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The Burma Cookbook

rich semolina cake

On Tuesday night at Les Gourmettes Cooking School, we had two very charming gentlemen teach a class on Burmese cooking. Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne also happen to be the authors of The Burma Cookbook – Recipes from the Land of a Million Pagodas.

the burma cookbook

The class was not only informative and delicious but really fun – thanks to Robert and Morrison and their exceptionally outgoing and fun personalities.

For dessert they made one of the most popular of all Burmese desserts, a semolina cake.  Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta, breakfast cereals, puddings and couscous.

The book is beautiful, the guys were great and the cake was sublime.

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February 20, 2014   No Comments

Valentine’s dessert

chocolate tacos with bananas

Valentine’s Day is Friday. Are you ready? Maybe this decadent chocolate dessert will get you in the mood.

Barbara Fenzl taught this recipe during the last semester of classes at Les Gourmettes Cooking School. It is too creative, beautiful and delicious to not share with you. <3

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February 10, 2014   2 Comments

the ultimate cupakes

As I’ve told you many times before, I am NOT a baker.

I don’t like to bake.
I don’t have the patience to bake.
I am not skilled at baking.

Toffee Crunch Mini Cupcakes

That being said – I baked these cupcakes… and they are The BOMB!

choc and toffee

Seriously! I gave Connor one to sample and his eyes rolled back in his head with delight! He made me promise him that I would make them for his birthday in May. That is a promise I intend to keep!

choc and toffee

The recipe came from HERE.

If every recipe on bakersroyale.com is as scrumptious as these cupcakes, and if YOU love to bake, you should be going to this site everyday from here on out!

mini cupcakes

All I did was change them from standard cupcakes to mini cupcakes. Otherwise, I followed the recipe almost as written and they were perfection! So much so, that I could eat the caramel frosting, with a huge spoon, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

OK, maybe not! The frosting alone has a pound of butter – but to be fair, there was quite a bit of frosting left over, even after all the cupcakes were made.

To prevent me from using a spoon to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I put it in the trash and then dumped the nasty contents of my Roomba on top of it!

I can’t have that sort of temptation around here!

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December 19, 2013   2 Comments

winter shortcake

sweet potato cranberry shortcakes

The final Thanksgiving leftovers recipe of the season is a dessert, using up the last of your mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and whipped cream. It’s a wintertime take on strawberry shortcake.

If your sweet potatoes weren’t mashed, mash them before making these biscuits.

powdered buttermilk

Oh, and did you know that you can buy powdered buttermilk? I’m not certain if I’ve mentioned this product before, but it sure is handy to have when you have all the ingredients for a recipe … except buttermilk. And isn’t that the point of using up leftovers – being able to use what you have and not having to make a special trip to the grocery store? It’s simple to use. Just as with powdered regular milk, you just mix with water.

butter bits

One last note – One of the secrets to light and flaky biscuits is to not overwork the dough. When handled with a light touch you should be able to see specks of the fat, whether that is butter, as in this recipe, or vegetable shortening or lard. Less is better when it comes to biscuits.

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December 2, 2013   1 Comment

Pinterest Peekaboo Cake

peekaboo cake

Last November, I found and pinned this adorable dessert recipe on Pinterest. Like so many things I pin, I didn’t get around to making, as planned, last holiday season.

But, also like so many wonderful things I find on Pinterest, it was there when I wanted it (that is the joy and wonder of Pinterest!) and I got around to not only making it this year, but also sharing it with others at the cooking class I taught last night at Les Gourmettes Cooking School.

I’ve rewritten the recipe to be a little more clear and detailed.

pumpkin cutters

When I first tested the recipe, I used two different size pumpkin cookie cutters. A 3×3-inch cutter that made the most of the pumpkin bread cutouts. And a smaller 2×2-inch cutter.

big vs small

I was surprised to find that the cutouts from smaller cutter looked nicer when the cake was sliced.

batter on bottom

This is a photo of the second cake I made, once I’d figured out the tricks and tweaks. All other photos are of cake number one.

I found that covering the bottom of the loaf pan with a thin layer of the pound cake batter, then arranging the pumpkin bread cutouts on top, created a cleaner and more defined pumpkin look.  This is something that could not be done with the larger cutter, because the cake would be too tall and not covered with enough pound cake batter down the center, on the top.

There is a bonus TIP at the bottom of the post. Just in time for all of your Holiday Baking. You are gonna LOVE it!

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November 21, 2013   1 Comment

by request: pumpkin bread pudding

On Thursday I asked you to help me, help you with your Thanksgiving menu. There were plenty of wonderful comments and questions, but only one actual recipe request.**

Marissa and Sharon asked for a bread pudding recipe. More specifically – for pumpkin bread pudding. Today I give you the recipe.

pumpkin bread pudding

At the same time that I was working on this, I was testing a recipe I found on Pinterest for a “Peekaboo Pumpkin Pound Cake.” I’ll be making the cake on Wednesday, in the classes I’m teaching at Les Gourmettes. I will give you the cake recipe later in the week.

I mention it because I used the scraps from the pumpkin bread that was used for the cake recipe, in this bread pudding recipe.

If you don’t want to make your own pumpkin bread, go ahead and buy a loaf of pumpkin bread. I’ve seen it in all the grocery store bakeries and at Trader Joe’s.

pumpkin bread scraps

The pudding would be too dense and heavy if only pumpkin bread was used. So we’re using three large croissants for two-thirds of the total bread needed.


Both the pumpkin bread and the croissants need to be torn into bite-size pieces and left out to dry for at least 24 hours before making the pudding, so plan accordingly.

3 to dry

Crème anglaise is a custard used as a dessert cream or sauce. It is a mix of sugar, egg yolks and hot milk, often flavored with vanilla. It is also the base for vanilla ice cream. The pudding is especially delicious served with crème anglaise. Instead of going to the trouble and effort of making it from scratch, we’re just going to let some vanilla ice cream melt and call it Quick Crème Anglaise.  It can’t get much easier than that!

Note: When I make this again for our Thanksgiving dessert, I will be adding 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans to the bread in the baking dish before pouring the custard on top. I think the pudding needs that little crush and texture that pecans will add.

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November 18, 2013   3 Comments

south of the border muffins

chocolate banana bread muffins on scale

I’m calling these “Mexican-Chocolate” because of the cinnamon and chocolate combination. If you’ve ever eaten or cooked with the Ibarra brand of Mexican chocolate, you understand.

On a totally unrelated subject – I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I keep waking up before the sun – but that turned out to be a blessing yesterday.

I got out of bed at about 4:30 and decided to make these muffins since I needed to take something to our neighborhood Bunco later that evening.

muffin on pedestal

The day was a whirlwind, I wasn’t home for more than 15 minutes all day. If I hadn’t made the muffins early in the morning … I would have never had time to make a thing and would have had to resort to bringing a bottle of wine.

As you might imagine, that doesn’t fly when you have a cooking blog and teach people to cook!

mexican chocolate banana bread muffin

Sometimes sleep deprivation actually pays off.

Now, I know that for some, 4:30 or 5:00 is a normal and routine time to begin their day. I’ve had that schedule before, so I get it. But back then, I fell asleep before midnight or 1 AM too.

Let’s face it – sleep deprivation totally sucks! Conversely, these muffins do not.

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September 20, 2013   4 Comments

homemade Speculoos

Trader Joes bag

I consider myself a Trader Joe’s expert, a TJ Connoisseur, if you will.  So imagine my embarrassment and dismay when I learned that there was a product at Trader Joe’s, an exceedingly popular and rare product, that I had not a clue about!

fearless flyer

Honestly, I’m going to have to be more diligent and thorough in the reading of all future Fearless Flyers!

This hot newish product is called Speculoos.

Speculoos Cookie Butter

Speculoos Cookie Butter, to be exact, and it has proven to be a major phenomenon for Trader Joe’s. It took the top spot in Trader Joe’s annual “most popular products” list in 2012.

Then, in 2013, Trader Joe’s expanded the line and released a crunchy version. And like many Trader Joe’s items, the cookie butter is a knock-off of a brand-name product: Biscoff Spread, manufactured in Belgium by a company called Lotus. Made from thin, crispy cookies called speculoos (or spekulaas) that are eaten during the holidays. Biscoff’s cookie butter premiered in Europe in 2007. I just discovered that it is sold at Cost Plus World Market.

You’re reading this right – cookie butter is made of not ground-up peanuts and oil but rather ground-up cookies and oil. Cookie butter is like the rich, sweeter, and more handsome cousin of peanut butter!  You can smear it on toast or crackers or use it as a dip for pretzels, apples or celery.

cookie butter toast

So yeah, it’s literally – spreadable cookies!

The Trader Joe’s flavor is gingersnap. Well actually, the label says – “A deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits” – so  basically gingersnaps.

And it is To Die For!

I did learn that one of the reasons I may be able to forgive myself for not knowing about Speculoos sooner, is because it has been in short supply since it made its TJ début in late 2011. So popular, in fact, that the spread has its own Facebook Page.

Now …  just in case TJ’s has a problem keeping this treasure in-stock in the future, I’ve decided to try making my own.

so many cookies

The question was, “What flavor cookie should I use?” Peanut butter seemed too obvious and gingersnaps are already being done … to perfection. The cookies need to be crispy crunchy  – not soft and chewy. No fillings, so that leaves out Oreos and such. Certainly no Fig Newtons (ugg)!

I scanned the cookie aisle and came up with five candidates. I made the five flavors of cookie butter and then sent a text out to six of my friends and neighbors on Saturday morning and asked them if they might be able to come by between 2:00 and 5:00 and do a taste test for me. Shockingly, all replied within seconds and said they could help!

taste tester plate

Here is what greeted them when they arrived.

Each was asked to taste the five concoctions in front of them, to not ask questions about what they were eating, and then to rank them in order; #1 being their favorite … through #5 – being their least favorite. I then crunched all the numbers and found the average ranking of each of the cookie butters.

5 cookie types

This is the average of how the ladies ranked them:

  1. Snickerdoodle
  2. Pepperidge Farm Chessmen
  3. Chocolate Chip
  4. Pepperidge Farm Coconut
  5. Pecan Sandies

Only one person ranked the Pecan Sandies Cookie Butter higher than 4th or 5th place. In fact, four of my taste testers put it in last place, and two of those wrote “yuck” in their comments.

Of course, one of the reasons I chose to use Pecan Sandies is because I love those cookies, but they were right, they do not make a good cookie butter. Snickerdoodles won by a landslide. Chessmen, Chocolate Chip and Coconut were pretty tight in the scoring.

I pawned all the remaining Cookie Butter off on my neighbors on Sunday morning, leaving it on their doorsteps. I can’t have that stuff in the house. Well, I do still have the jar from Trader Joe’s but that doesn’t have to be eaten within 10 days, so I’ll keep it “out of sight and out of mind”… hopefully!

Many thanks to my fan-tab-ulous taste-test panel – Peggy, Lisa, Ronnie, Anne, Amy and Melissa! xoxo

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September 17, 2013   7 Comments

stone fruit dessert

stone fruit crumble

You didn’t think I’d do a week of “Stone Fruit” recipes without making a pie, a crisp, or a crumble – did you?

Of course, you didn’t!

This is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts around … a stone fruit crumble. Enjoy!

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August 1, 2013   2 Comments

Fresh Watermelon “Cake”

fresh watermelon layer cake

Watermelon and summer go hand-in-hand. Here’s a fun way to serve it up!

This recipe comes from an image I found on Pinterest. It is important to use full fat, not lite, coconut milk. Lite coconut milk will not whip.

Placing the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight is also a must. It will cause the cream to separate from the milk. The thick cream is used, the milk is poured off.

If you’d rather skip the coconut cream altogether, I have another Watermelon “Cake” photo from Pinterest at the end of the post, no recipe needed for it.

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June 25, 2013   3 Comments