Valentine’s Day Pastry Puffs

On this day back in 1974, my college friends and I decided we were sick of seeing lucky girls getting roses delivered to them willy-nilly, while we got nothing. So we held a Valentine’s Day Sleep-A-Thon.

My friend and resident artist, Dawn created fabulous posters for our doors that said anyone could participate, in the VD Sleep-a- Thon.  All you had to do was sleep through the day so you didn’t have to witness the floral onslaught. Only problem was, we had to miss class to participate, and we were good girls, so it never quite took hold the way we imagined.

Now, that I’m older, still alone, but much wiser, instead of coveting someone else’s roses, I go buy myself flowers and chocolate. Why wait for something I’m perfectly capable of buying myself?

Close up DPP.JPGIn fact, now I celebrate Valentine’s Day with abandon. I even bake for it, and one of my favorite things to make is a Danish Pastry Puff. I usually make it as a breakfast or brunch item.

It’s a buttery pastry crust topped with another layer that’s almost like a cream puff in texture but flavored with almond extract, then covered in icing and sprinkled with almonds.

It’s an easy recipe I got from my brother, Bernie, who had a food column years ago called Top Fork.  He used to go around sampling food at different restaurants then write about it.

(It’s a sickness — Tunno’s can’t help it, we’re always either eating, cooking , or talking about food.)

ITop Fork Column saved his clipping from all those years ago and every time I make a Danish Pastry Puff, I use it. It’s easy, buttery  deliciousness!

Here’s the original recipe for Danish Puffs, handed down via my brother, who got it from his ex-neighbor Martha May, who got it from her eighth grade Home Economics teacher, Wealthie Crawford, who entered it in a national bake-off and won a prize.  I love how recipes make the rounds. And let’s hear it for one nationality embracing the food of another.  It’s what makes the United States so totally cool. I swear food is the true route to world peace.

I tried a variation on it with Brown Butter Frosting and it was very good, but I like the almond too. Usually Puffs take the form of rectangles, but for Valentine’s Day you can shape them like hearts.  Enjoy them and have a Happy Valentine’s Day whether you’re alone or a couple!

Danish PuffsCropped shot Brown butter

Crust

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

3 Tbsp. cold water

Mix together ingredients and spread into two rectangles (or hearts) on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Filling or Topping

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 tsp. almond extract (for the brown butter puff, delete the almond extract)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

3 large or extra large eggs

Put 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup of water in a medium size sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Add 1 tsp. of almond extract and 1 tsp. vanilla. Then remove from heat and add 1 cup flour immediately. Beat by hand until smooth, then beat in three eggs, one at a time until smooth. Spread on top of crusts and back at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.

Vanilla Frosting for Puffs with Almond FlavoringPuff Beauty shot.JPG

2 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp. half and half

Dash of salt

Melt the butter and add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla, the half and half, and salt, to taste. Pour over the cooled puff and sprinkle with nuts. You can use sliced almonds or chopped walnuts.

Brown Butter Frosting (You will see God when you taste this)

1/2 cup butter

3 cups powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. half and half

Melt butter over low heat in a saucepan until melted. Continue stirring until butter turns a golden to medium brown. Be careful not to burn it. It should smell wonderfully fragrant. Once browned, remove it from the heat and add the powdered sugar and half and half, stirring with the whisk until smooth. Then drizzle over the cooled puff and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Groundhog Day with Cherry Cranberry Crisp!

Edited GroundhogGroundhog Day is near and dear to my heart. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pennsylvania where Punxatawney Phil was a pretty big deal. There’s another reason, which embarrasses my brothers when I talk about it, so you’ll just have to read my Groundhog Day blog post from two years ago where I explain it all. Be forewarned — it involves sex.

Since there is no official dessert for Groundhog day, I’m making one up. Cherry-Cranberry Crisp – it has all the flavor of cherry pie filling with the tartness of cranberries, and tastes great with vanilla ice cream.  It’s perfect for that bag of cranberries you still have in the freezer and it can double as a President’s Day dessert too! George Washington and Abe Lincoln would have loved it and I’m fairly certain serving it can bring about world peace.

If you don’t have a bag of cranberries in the freezer, this is a good excuse to go buy some. Some stores still have fresh ones, but frozen work fine too.

close up cherry cran crispI found this recipe years ago in an ad for Comstock cherry pie filling. It was for Cherry Cranberry Pie, but is even easier and very tasty as a crisp, so that’s what I make when I need a quick dessert. And this recipe makes enough crisp topping for two pies, so you can just save half in the freezer for the next time you feel like baking a crisp.

I was doing fairly well on my New Year plan to eat less dessert, but this dessert nipped that right in the bud.

Cherry Cranberry Crisp

Crumble Topping

1 cup flour

2 cups whole, uncooked Quaker Oats

1 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick melted butter (not unsalted)

Mix together dry ingredients, then add melted butter with fork, stirring to make sure all ingredients are combined.  It should look pebbly. This is enough to cover two pies or crisps.

cherry cran closeupSet the topping aside and mix together:

Cherry Cranberry Filling

1 can of cherry pie filling

2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries rinsed

3/4 cup of sugar

2 Tbsp corn starch

Thoroughly mix together, pie filling, rinsed cranberries, sugar and corn starch in a large mixing bowl. Then pour them into a buttered, deep dish pie pan or casserole dish.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the topping over the cherry cranberry filling, just to cover it. Don’t make the topping too thick. Freeze the other topping for later use.  Bake at 350 for one hour to an hour and 10 minutes, or until filling bubbles.  If topping starts looking too brown, cover it lightly with a piece of foil.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Share with friends and strangers and watch world peace ensue.

 

 

 

The Days of Spatula Licking are Almost Over

This week, I baked cookies because someone at work asked me to. I’m pretty easy. All you have to do is flatter me by telling me my cookies are the best you’ve ever had and I’ll bake for you too.

I also baked because one of my young co-workers lost his dad to a sudden heart attack a few weeks ago and the pain is still so raw for him that it breaks my heart. So, baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies couldn’t hurt.

Miss Milena

She had the whole thing licked clean before I could even take the picture.

As I was in the kitchen baking, my daughter was on the comfy, sage colored couch in the living room working on a paper for school. I was cleaning off the beater, wondering if she’d want to lick it like she used to when she was a kid. I hesitated, thinking she might not go for it, then offered it to her. She happily took it like she did when she was three. Continue reading

Women Always Find the Good in Each Other — Garlic helps

Theresa is the first wife of my ex-husband.

Theresa and Fran.JPG

Fran and Theresa the only two members of a very exclusive club.

She rocks.

But for years I didn’t realize that because I was married to my then husband, and his characterizations may not have been completely accurate because pesky emotion was involved.

I should have known better because the son she and my ex had together is absolutely wonderful. You don’t turn out that great if there isn’t someone molding you, and the master molder was Theresa. We only got Brandon a few weekends a month, so we were assistant molders. And I have to say, that my ex was a good dad to Brandon. He loved him completely, Brandon knew it, and that makes a big difference.

But now that my ex is my ex, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Theresa much better. It all started around the time I was getting divorced. I had the massive realization that there were going to be stories out there about me that might be one-sided, colored by emotion and, therefore possibly, not completely true.

I realized then, that for decades, I’d only been getting half the story about her and their relationship.  Much of it was factual, but much was colored by emotion, and we all know emotion is a lousy gauge for accuracy. Continue reading

Pasta Sundays

Uncle Richard at Christmas

Uncle Richard at Christmas, in my, “My Sauce is Better Than Yours Apron.”My daughter says his sauce really is better.

I was talking to my Uncle Richard over the weekend. He was telling me how he misses the days when his grandkids were little and he used to cook every Sunday.
His lucky daughter, son-in-law and their kids, along with my dad,  were invited over every Sunday to eat pasta. He’d make a different pasta every week, including rigatoni, linguini with clams, gnocci, lasagne, aglio olio and others, and they were all great. Now he just cooks for himself and my aunt because everyone’s either grown up, dead, or too busy, and he says it’s not the same. He misses the family. Continue reading

Coffee Cake Biscotti — Oh Yes!

I have bounced around the idea of starting a biscotti business for over a year. My family rolls their collective eyes when they hear this because I flit from one idea to another like a fruit fly. Continue reading

Love You, Not Your Decorations

I was talking to my sister-in-law, Patty, who is on crutches this holiday. Nothing makes a woman crazier than not being able to whirl around in a frenzy of Christmas preparation insanity,  so she was already apologizing for her house probably not being up to snuff.

I told her not to worry, I’m not coming to visit the decorations or the house. I’m coming to see my family.

As my mother so eloquently put it: “Wenna you’re dead a da house will steel a be dorty. Da hell witta da housework!”

Dear God, the woman was brilliant. Continue reading

What Illicit Sex and Pulled Pork Have in Common

Few things bring me the uncontrollable joy of a juicy pulled pork sandwich. (Should a single woman ever admit that?) I know pork isn’t health food, but if you don’t eat something decadent every once in a while, where’s the joy in living?

Juicy, tender pulled pork.

Juicy, tender pulled pork.

Especially if, like me, you eat salads, chicken, vegetables and tofu. Yes, you can make them taste great, but there’s something wicked and exciting about eating something a little trashy. It’s probably like having an affair. You know you shouldn’t, but the pull is undeniable.  That’s why I have to be toweled off when I get to cook and write about melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork. It’s like the one night stand of foods.

Clearly, I’m a shameless pork addict.  Continue reading

Alex is Getting Married? But She’s Only 12, Isn’t She?

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex is getting married.  I find this hard to believe because, according to my calculations, she is still twelve and helping me bathe my daughter in the kitchen sink. I was never good at math. Continue reading

Step-kids and Lasagne Sundays

My kids were gone for a mini-family reunion at their dad’s house for the Fourth of July and I missed them, so I wanted to cook something wonderful when they returned. It was Sunday and my Italian soul longed for lasagne. It was just special enough that my devious plan, to get them (including my daughter’s boyfriend)  to stay for a meal, worked. Now that’s success. (See what my mother taught me? You bribe your kids with food.) Continue reading