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Archive for Food Fun

TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Stacks

Dessert stacks are easy to make. Photo
courtesy Filicori Zecchini.


Call it a dessert stack, a mock mille-feuille (Napoleon) or whatever you like: It’s a really easy way to serve an impressive and fun stacked dessert.

Graham crackers, pound cake and loaf cake, phyllo or wontonscan be used as the base, filled with bananas, berries, chocolate chips and other favorites.

Here’s all you have to do:

1. DECIDE on your base. You can bake your own shortbread or sugar cookies in an oblong shape (think of double graham crackers, before you break them at the perforation); or bake rectangles of pie or tart crust.

2. CHOOSE your filling: custard, pudding, sweetened ricotta and whipped cream are delicious, but yogurt does just fine. Check out the Méditérranée line from Liberté yogurt in wonderful fruit flavors. It tastes like cannoli filling to us. You can also mix preserves into plain or vanilla yogurt.


3. SELECT one or more fruits: berries, sliced bananas, kiwi, mandarin segments, etc. You can sauté the bananas in unsalted butter and brown sugar, for a Bananas Foster effect. Keep aside a berry or other piece of fruit to garnish the top.

4. PICK an optional second ingredient, like chocolate chips or coconut flakes, to add to the layers.

5. ASSEMBLE three layers of base and two layers of filling—right before serving, so the base doesn’t get soggy. You can serve orderly layers, like a Napoleon, or make them askew, as in the photo above. Garnish with an optional dusting of confectioners sugar and a piece of fruit. Option: sprinkle with confectioners sugar.




  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 wonton wrappers per serving (two stacks per serving, three wontons per stack)

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil; lightly coat with cooking spray.

    2. LAY wontons on the baking sheet; lightly coat with additional cooking spray.

    3. SPRINKLE lightly with sugar. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven; cool.


    Double-stacked wontons. Photo courtesy Here’s the recipe.

    Also check out this recipe for dessert lasagne, made with lasagne noodles and fruit.


    Lasagne Vs. Lasagna

    The correct spelling is lasagne, the plural of the word. There are multiple lasagne (sheets of noodles) in the dish. Lasagna refers to a single sheet of noodles. In another American misuse of Italian, salame is the singular form; salami is plural.
    Mille-Feuille/Millefoglie Vs. Napoleon

    Pronounced meal-FWEE in French and MEE-lay FOAL-yay in Italian, meaning “a thousand leaves,” this pastry is made as three rectangular sheets of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) spread with Bavarian cream, pastry cream, whipped cream, custard, jam or fruit purée, often dusted with confectioners sugar and cut into individual rectangular portions. When filled with custard and iced with chocolate, the pastry is called a Napoleon.

    The Napoleon was not named after France’s famous general and emperor, however. It is believed to be a corruption of the word “napolitain,” referring to a pastry made in the tradition of Naples, Italy (napolitano).


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    FOOD FUN: Bacon Cake Recipe

    For family fun or to bring to a party, how about a bacon cake?

    While some people can put bacon fat into the batter and/or the frosting, we prefer a standard yellow cake, cream cheese frosting and a topping of candied bacon.

    A sheet or loaf cake format is easier than a layer cake—and puts you closer to the bacon (a higher bacon:cake ratio).



  • Yellow cake
  • Cream cheese frosting (recipe)
  • Candied bacon (recipe below)

    Make a bacon cake! Photo courtesy Boar’s Head.

  • Optional: 1 cup corn kernels (can be use raw or cooked fresh corn)

    1. BAKE your favorite yellow cake mix or recipe. Add optional corn kernels to batter.

    2. MAKE cream cheese frosting.

    3. MAKE candied maple bacon (recipe below).



  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 cup honey or maple syrup

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Arrange bacon slices in single layer on foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in oven 15 minutes or until bacon edges begin to curl.

    2. REMOVE pan from oven. Carefully drain drippings and set aside for other use.

    3. MICROWAVE honey/maple syrup for 30 seconds, stirring after 15 seconds. Use a pastry brush to coat bacon. Bake 10 minutes longer or until bacon is browned and crisp.

    4. COOL bacon on wire rack. Break into bite-size pieces. If you have more candied bacon than you need to top the cake, well, that’s not really a problem, is it? Snack away!


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    RECIPE: Dessert Ravioli


    Yes, ravioli. Even better, ravioli you can make yourself with the help of a great pasta-maker to teach you how. It’s not just deliciously gratifying, but it’s a good workout too. Rolling fresh pasta dough until it’s as thin as a sheet of paper is not for the “where’s-the-remote?” in you.

    New York City’s renowned Chelsea Market recently nabbed a new restaurant and shop: Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina.

    Rana is Italy’s leading fresh pasta company, and its artisan shop offers great dining, select Italian ingredients and designer kitchen accessories. Each pasta served at the restaurant, as well as those that can be purchased to cook at home, is house-made, fresh from scratch.

    Lucky for us, Giovanni Rana is generous with his expertise and will share his secrets with eager learners. In our class, we learned how to make tiramisu ravioli for dessert.


    Preparing chocolate ravioli. Photo courtesy Giovanni Rana.

    Pasta-making classes are held once a month and guide you through each step of making your own filled pasta. Individual “stations” are set up for each student, complete with all of the ingredients and tools needed. You begin by learning how to carefully blend the dough ingredients, then get ready to knead and roll—and roll and roll some more.

    By the end of the session, you’ll have your own creation packed up for taking home, after which you enjoy a dinner made for you by Rana’s chefs, some wine and a take-away bag of products and recipes.

    Although there may not be a Rana shop in your area, scout out a local cooking school or culinary program that’s nearby. It’s fun to do, it’s delicious to eat, and it’s made by you.

    By the time your skills become second nature, you’ll be able to delight your family and friends with—yes—tiramisu ravioli as a sweet finale to dinner.

    —Rowann Gilman


    Preparation for tiramisu ravioli. Photo
    courtesy Giovanni Rana.



    This recipe makes 14 to 16 ravioli, or about two servings. You can double the recipe, and freeze any excess for up to six months. Serve the ravioli with crème fraîche, mascarpone or ice cream.

    For The Dough

  • 100g #00 flour (fine flour for baking)
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10g instant espresso powder

  • 50g ricotta
  • 50g mascarpone
  • 20g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 20g instant espresso powder
  • 10g marsala
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
    For The Dipping Sauce

  • 50g fresh washed, hulled strawberries, dried and cut in halves
  • Optional: brown sugar
  • Optional: fresh mint leaves
    To Finish

  • Canola oil
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Preparation

    Make The Dough

    1. PLACE the flour on a floured surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into the well and mix it with a fork. Add the salt and instant espresso powder; blend with fingers until dough forms a rough shape.

    2. BEGIN to knead and fold the dough over and over until it forms a smooth ball, about 8 to 10 minutes. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

    Make The Filling

    1. COMBINE all of the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, mixing with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.

    Make The Dipping Sauce

    1. PLACE the strawberries in the bowl of a food processor; blend until berries are puréed. If desired, add brown sugar and/or fresh mint to taste. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve; set aside.

    Assemble The Ravioli

    1. REMOVE dough from refrigerator. On a heavily floured surface, begin to roll and rotate the dough, turning it over after every few rolls. Continue until dough is perfectly even (smooth hands over dough to feel any difference in its thickness) and extremely thin.

    2. FOLD the dough in half, then bring the top half upward. Starting about an inch from the halfway fold and left edge, place filling 1 teaspoonful at a time, slightly rounding each, on the bottom half of dough. Leave 1 inch between each mound of filling. When filling is used up, moisten the dough between each spoonful using a pastry brush and water. Be careful not to use too much water; use just enough for the top layer of dough to stick.

    3. GENTLY LIFT the top half of dough and place it over the bottom half. Press between the mounds of filling where dough has been moistened, making sure both layers of dough stick together. Using a hand ravioli cutter, cut out the individual ravioli and place them on a floured surface, keeping them apart.

    4. HEAT about 1 inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Fry the ravioli for about two to three minutes on each side until dough is firm. Remove from skillet and drain very well on paper towels or a brown paper bag. Let cool.

    5. SERVE the ravioli sprinkled with confectioners sugar and a small bowl of the dipping sauce on the side.

  • Butternut Squash & Maple Syrup Ravioli with Pears, Apples, Walnuts & Rum Raisin Ice Cream (recipe)
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Ravioli With Cinnamon Ice Cream (recipe)
  • Other Sweet Pasta Recipes: Chocolate Fettuccine Mont Blanc, Dessert Lasagne, Songbirds’ Nests, Chocolate Spaghetti, Fettuccine Alfredo With Crème Anglaise, Fettuccine With Chocolate Sauce, Manicotti “Cannoli,” Orange Spaghetti, Pumpkin Ravioli With Mascarpone Sauce, More

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    FOOD FUN: Dough Dogs

    A Pekinese “dough dog,” art as food. Photo courtesy Pillsbury.


    National Hot Dog Day is July 23rd, so think about inviting your friends (or your kids’ friends) to participate in Pillsbury’s most creative edible craft project: dough dogs.

    Take a hot dog and some Pillsbury Crescent dough and create a sculpture of your dog. Check for the rules, and to enjoy the clever dough dogs created by Pillsbury: basset hound, bulldog, dachshund, dalmatian, pekinese, poodle and shar-pei.

    The “Best In Dough” Dough Dog

    If you want to enter your creation in the contest, upload a picture of your creation to Instagram, Twitter or Pillsbury’s Facebook page, by July 29th. Facebook fans will vote on four finalists, selected by the Pillsbury judges.

    So put your best paw forward, and have fun making hot dog hounds. Yes, you can eat them. In fact, this could become a regular family activity: edible art.


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    FOOD FUN: Macarons On A Stick

    The original macarons date to 15th-century Italy (see the history of macarons).

    The modern version evolved at the beginning of the 20th century, when Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée had the idea to join two meringues and fill them with ganache.

    The fillings evolved to include buttercream or jam, and there is now a seemingly limitless array of colors and flavors.

    What’s next?

    How about macarons on a stick, dipped in chocolate and optionally in decorations—chocolate bits, dragées, sprinkles, and so on.

    That’s what Chef Olivier has done at Mille-Feuille Bakery in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

    Macarons are pretty pricey; most of us are not likely to end up with so many extras that we need to find more ways to enjoy them. But if you are so fortunate, get the sticks, melt the chocolate, and go to town!

    The chocolate coating will help to extend the freshness of macarons. Or, you can freeze them. As a general rule of thumb:

  • At room temperature, macarons stay fresh for up to 12 hours.
  • In the fridge, macarons stay fresh for up to one week.
  • In the freezer, macarons stay fresh for up to 6 months in a tightly-sealed container.

    Food on a stick even has its own holiday: March 28th is National Something On A Stick Day.


    [1] The evolution of the macaron: dipped in caramel-infused white chocolate, on a stick. [2] Instead of dipping in chocolate, how about just a little chocolate to adhere the decorations? Photos courtesy Mille-Feuille Bakery | New York City.



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