Toni Roberts. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Star Chefs.

    3. ADD the bread cubes and let stand 5 minutes. Pour into the baking pan; bake 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is set. (The bread pudding will puff as it bakes and will deflate once it’s cooled from the oven.)

    4. MAKE the bourbon pecan sauce: Add the cream, egg yolks and sugar to 2-quart saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let the mixture stand, stirring often as it cools. Meanwhile…

    5. MELT the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the pecans. Cook 4-5 minutes or until the butter browns and exudes a nutty aroma. Stir the browned butter and the pecans into the cream mixture. Stir in the whiskey.

    6. SERVE the bread pudding warm, drizzled with the bourbon pecan sauce. The sauce may be made a day in advance and refrigerated.


    Panettone Bread Pudding

    Bread pudding made with panforte, the
    classic Christmas bread. Photo courtesy
    Bauli. Here’s the recipe.



    Bread pudding, a dish created to use stale bread (as were French toast and fondue among others), has humble roots. But it has evolved into an American comfort food that you can find at diners and upscale eateries alike, made simply or elaborately.

    Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding,” as it was a popular dish with the lower classes.

    The dish consists of cubes of bread and any added ingredients (raisins, chocolate chips citrus zest and so on), covered with custard sauce and cooked. It can be made in the oven, stove top, a crock pot, microwave or grill.

    There’s lots of opportunity for creativity, from the type of bread to the inclusions. Beyond bread, you can use anything that’s left over: brioche, buns and rolls, coffee cake, croissants, donuts, Danish and muffins.

    We often buy a challah, just to have day-old bread for bread pudding. We also love a cinnamon-raisin loaf, as used in this recipe.

    And don’t forget the booze: Grand Marnier or other liqueur, rum or whiskey.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Bananas Foster Topping & Garnish

    As a lover of both chocolate cake and Bananas Foster, we were inspired by the creative use of Bananas Foster at Davio’s Italian Steakhouse in Boston (see photo). It’s traditionally used to top ice cream.

    It’s a most delicious addition. At Davio’s, a slice of flourless chocolate cake is topped with a slice of caramelized banana. But you can adapt the idea to almost any dessert. A chocolate base (or other dark color) is best to contrast the beige banana; but it will be delectable on anything. (It was a hit at THE NIBBLE on top of homemade chocolate pudding.)

    Before we are forthcoming with the recipe, here’s a bit of culinary history.


    Bananas Foster is a more elaborate version of caramelized bananas. Sliced bananas are sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and Grand Marnier (orange-infused brandy) or rum. It is then flambéed at the table for a dramatic effect, and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

    For the flame-averse: While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/flourless cake caramelized banana daviosbboston 230

    Two great desserts in one: Bananas Foster atop chocolate cake. Photo courtesy Davio’s |

    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900-1977), the executive chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan, Sr.

    It is one of the flambé desserts that also include Crêpes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee. Savory dishes are also flamed at the table, from Steak Diane to Veal Marsala. Here’s a list of flambé recipes. Note, though, that the technique has long gone out of style.

    But how did it come into style?


    Flambé (it means flamed in French), is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is warmed and then added to a hot pan, where it is lit to create a burst of flames. The alcohol burns off shortly and the flames die out.

    While the practice of igniting food for dramatic flair can be traced to 14th century Moors, modern flambéing became popular only in the late 19th century, and by accident.

    According to his memoir, in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier (1880-1961), an assistant waiter, accidentally set fire to the liqueur in the pan of crêpes he was preparing. At the time, many foods were prepared tableside. The guests happened to be Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and some friends. According to the memoir:

    “It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste.

    The dish was served, and the Prince liked it.

    “He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”

    SOURCE: Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Thanks to What’s Cooking America for the reference.


    Banana with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and hazelnuts


    TOP PHOTO: Bananas Foster served
    banana-split style. Photo | Fotolia. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s. Photo
    courtesy We
    prefer to slice our bananas in chunks.



    While the Davio’s recipe cuts the banana into a stylish oblong and the photo at right halves the fruit banana-split style. At Brennan’s the long slices are cut in half. We prefer chunks perhaps 3/4-inch thick—easier to spoon over ice cream…and French toast, pancakes and waffles.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, or
  • Cake or whatever else you want with your Bananas Foster

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce.

    If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchene.

    4. LIFT lift the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.

    Here’s a video on how to flambe from QVC chef David Venable. Tips:

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t try to ignite a higher proof; they are highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to about 130°F before adding to the pan. (Keep it well below the boiling point. Boiling will burn off the alcohol, and it will not ignite.) This is generally done by holding the liquor, in a spoon, over a candle or other flame.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but if you’re just learning, keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames.


    RECIPE: White Chocolate Pumpkin Fondue

    For pumpkin season, treat everyone to this White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Fondue from The Melting Pot, with a few modifications from THE NIBBLE.

    Why not make it this weekend? Don’t like to cook? Find the nearest Melting Pot.


    Ingredients For The Fondue

  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped (look for Green & Black’s, Lindt or other premium brand)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Bacardi 151 Rum*
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Optional: chopped graham crackers or white chocolate shavings
    *Bacardi 151 is a brand of highly alcoholic rum, named for its alcohol proof level of 151 (75.5% alcohol by volume or A.B.V.). This is about double the alcohol of conventional rum (35%–40% A.B.V.). You can substitute a liqueur instead; see Step 3 below.


    White Chocolate Pumpkin Fondue

    White chocolate pumpkin fondue, garnished with white chocolate shavings. Photo courtesy The Melting Pot.


    For The Dippers

  • Cake cubes: blondies, brownies, doughnut holes or pieces, loaf cakes (carrot, chocolate, pound)
  • Cookies: amaretti, biscotti, graham crackers, granola bars, lady fingers, meringues, shortbread fingers, tea biscuits
  • Dried fruits: apples, apricots, dates, figs, mangoes, prunes
  • Fresh fruits: apples, bananas, grapes. mandarins/oranges, pears, pineapple, strawberries

    1. PLACE the chocolate and cream in the top of a double boiler pot over medium heat, stirring constantly so as not to scorch the chocolate. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in 45 second increments, stirring after each one.

    2. POUR the melted chocolate into a fondue pot. Add the pumpkin purée, blending gently. Taste and add more pumpkin if you like.

    3. ADD the rum to the pot and light with a long match or fireplace lighter. As the rum burns away, carefully stir the mixture together. If you don’t want to purchase 151 rum or flambé, stir the equivalent amount of orange liqueur into the melted chocolate and blend.

    4. SPRINKLE the nutmeg into the pot and gently fold in. The Melting Pot garnishes the top of the fondue with chopped graham crackers, but we prefer to use the graham crackers as dippers.



    RECIPE: Apple Crisp With Ambrosia Apples

    Contributing Editor Rowann Gilman returned from picking Ambrosia apples in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, glowing over the food and restaurants there. If you didn’t catch her report on the apples, here it is.

    She brought back an apple crisp recipe that she can’t wait to have again. Since fall is prime apple crisp season, it arrives just in time.

    If you don’t know the difference between a crisp and a cobbler, crumble, betty and other kin, THE NIBBLE has spelled it out below.

    Try this old-fashioned recipe with new-fashioned Ambrosia apples. It’s from Chef David Toal of Ravenous Catering in Cashmere, Washington.

    Ingredients For 6 to 8 Servings

    For The Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick cooking oats)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, cut into small chunks
    For The Ambrosia Apple Filling

  • 6 to 8 large Ambrosia apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

  • Vanilla ice cream

    Apple Crisp A La Mode

    Ambrosia Apples

    TOP PHOTO: A crisp is has a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be breadcrumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts. Photo courtesy Ambrosia Apples. BOTTOM PHOTO: Ambrosia Apples. Photo by Rowann Gilman | THE NIBBLE.


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Butter a 13×9-inch baking dish or 6 to 8 individual ramekins and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; toss well to combine. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients.

    3. STIR together all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine. Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish or ramekins. Top the filling with the crumb topping.

    4. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    5. SERVE with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle some of the juice from the baking dish over top.




    TOP PHOTO: In our book, it isn’t apple crisp
    if it isn’t topped with vanilla ice cream. Photo
    courtesy BOTTOM
    PHOTO: A cobbler has a dropped dough
    topping that bakes up to resemble
    cobblestones (hence, the name). Photo



    Most people use these terms interchangeably. Even Produce Pete called a crisp a cobbler in last week’s episode on NBC. If you really care about food, you’ll care about knowing the differences among pan-baked fruit dishes.

  • BETTY, or brown betty, alternates layers of fruit with layers of buttered bread crumbs. Some modern recipes use graham cracker crumbs.
  • BIRD’S NEST PUDDING is a bit different: A pan of fruit is covered with a batter that bakes into an uneven top with the fruit poking through. It’s served in a bowl topped with heavy cream and spices.
  • BUCKLE, very similar to the French clafoutis (often spelled clafouti in the U.S.), adds fruit, usually berries, to a single layer of batter. When baked, it becomes a cake-like layer studded with berries. It is topped with a crumb layer (streusel), which gives it a buckled appearance. Alternatively, the cake, fruit and crumbs can be made as three separate layers.
  • COBBLER has a pastry top instead of a crumb top. Biscuit pastry is dropped from a spoon, the result resembling cobblestones.
  • CRISP is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert made with a crumb or streusel topping. The crumbs can be made with bread crumbs, breakfast cereal, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, flour or nuts.
  • CROW’S NEST PUDDING is another term for bird’s nest pudding. In some recipes, the fruit is cored, the hole filled with sugar, and the fruit wrapped in pastry.
  • CRUMBLE is the British term for crisp.
  • GRUNT is a spoon pie with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit. Stewed fruit is steamed on top of the stove, not baked in the oven. The recipe was initially an attempt to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available in the Colonies. The term “grunt” was used in Massachusetts, while other New England states called the dish a slump.

  • PANDOWDY or pan dowdy is a spoon pie made with brown sugar or molasses. It has a rolled top biscuit crust that is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to seep up. It is believed that the name refers to its “dowdy” appearance. Sometimes it is made “upside down” with the crust on the bottom, and inverted prior to serving.
  • SLUMP is another word for grunt.
  • SONKER or ZONKER, a North Carolina term for a deep-dish cobbler made of fruit or sweet potato.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Cinnamon Pecan Topping

    For holiday season, it’s good to have a trick up your sleeve that quickly turns everyday food into festive food.

    We nominate homemade cinnamon pecan topping, which can be used to garnish both sweet and savory foods. See our list of uses below.

    You can use any nut, but pecan goes particularly well in this type of topping.

    We adapted this recipe from McCormick. It makes 12 servings, 2 tablespoons each. You can make a double batch and keep it in the fridge.

    Although the McCormick version uses rum flavor, feel free to substitute real rum or whiskey.

    Plan ahead: You can bring a jar of topping as a house gift, or give it as holiday gifts.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 12 minutes.


    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum flavor

    Pecan Topping


    TOP PHOTO: Top a Brie with homemade cinnamon pecan topping Photo by Caroline Edwards from Chocolate and Carrots | BOTTOM PHOTO: Turn a plain scoop of ice cream into a sundae. Photo courtesy


    Pecan Topping

    Keep it in the fridge to pull out whenever you need it. Photo courtesy McCormick.



    1. MIX the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in small bowl until blended. Set aside.

    2. MELT 2 tablespoons of the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and toast for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low.

    3. STIR the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, corn syrup, water, vanilla extract, rum flavor and the brown sugar mixture into the skillet. Cook, stirring until the butter is melted and the mixture is heated through.

    4. REMOVE from the heat. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Serve at room temperature.



  • Breakfast: Top French toast, pancakes, waffles.
  • Desserts: Use as a cake topping or filling; fill crêpes and tartlets; top ice cream, ice cream cake or ice cream pie; garnish blondies/brownies or pie; mix with mascarpone or ricotta to spread on biscotti or shortbread.
  • Hors d’oeuvre: Top regular or baked Brie.
  • Sides: Top a baked sweet potato with pecan topping and Greek yogurt or sour cream.
  • Snack: Mix into yogurt, stir into coffee or tea.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Pudding Parfaits

    Pudding Parfaits

    If your crowd is elegant, use finer ingredients
    than crushed Oreos and M&Ms. Photo
    courtesy Gather By Damico | Minneapolis.


    Add a special element to any small party, or even a quiet evening with the family, by putting together a mix and match pudding parfait bar. It’s a popular annual event at our place; and unlike ice cream parfaits, pudding doesn’t melt.

    If you don’t have glass dessert dishes, use juice glasses or wine glasses so people can enjoy their layering talents.

    You can make the pudding or buy it. At different times. we’ve made instant pudding or cooked pudding, even cooked from scratch (mixing and measuring all the ingredients). Sophisticated palates will prefer the cooked variations.

    Here’s what else you need:


    Basic Ingredients

  • Pudding (offer several flavors, e.g. banana, butterscotch, chocolate, vanilla, lemon)
  • Crushed cookies (chocolate chip, chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, grahams, vanilla wafers)

  • Cake and brownie cubes
    Crunchy Or Chewy Layers

  • Granola
  • Nuts (our favorites are pistachios, candied peanuts and spiced pecans)
  • Small candies (candy corn, chocolate chips/flavored chips, M&Ms, mini marshmallows, toffee chips, shredded coconut)
  • Berries or diced fruit
    Creamy Layers

  • Cherry pie filling, fruit purée, fruit curd or preserves
  • Caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, dulce de leche, marshmallow cream
  • Whipped peanut butter (use Jif Peanut Butter Whips or make your own)
  • Whipped cream or other topping

    Customize the ingredients to your crowd and the occasion. If you’d rather have pistachio or maple pudding, team colors, a layer of crushed peanut butter cups or Corn Flakes, and so forth, by all means set them out!



    If you like frozen whipped topping but not all the chemical additives, now there’s an all-natural alternative.

    Truwhip is the first frozen whipped topping that is 100% natural and gluten-free. Made from plant-based ingredients, it contains no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no polysorbate 60, no trans fats and no GMOs.

    It’s also gluten-free and certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

    Truwhip Natural and Truwhip Skinny look just like the other stuff and can be used in the same way:

  • In coffee and hot chocolate
  • As a dessert topping
  • In parfaits sundaes
  • For snacking (cookie sandwiches, anyone?)
    Truwhip Natural has 30 calories, 20 from fat, per two-tablespoon serving. Truwhip Skinny has 25 calories, 15 from fat.

    Discover more at

    In terms of the flavor, to quote one of our tasters:

    “It tastes different from Cool Whip. You kind of get used to all those chemicals.”

    It tastes like what it is: cool, creamy and natural.



    Truwhip Cartons

    Truwip, in Natural (regular) and Skinny (reduced fat). Photos courtesy Peak Foods.




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