Yeast Doughs: Cherry Almond Bread

There is a bakery in the San Diego area that sells the tastiest breakfast breads ever! They're filled with yummy goodness like lots of cinnamon sugar doused with butter, nuts and fruits.. and the dressing on top just drips with a sticky rich sugary glaze that is definitely finger licking good. But getting to San Diego on a weekly basis is pretty much out of the question for me with a busy family and schedule to keep so I knew I had to do the next best thing and replicate these breads in my own kitchen.

Success!! It really just came down to finding the right sweet yeast dough recipe and making the recipe my own from then on out with fillings, extracts and the jar of "love spice" that my husband brought back from Iowa a few years back on a business trip. :) I don't glaze them as much as the bakery does.. though my kids wish I would, but I make extra sugar glaze and have it in a separate dipping bowl for their desired taste.

Here I have pictured a cherry almond filled bread that was made by taking large chunks of the sweet dough and layering them with cinnamon sugar, almonds and cherry filling from a can. I really like buying the canned fruit filling because it's quick and there are some pretty good quality products out there.. plus they are available year round. But you could definitely make your own thickened fruit filling.. I have done a homemade apple filling that was very delicious, it just took longer.

For the sugar glaze I have my own little secret.. I add a few tablespoons of cream cheese to cut back on the sweetness but yet give it the yummy rich flavor we can't get enough of. If you need exact ingredient quantities for the cinnamon sugar and the glaze I'd be happy to help you with that.. just email me and I'll get it out to you as soon as possible.

Dough for Sweet Rolls and Breads

Dough Ingredients
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Dough Preparation
Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375˙.
Use either a loaf pan, or a ring pan. Grease lightly. Tear large chunks of dough and start layering them in the pan interchanging with cinnamon sugar, nuts of your choice and fruit filling. After pan is filled 3/4 of the way up, let rise covered in a draft free location for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes depending on your ovens heat. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't over brown. Take out and let rest. When it is cool enough to work with but still warm, drizzle your sugar glaze over the top.
Enjoy for breakfast or brunch!
Buon Appetitio..

Crepes & A Blackberry Wine Syrup

We love crepes in our home and make them often. I utilize crepes for many a preparation especially during the holiday season. From fruit filled crepes, luxurious lobster cream filled crepes to my families favorite Christmas tradition of Manicotti crepes, having this simple recipe on hand makes life so easy and quick when looking for a gourmet meal to impress our guests.

Here I have them paired with a simple and fresh strawberry and cream filling with the addition of a Blackberry Syrup. Below you will find my recipe for the syrup.. although I used Blackberry Wine here, you can make a syrup with any wine or liquid you prefer. Flavored wines make wonderful accents to savory dishes as well as desserts. Enjoy cooking with a variety of flavors, it makes your recipes unique to you!

Crepe Recipe

6 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

Measure all ingredients into a blender jar; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 1 hour to allow flour to absorb more of the liquids.

Blackberry Syrup

1 -1/2 cup Blackberry Wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine the wine, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low; cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid becomes syrupy and has reduced by about two-thirds.

Buon Appetito!

Thanksgiving Side Dishes:
Sage Roasted Red Potatoes
& Asparagus with Hollandasie

Sage Roasted Red Potatoes

2 pounds small red potatoes -- halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic -- unpeeled, root end removed

Preheat oven to 400°
In a bowl, toss potatoes with oil, sage, salt and pepper. Place cut-side down in roasting pan and cover pan with foil.

Roast covered for 30 minutes, toss and add garlic cloves. Return to oven and roast uncovered for 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and browned and garlic has softened. Squeeze garlic from skin before serving.

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Asparagus Preparation
Wash and trim your asparagus. Either by cutting them or you can use a vegetable peeler on the bottom inch to an inch and a half of the asparagus chute depending on the length of the asparagus. This takes off the fibrous strands that are not very palatable in my opinion.

In a saucepan blanch the asparagus in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; do not overcook. Remove from heat and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well.

From Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

½ cup butter
3 beaten egg yolks
1 Tbp. water
1 Tbp. fresh squeezed lemon
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash cayenne pepper

1. Cut the butter into thirds and bring it to room temperature.

2. In the top of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, water, lemon juice, dash of cayenne pepper and salt. Add a piece of the butter. Place over boiling water (upper pan should not touch water). Cook, stirring rapidly with a whisk, until butter melts and sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining butter, a piece at a time, stirring constantly until melted. Continue to cook and stir about 2 minutes more or until sauce thickens. Immediately remove from heat. If sauce is too thick or curdles, immediately whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water. Serve with poached eggs. Makes 3/4 cup sauce (six, 2 tablespoon servings).

Arugula, Fig and Gorgonzola Pizza

Simple meals for lunch and dinner.. what can be more simple and satisfying than a pizza the way you like it! This simple recipe just entails layering sliced arugula greens on the dough, cover with a healthy portion of crumbled Gorgonzola and toss some fresh sliced figs in some olive oil and a lusciously thick balsamic vinegar and then spread them over the cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 400˙oven for 30 minutes until pizza dough has risen and golden on top and well browned on the bottom. Enjoy simple cooking while getting ready for the holidays... Buon Appetito!! :)

Pizza dough
6 ½ cups of all purpose flour
2 pkgs. Yeast or 5 tsp. active dry yeast from a jar
2 cups very warm water
1/8 cup white wine at room temperature
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Put warm water (80 to 110∞F) into a bowl. Add salt and yeast, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Gradually add flour and olive oil and start mixing with a wooden spoon.
Place dough on floured surface and start kneading the dough with your hands.
Knead the dough until you have a smooth elastic ball. If your dough feels more like batter, it is too wet and you need to add flour bit by bit.

Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a large bowl and cover it with kitchen wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature, then push it down again so it deflates. Let it sit for about another hour. If you want to use it the next day, put it in a refrigerator.

Chicken, Fontina and Walnuts
Encased in Puff Pastry with a
Basil Cream Sauce

Foodbuzz is hosting a weekly collection of 9 convenient recipes your family will love called "Family Bites". From lunch to dinner, and healthy snacks in between, your family will find these recipes wonderful to have on hand for quick and easy preparations to satisfy your family. This week Foodbuzz is Featuring Dalla Mia Cucina. What was so fun about this challenge was the opportunity to use the Paul Newman's products to create some of these recipes like this Chicken recipe encased in Puff Pastry. The cream sauce base was made by starting with Newman's Own Alfredo Pasta Sauce. I was so pleased with the freshness and flavor of this product and I think you will be too.

Chicken, Fontina and Walnuts Encased in Puff Pastry
with a Basil Cream Sauce

These chicken puffs make a wonderful Luncheon entrée that will sure to please your guests!

Chicken, Fontina cheese, walnuts, puff pastry and Newman's Own Alfredo Pasta Sauce

Prep Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Cook Time: 12 – 15 minutes
Servings: 5--7

2 Cups Chicken cooked and shredded
1 Sheet Puff Pastry (frozen is fine)
15 ~ 1/4 inch slices Fontina Cheese
3/4 Cups Chopped Walnuts
2 Cups Basil Cream Sauce (see below)
Egg Wash ~ 1 Egg yolk mixed with 3 Tbs. Milk

Cream Sauce
Newman's Own Alfredo Pasta Sauce
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil chiffonade

Cream Sauce Preparation
Preheat your oven to 400°
Heat in a pot the Newman's Own Alfredo Pasta Sauce.
Add the sliced basil chiffonade. Set sauce aside.

1. Dust your work surface with a light sprinkling of flour. Lay your Pastry dough on a work surface and lightly roll it out. You should be able to get 15 squares from your pastry by cutting them into 3 by 5 inch squares.
2. Place a spoon full of chicken on each square topped with some sauce, a piece of fontina cheese and a couple of walnuts. Moisten the edges with some of the egg wash.
3. Fold the dough up over the ingredients. Make sure your last edge has enough egg wash on it for a good seal.
4. Egg wash the tops of the puffs and place in 400° pre heated oven, bake for 12 - 15 minutes.
5. Pour some of the extra sauce in serving bowls.
Place 2 -3 chicken puff in each bowl and serve immediately. Enjoy!!

To see some more of my featured recipes, check out Foodbuzz' "Family Bites" link here.

Buon Appetito!

Sautéed Tilapia with a Lemon Shallot Cream Sauce
on a bed of Peppery Arugula

I was hoping to come back from my long summer hiatus with a gift giveaway, but I’m a little too anxious to post this delicious recipe for Sautéed Tilapia with a Lemon Shallot Cream Sauce on a bed of Peppery Arugula. What a whirlwind of a summer! I never intended to put off my blogging as I did, but I’m happy to be back and happier yet to share some new recipes, and a special post from my travels to Chicago for the Outstanding In The Field event and .. a gift for a lucky winner of my first giveaway!

Fish has been the protein of choice for me this summer. You won’t even believe it.. but this recipe happened to be my Saturday morning breakfast! Figure that one. (I do have a typical waffle breakfast to post too. I’m not always out of the norm!) ☺ I hope you enjoy this.. for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner! Can’t wait to meet up with you all again on your blogs!

Ciao and hugs to you all,

Sautéed Tilapia with a Lemon Shallot Cream Sauce
on a bed of Peppery Arugula

Baby Arugula
4 pieces Tilapia
I whole Shallot minced
Olive Oil
Juice of half a small Lemon
2 ½ teaspoons Lemon Zest
1/8 cup White Wine (I used Black Box wine)
1/2 cup Cream or Half in Half

Plate dishes with a bed of the Arugula.

Season Tilapia with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Sear Tilapia in a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes on each side. It doesn’t take long to cook. Remove from heat. In a sauté pan heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add minced shallot and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest. Sauté till translucent but not browned. Add white wine and lemon juice. Season with fresh ground black pepper and a dash of salt. Cook for a few minutes and then add the Tilapia back into the sauté pan. Simmer slightly and then add the cream. Move the pan around gently to meld the cream into the sauce. When combined turn off heat.

Lay a piece of Tilapia on each of the plated beds of Arugula. Drizzle sauce over each piece. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Buon Appetitio!

Fourth of July & Apple Pie

I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day! We enjoyed beautiful weather with cool breezes down by the San Diego shoreline of La Jolla. La Jolla's meaning “The Jewel” is so befitting for this glorious town. Only a forty-five minute drive from Temecula, the crystal aqua ocean is so dazzling, like a clear and perfect gem with coves cut out so perfectly along the coastline and the quaint backdrop of shops, restaurants and homes.

We shopped a little and walked around town being serenaded by reggae music coming from a second story café and watched the hustle and bustle of tourists while we ourselves enjoyed art galleries and chic Armani Exchange, one of the few clothing stores open for the day.

That evening we headed back home for our own festival of sorts with an all American dinner and dessert, ending the evening with a view of Temecula’s own fireworks extravaganza.

And without further ado.. a showstopper in it's own right!

Apple Pie

This is a simple pie with my favorite pastry dough recipe from Dorie Greenspan. I really think the two crusts that I continually use are Dorie’s and Nick Malgierri’s. I always have perfect results with these two recipes!

Dorie Greenspan's Pie Crust
Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chilled non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Crust Preparation
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; pulse until coarse meal forms. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Chill 2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

Apple Pie Filling
8 Red Apples (I used Mac Intosh)
3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
¾ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup Mighty Mango Naked Juice (you can sub with juice of your choice)
½ stick butter
Bowl of cold water with a few tablespoon lemon juice;
I egg yolk and 1/8 cup cream for brushing dough.

Make crust and set aside in the refrigerator till your ready to fill. Keep remaining scraps to make dough strips for the top of your pie.

Peel and core apples. Keep in bowl of lemon doused water till time to slice.
Slice apples1/8 of an inch thick. In large mixing bowl add apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and mango juice. Stir to coat apples well. Fill pastry shell with apples. Cut slices of butter and dot apple pie filling.

Use extra dough to make strips for lattice. If you don’t want to do this you can roll out another sheet of pastry to cover the pie filling. Brush outer dough with egg yolk mixture. Place either strips or another sheet of dough cut to fit over pie filling. Pinch to seal edges. If you completely covered the pie make some vents on top of the dough to release steam while baking. Brush the top of the pastry dough with remaining egg mixture and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

I cover the top of my pie with foil for the first 15 minutes so it doesn’t get too brown. I would rather the apples cook all the way through on a lower temperature and longer cook time. Uncover the pie for the last 40 to 45 minutes.

Bake at 400° for 50 minutes to an hour.
Check periodically.
Serve warm with ice cream!

Buon Appetito!

Pepper & Pistachio Encrusted Rib Eye Steak
with Rosemary Green Butter

So, I wonder what my husband was thinking when I said to him, "Darling, I'm grilling the steaks tonight...and please don't come into the kitchen... and another thing...can you keep your eyes closed until you've had the first bite!"

Playing with his steaks isn't usually what I do, my hubby likes them grilled, period!! Oh, yes, I have grilled the steaks many a time with a simple marinade of wine, olive oil and an herb concoction, but to totally transform the texture and look...hmmm, this was a first for me! I have been so impressed with the beautiful pepper encrusted steaks and filet mignons I have seen all over the food blogosphere that I just had to give it a try! I have encrusted chicken fillets with almonds and lamb roasts with pistachio so why not, lets dress up that rib eye steak!

We had just come home from the market with some fresh herbs and an array of greens for a beautiful salad.
It was easy to decide on the combinations for this meal, as many of you know I "love" pistachios and look for every opportunity to use them when I cook. Pistachios have a mild but distinct flavor. I thought they would pair well with the pepper crust and for a butter topping to cool off the spice of the crust I used fresh rosemary finely chopped with parsley and chives.
Rosemary is so pungent and floraly, it went so well with the pepper pistachio combination.


2 Rib Eye Steaks around 3/4 inch thickness
Vegetable oil
White Wine

1/2 cup Pistachios
1/4 cup black peppercorns

Rosemary Butter
1 stick butter salted
3 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves torn off their stalk cleaned and dried
2 chive chutes cleaned and dried
2 parsley sprigs cleaned, dried and leaves removed from stems


Crust Topping Prep
In mini prep or food processor pulse peppercorns until chopped to a medium texture, add pistachios and continue pulsing until the texture is fine but still has crunch.

Steak Prep
Mix around two tablespoons of oil with two tablespoons of wine. Pat on steaks just to moisten but not to drench. Set aside.
On wax paper spread out pepper pistachio crumbs. Lay Rib Eye steaks on crumbs and press to cover all over on both sides.
On a pre-heated grill set to medium high cook steak for around 4 minutes on each side. This resulted in a medium done steak, around an 1/8 of an inch line of red in the middle. The steak was 3/4 inch thickness.
In the mean time make butter.

Rosemary Green Butter Prep
In food processor finely chop rosemary leaves, chives and parsley. When done add cold pieces of butter and continue to process till blended. Stop blending when ingredients are well combined. Refrigerate until steaks are done.

When steak is done, let rest for 5 minutes. Take two dollops of rosemary butter to top steaks and dress with rosemary leaves.
Serve remainder of butter with butter boiled small potatoes or crusty bread.

"My husband was in Rib Eye heaven!" He loved it and was so surprised, he gave it a two thumbs up! :)
I also loved it! It was so tender and the butter cooled the spiciness of it just like I thought it would.
Warning, expect this dish it to be extremely rich!
I would serve this dish with vegetables, a salad and some wild rice and
for dessert something to cool off the palate like a Granita!
Ciao and Buon Appetito!

I know, this picture is terrible but I wanted to show the inside with the line of red...if you can see it!

Raspberry Sherry Almond
Coffee Cake

I have had so much fun working on this video.
I do have to say, there were a lot of cuts.. and second, third and fourth takes, but for now I'm happy with the outcome and look forward to future "DMC Video Productions!

I haven't learned yet how to fade out the music.. so it just cuts off at the end of the video, but my husband and I loved the music choice for this recipe and laughed a lot at some of the words. Cake, and sweets in general create a "love hate" relationship with me.. am I the only one? :)

So I hope you enjoy my first video, but more than that enjoy a yummy slice of cake with a cup of your favorite beverage.

Raspberry Sherry Almond Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted from Ina Gartens Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ok, can anyone relate!! I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you.. my love affair with desserts waivers. Yes, I fall in and out of love with you. Why oh why do they cause so much joy.. but so much pain at the same time?? 
Hope you enjoy the video and the music accompaniment. xo Laurie

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cream sherry
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4-teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1 ½ cups cleaned and dried raspberries

Sherry Sugar Syrup
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons cream sherry

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bunt or tube pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sherry and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the almonds and then gently fold in raspberries so not to crush them.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a spatula. Spread streusel. over batter. Spoon the rest of the batter to cover streusel in the pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Syrup Preparation
Meanwhile heat sugars, water and sherry in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium high heat till sugar dissolves. Lower heat to a simmer and cook till syrup thickens, around 15 minutes. Consistency should be thinner than honey, syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. Take off heat and transfer to a porcelain or glass container to cool off.

When cake comes out of the oven, let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.

You can drizzle syrup over the coffee cake or have it on the side to allow for individual preference.

Ciao and Buon Appetito!

StrawberryBlue Custard Tart

Why do I love Summer.. let me count the reasons.. strawberries, blueberries, cherries, watermelon... the epitome of freshness and flavor found in the market stalls and down the grocery aisles.
The warm season is definitely on here and there is nothing I crave more than fresh fruit and cold beverages to get me by.

I know I have been making lots of desserts lately, but my wonderful husband is kind enough to take them with him to the office so I don't have to be tempted with them here at home. Anyway.. I much prefer a ripe juicy naked strawberry to quench my sweet tooth!

This recipe is adapted from a custard tart from The Joy of Baking as well as utilizing one of my favorite pastry crust recipes by Dorie Greenspan. For the recipe I subbed the half and half with cream cheese to give it a bit more depth and texture. My husband loved the cheesecake I made the previous week so I knew the addition of cream cheese would be a welcome one.

Buon Appetito,

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chilled non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Crust Preparation
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; pulse until coarse meal forms. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Chill 2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

Strawberry Glaze
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 tablespoon Cognac, Calvados, Rum or Water

Strawberry Glaze Directions
In a small saucepan heat the strawberry preserves until boiling. Remove from heat and strain to get rid of lumps. Add the Cognac or water.

Cheese Custard
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup cream cheese
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Brandy

Cheese Custard Prep
In a large bowl whisk the flour and sugar together. Mix in the eggs and stir with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste. Do not let this mixture sit too long as it will form a crust.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk till warm, add the cream cheese and let meld with milk. Cook till it just starts to simmer. Take off heat and add vanilla and the liqueur. Gradually whisk into the egg mixture stirring constantly. Set this mixture aside while you prepare the apples.

Pastry Crust
Roll out the pastry and fit it into a 8 or 9 inch tart pan. Prick the bottom of the shell and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°
Place rack in center of oven. Line the unbaked pastry shell with aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly browned. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack. When cool, spread a thin layer of warm glaze over the bottom and sides of the tart to seal the crust and prevent it from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry between 20 - 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Arrange the fruit in concentric circles on top of the cooled and glazed tart shell. Carefully pour the custard over the apples to just below the top of the tart pan (do not fill all the way or the custard will drip between the crust and the pan). Sprinkle lightly with the Cinnamon Sugar.

Place tart pan on a larger baking sheet to make it easier to remove from oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the custard has set.

Almond Amaretto
Chocolate Deluxe

This past weekend we had a wonderful time celebrating "Father's Day". My kids wanted to go all out for a fun filled weekend. And me, I got to do all the fun prep work like buying the gifts and making my husbands favorite dessert, "Cheesecake". I always have fun in the planning stages and I love spoiling my husband!

In the evening we went to one of our families favorite restaurants in Temecula's newly renovated outdoor Promenade mall, Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ. See the review here. It is the perfect place for a noisy family of six. Although.. we had to wait for an hour and a half to be seated and the outdoor overhead misting system wreaked havoc on my hair, and it wasn't even that hot outside!

Dinner was wonderful. The meat at Lucille's is slow smoked in a beefy in-house smoker with the tastiest attention to their sauces. We have had the family sized portion of racked ribs, BBQ chicken whole and sliced in sandwiches, slow smoked tri-tip steak sandwiches, cob salad with smoked chicken and their hearty Angus beef burgers.. all wonderful, tender and finger lickin good! But this time around I am here to talk about their desserts. The first time we went My husband and I split the pecan pie accompanied by a luscious bourbon sauce. Sooo Good! On Father's Day we hadn't intended to order dessert because I had a Cheesecake waiting at home, but while eying that creamy deluxe chocolate cake that flew by it was really hard to pass it up. My husband had the wonderful idea of turning my plain old Almond Amaretto Cheesecake into the dessert I have posted here, the "Almond Amaretto Chocolate Deluxe Cheesecake".

Emeril Lagasse couldn't have said it better.. "Baam!!" We only purchased one slice of Chocolate cake, but these slices for $6.00 are large enough to share. Creamy, satiny, tender, smooth, moist, rich, and "deluxe" are all words to describe this cake. My daughter loved it so much that last night she purchased a slice to have with her in line at the movie theater while waiting for doors to open for the midnight premier of "The Transformers" movie.

So my cheesecake plus the added slice of chocolate cake royalty made a wonderful dessert to end a fabulous Father's Day celebration!

Almond Amaretto Chocolate Deluxe Cheesecake

1 Cheesecake recipe (follows)
1 Chocolate Deluxe cake
1 Almond Graham cracker crust recipe (follows)
Chocolate Syrup or a thinned out ganache
Sweetened Whipped Cream

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup blanched almonds (whole or ground)
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Amaretto Liqueur

3 sticks of 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. Flour
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp Amaretto Liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees°.

In a food processor grind almonds still mealy. Mix together with graham cracker crumbs and the remainder of crust ingredients. Lightly press into a springform pan slightly going up an inch on the sides. Set crust aside.

Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, Amaretto and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Cover bottom securely with foil. I do this so butter from the crust does not drip in my oven. I almost think this also prevents the bottom from cooking to quickly while the thick middle is cooking.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is a little jiggly in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Turn the heat off and open the door of the oven so it is ajar. Let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. At least 12 hours. I like to make my cheesecakes a whole day in advance to serving.

Top with a whole creamy, satiny, tender, smooth, moist, rich, and "deluxe" chocolate cake! We served it with a drizzle of warm chocolate syrup and whipped cream. The chocolate cake with almonds and Amaretto is naturally a winning combination but you can surely alternate nuts or do without. Pine nuts also make a wonderful addition to a cheesecake crust!

Buon Appetito!

Macaroni & Fontina Cheese
with Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce

Pistachios are a beloved nut of Italian culture. Popularly used in desserts such as Cannoli and Ice Cream, pistachios often in history made there way into savory dishes as well. Crushed Pistachios make a wonderful blanket for grilled beef as well as lamb, a very popular way to utilize this rich and tasty nut.

A year ago I incorporated them into a pesto dish to go along with seared lamb and Buccatini, it was a wonderful addition and with a little playing around my Pistachio Pesto Cream sauce was born. I keep Pistachio Pesto on hand as often as I can. It freezes well and when needed for a sauce it quickly defrosts within a few hours.

My kids love having pasta shells made into Macaroni and Cheese, so with a variation on the American version, alternating Cheddar with Fontina cheese and adding Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce this layered baked pasta dish makes for a favorite mid week meal.


Pistachio Pesto Cream Sauce *recipes follow
16 oz. Fontina cheese shredded
4 oz. Parmesan Cheese grated
1 lb. Durum Semolina Shells

1 cup pistachio’s
1 cup olive oil
10 – 12 large basil leaves
¾ cup white wine
¾ cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs. Chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 ½ tsp. fresh squeezed lemon
2 -3 tablespoons water to thin out as needed
½ tsp. salt
Dash fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a small dry skillet, toast pistachios for around a minute or two just to release oils. Don’t let the pistachio’s burn.

In a food processor, add pistachios and olive oil, pulse on low until pistachios start emulsifying with oil but still having texture. Add chopped basil leaves and continue to pulse. Add wine and Gorgonzola cheese, pulse till well incorporated. Mixture will still have good texture. Add garlic clove, oregano leaves and lemon juice. Process to mix well. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed just so the pesto is not too thick. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to taste and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to your desired taste.

3 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Olive oil
½ onion minced
½ shallot minced
2 Tbs. Flour
3 cups simmering hot milk (skin removed)
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbs. White wine
3 cups Pistachio Pesto (recipe above)

Melt butter and olive oil on medium low heat. Add onion and shallots, cook till golden and translucent. Butter should be sizzling. Put heat on medium low. Dust onion garlic mix with flour and stir constantly till mix starts to brown. Stirring with a whisk, add 2 cups of hot milk in a slow stream constantly stirring and loosening mix from bottom of the pan. If you continue to whisk the mix will be very even textured. When cream begins to thicken again, add another cup of hot milk (this should equal 3 cups in all).
Add 3 tablespoons of wine and around I ½ teaspoons of salt to taste. Stir constantly and bring to a simmer again and let thicken to a cream soup consistency. Add 3 cups of the pistachio pesto to the cream sauce. Stir to incorporate well. At this stage it should be plenty thick.
*If you want it thicker, uncovered reduce heat to low and let simmer till it reduces to the consistency you like.


Putting it all together
Cook pasta till aldente. Be sure to salt your water.
Drain Pasta. On the bottom of a baking dish pour ¼ cup of sauce, add ½ of the cooked shells. Pour some more of the sauce on top. Then layer with Fontina cheese. Repeat by adding more pasta, sauce and cheese till pasta is used up. Top it off with Pistachio Pesto Cream sauce, Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 4oo° oven till bubbly and cheese is melted and golden on top, around 15 minutes. Enjoy with crusty bread and a salad.

Hope you enjoy!
Buon Appetitio,

White Hot Chocolate
Nutmeg Cappuccino

Fall has always been my favorite time of year for it ushering in the beginning of hearty cooking and seasonal hot drinks, warmer and more cuddly clothing and blankets to wrap us in sitting around the fireplace. But surprisingly our Spring weather here in Southern California is extended in the month of June and often times feels like Fall.

With the mist hovering over the hillsides in the early mornings creating ribbon like clouds and the breezes blowing through the Rainbow Gap on the South end of Temecula, the coolness it creates is the perfect ambiance for a warm cup of hot chocolate.

I don't remember where I found this recipe.. but it has been in my collection since last year. The only difference I made was infusing the cream with nutmeg and then straining it. It has a more spicy taste and melds wonderfully with the brandy and the creme de cacao. This would be just as wonderful without the liqueurs. If you do omit them just up the vanilla content to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.

6 oz light cream
1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
2 oz espresso
2 oz grated or chopped white chocolate
1 tsp brandy
1 tsp creme de cacao
1/8 tsp vanilla
Whipped cream
Ground nutmeg

Pour cream and 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg into pan. Heat till almost boiling. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Pour back into pan and add chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in liqueurs and vanilla. Return to low heat and whisk until foamy. Pour espresso into a tall glass or mug, then spoon chocolate cream mixture over the espresso. Top with soft peaked whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. Serving size 1.

Summer is the perfect time for sea shell collecting. We love going to La Jolla in San Diego in the early evenings and filling our buckets with beautiful shells. It is a "for sure" occasion to end a wonderful evening by a campfire with a frothy cup of White Hot Chocolate Nutmeg Cappuccino!

Enjoy and Buon Appetito!

Cooking Tools; Cast Iron Skillet

My Nineteen-year-old Cast Iron Skillet

I love kitchen tools, but I don't really find a need to purchase every tool that appears to be a necessity. I have been married for twenty one years and have probably been cooking for fifteen more years on top of that. You would think I have a vast storehouse of the most sheik gadgets purchasable.. but I don’t! I have a good set of knives, my cast iron skillets, a small food prep food processor, a large capacity Cuisinart food processor, my KitchenAid stand mixer, some high quality stainless steel cooking pots and pans, utensils, measuring implements, mixing bowls and baking dishes. And I still have room in my cupboards. That's not to say that I don't have a wish list, because lets face it.. every cook adores Le Creuset cookware.

But if you are new to cooking and would like to purchase some kitchen tools that are good quality, life lasting and won’t cost you an arm and a leg, let me assure you, it is attainable!

From time to time I will share with you some of my most treasured kitchen tools.. tools that are indispensable in my kitchen for the time they save me and for the money saved by not having to make duplicate purchases.

Today I want to introduce you to my most prized kitchen instrument, my cast iron skillet. This particular skillet was purchased at the Long Beach Antique Market off of Bellflower Blvd. I bought this skillet nineteen years ago and it is still pristine and seasoned perfectly. What I was looking for when I bought this iron was a flat smooth surface without dings, deep scratches or chips. This one had previously been used and had a good seasoning on it, but I still cleaned it real well and re-seasoned it as if it were brand new. I was told to bring a marble with me to check the evenness of the surface. You are suppose to roll the marble on the interior and see how it moves, if it goes to one side and stays, it is uneven, if it rolls gently and stays for the most part centered, you can gather that you have a pretty even surfaced cast iron skillet.

A few rules, but not to go in depth hear, don’t scour your cast iron, you will scrape all of the seasoning off. The beauty of a cast iron skillet is in the little oil that needs to be used when cooking. It makes for a wonderful light cooking companion. The seasoned and coated surface that accumulates more and more with each use prevents foods from sticking and makes cooking sautes and seared meats and vegetables simple and lower in fat than using pans that need high quantities of oil and butter to aid in turning foods easily.

Never put your cast iron in the dish washer nor use cleanser on it. If you must wash it for sanitary purposes use very little mild dish soap and rinse well with hot water. Just a note, if your pan is seasoned well, you should be able to rinse it under warm water and wipe it clean with a paper towel. I am always the one in my house to clean my cast iron skillet, actually, I protect my baby so much I won’t even let my teenagers near it when they are cooking! After I rinse it and wipe it down, I put a little olive oil on a paper towel and wipe my cast iron skillet on the inside and top rim. I then put it on the stove with low heat for a minute and then turn the heat off. I store it my skillet alone with a paper towel resting on the inside. I NEVER put my skillet away damp. It will rust if moisture stays on it.

One last thing, I purchased my skillet at the flea market price of $5.00.

For more info:

Temecula Valley Arts,
Crafts & Flea Markets

San Diego County Guide
to Second Hand Shopping

"Blueberry Peach Galette" a la mode
with a
"Blueberry Sherry Sauce"
and a trip to the
Temecula Berry Company

Last year here on DMC I wrote a review of the most beautiful blueberry fields I came across tucked away in the quiet estates and rolling plains of the Temecula Valley. I could have easily missed out on Temecula Berry Companies pristinely kept and magnificently grown farm and the only blueberry field in the county that I know about if I hadn't been taking a leisurely drive while waiting to pick up my kids from a birthday party in the area.

Unfortunately when I wrote the article last year it was at the end of the growing season and my local readers weren't able to experience the fun and excitement of hand picking their own blueberries. Well to my delight last week on Thursday the farm opened for business and my husband, little children and I headed over on the Memorial Day weekend and filled our buckets with beautiful, plump and ready to be picked berries.

The farm was just as I had remembered. The weather was a bit more accommodating for us being that it is still Spring time and the temperature was still a cool 79. The grounds are so beautiful, so clean, so well kept. I really am yearning to have a garden of blueberries, grape vines, avocado's and citrus. Living in such a community as Temecula, we have access to such a variety of produce fields, like the grape vineyards, orange groves, blueberry fields, olive tree's, and even dairy farms producing cheese like the Winchester Cheese Company's famous sharp gouda which won the bronze medal at the prestigous World Cheese Awards in London, England in 2006. And locally.. farms who's produce give the famed Temecula Farmers Market their fill of beautiful fruits, leafy greens and vegetables.

You have to look closely, lifting branches to reveal the bluberries on the undergrowth of the bushes. Our youngest daughter picked the most. It could be that she was the lowest to the ground and her eye caught all the ripe berries that were on the lower branches.

The colors are spectacular in the fields.

At the beginning of our hunt.

Ripe, plump and large berries for the picking!

I think naturally peaches pair perfectly with Blueberries. When I visit Sprouts Markets I always purchase a peach berry smoothie. Oh so delicious!

I love a Galette. They are simple to prepare and I love the freestyle form that they lend. And delicious.. you bet!

For the crust I used Dorrie Greenspans Pastry Dough recipe.

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chilled nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Crust Preparation
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; pulse until coarse meal forms. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Chill 2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

For the filling I used peaches and berries. Using a typical apple pie filling recipe just subbing the fruit. I kept the skin on my peaches, I like the extra texture and the skins were pretty thin.

Fruit Filling:
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
3 cups thinly sliced peaches (about 3 large)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 egg white
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
To make the fruit filling, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss gently, making sure that the cornstarch is coating the fruit. (This will prevent too much juice from leaking out while the Galette bakes.)

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Starting at the center of the dough, roll out, forming a 14-15-inch wide circle. Place the dough with parchment paper on a baking sheet. Add the fruit mixture to the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds.

Lightly whisk the egg white and milk in a small bowl. Brush dough with egg wash, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes. (Cutting it too quickly will cause the dough to crack). It's best served at room temperature or slightly warm.

Blueberry Sherry Topping
2 Cups fresh cleaned and dried blueberries
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cream sherry

Add berries, sugar and sherry to a sauce pot. Cook on medium low. Watch pot so the berries do not scorch. When berries begin to break down and thicken lower heat to a low simmer. To prevent sugar from scorching the sides of the pan, have a cup of cold water and a pastry brush ready. Periodically brush the sides of the pan with water. This is a tip when making sugar syrups as well as caramels and candies.

Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream and a dollop of fresh whipped cream!
Buon Appetitio!