Tag Archives: Scratch baking

Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies For Mom

Back home in Hawaii, we can get these a~maz~ing Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies from The Big Island aka Hawaii Island.  Now that we’ve moved to the mainland, NOPE, NADA, NO CAN GET!  So once again the mother of need raises her head and says, MAKE YOUR OWN!

My Mom no longer lives 12 miles away from my DH and I, so I make up my version of a care package for her every so often.  I’ve added these to her most recent box.

Auntie Doni’s Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies

½ C. Macadamia Nuts, Roasted, unsalted and coarsely chopped

1/3 C. granulated Sugar

½ C. Unsalted Butter, softened

½ tsp. Salt

1 ¼ C. Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

½-1 C. Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until ground fine, set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and those ground nuts.  Mix in the flour, just until combined.

Macadamia Nut Cookie logs

Form the dough into two 14 X 3 X 1” logs and wrap them in plastic.  Stash them in the `fridge for 1-24 hours.  Preheat the oven to 350⁰.  Line a **baking sheet** with either parchment paper or a Silpat® Mat (optimum choice).

place slices 1 inch apart

Slice the dough in ¼ inch widths; place on the sheet pan one inch apart.

Bake for 10 or until just lightly golden on the edges.  Place on a cooling rack.  Melt your dipping chocolate as directed on the package.

Chocolate dipped Macadamia Nut Cookies

Dip half of the cookie in the melted chocolate;

Place back on the Silpat® Mat (or parchment paper),

oh my, garnished chocolate dipped macadamia nut cookies

Add optional garnish of ground Macadamia Nuts;

Allow to cool completely, wrap and gift.


**It’s best to use a light colored baking sheet for lighter colored baked goods**

a lighter colored pan makes for lighter colored bottoms on my our baked goods

A Continuation Of My First Cheesecake

Remember that first Cheesecake that I’d ever made; that made WAY too much batter?  Well… I saved that extra batter and made ANOTHER, YES, that’s two Cheesecakes under my belt now, YAY!  I thought that I’d take this one next door for the NYE party at our neighbors home.

I broke up this gorgeous bar of Dark Chocolate into a bowl and pored in some Heavy Cream that I heated in the microwave; stirred it gently for create a Ganache, MMM!

I spread it out evenly with an offset spatula and stashed it in the `fridge to set up.

Turtle Cheesecake

I melted some Caramels, spread that over the top and sprinkled it with a copious amount of chopped toasted Pecans; back in the chill box.  It’s a Turtle Cheesecake!

Can I blow my own horn here?  That was outrageously over the top, crazy delish, good stuff!  The buzz went around the room at the party that there was this really fabulous Cheesecake over on the buffet table.  This gal comes up to me with her plate in hand and fork in her mouth, “Did you try the Cheesecake yet?  You really need to taste this, it’s fantastic, the best I’ve ever had.”


I Made My Very First Cheesecake

For some reason, I’ve never made a Cheesecake before; that’s probably because I’ve never owned a Springform pan before.  I bought one last year at a discount kitchen store, I don’t remember why or what I made with it, but obviously it wasn’t a memorable dish.  I saw it sitting there, all lonely like out in my garage with the other “oddly shaped-hard to store” kitchen toys that I have.  And it hit me, I should try it!

NOW!  DH is not a fan of anything sour, tangy as he says, such as sour cream or cream cheese … you get the idea.  Cheesecake is a dessert that he does not order, but likes to take bites from mine when we go out to eat.  So I searched the Internet and wasn’t sure which recipe to follow; then I was watching a Martha Stewart TV program and what did she make, but New York Style Cheesecake.  I trust Martha, so here goes nothing.

First off, that’s WAY too much batter Martha!  Even though her recipe calls for a 10 inch pan and mine is 9 inches… HMMM

My Cheesecake CRACKED!

Secondly, Martha said that if I bake my Cheesecake in a Bain Marie or a Water Bath, it won’t crack.


Can you see that it cracked almost the entire way around the top?!  GEEZ!  Oh well, I’ll bet it tastes good.

I have enough filling for another Cheesecake

And about that filling recipe calling for 7, yes I said SEVEN eight ounce packages of Cream Cheese, WOW!  I have enough batter to make another cake.

But come on man!  Look at that wouldja!?  I mean, COME ON!  That is CRAZY good Cheesecake.  I think that IF  I ever make another Cheesecake, I’ll use Martha’s recipe; I’ll only make half…


Apple Crostata (Pie) For Thanksgiving

My husband goes absolutely CUKOO for Apple Pie, I honestly don’t like making pie.  That whole crust thing, you know, rolling it out and then trying to get it into the pie plate without destroying the entire thing.

Fresh Apple Crostata

Well, I was watching one of my favoriteTV Chef’s on PBS and she made a Crostata, how easy was that?!

I simply rolled out a single crust, following Martha Stewart’s Pâte Brisée recipe; filled it, using Betty Crocker’s Cinnamon Apple Crostata (minus the nuts) and folded over about two inches or so of the dough over the filling.  The last step is to moisten the crust on the top and sprinkle liberally with sugar.  Bake for about a half hour, cool and eat!

look at those fresh apples

Look at that will ya?! MMM!

Thanksgiving Apple Pie

And I don’t like Apple Pie, but this is delish!

This was the trial run pie …

Fresh Apple Crostata with chopped Pecans

This is the pie we had at Thanksgiving.  I used Brown Sugar in place of the granulated Sugar and also added chopped Pecans.  I’m calling this one my Caramel Apple Crostata.  My husband has changed his favorite dessert from my homemade Rum Cake with this pie.  It is good!


Hawaiian Sea Salted Caramel Brownies

Hawaiian Sea Salted Caramel Brownies

Oh my gravy all over my two scoops rice (that’s OMG! In my world) !!!

I was flipping through a “TV Chef’s” cookbook recently and saw something similar to this idea and thought, HMMM, I can do better.

Trader Joe's Caramel Spread

I was at Trader Joe’s the other day and this caught my eye, Dulce de leche, that’ll work.

So here’s how it went.

Make up your favorite Brownie recipe, this is mine:


I use the above recipe exclusively.

Pipe on some Caramel Spread anyway you like

Once that pan of gorgeousness is completely cooled, cut them into whatever size you prefer.  Now take a baggie and spoon in some of the Caramel Spread; snip a small hole at one corner and start to pipe on the Caramel in a decorative pattern.

I brought back FIVE bags of Sea Salt on our last trip back home

I brought back FIVE bags of Sea Salt on our last trip back home

Next, sprinkle on a small pinch of Hawaiian Sea Salt (or any Sea Salt that you can get, but the stuff from Hawaii is DA BOMB-DIGGITY!).

Close-up Hawaiian Sea Salted Caramel Brownie

And there you have Hawaiian Sea Salted Caramel Brownies.


Let’s Start With Dessert: A Birthday Celebration In Food

Food IS a celebration and should be partaken with abandon, so why not start with dessert?

My handsome, hunky, fantastic husband claims to NOT  be a foodie.  He’s says he leaves that to me and he’ll just enjoy whatever I create.  It was his birthday this past weekend I planned an entire day of awesome dishes; I asked him what he would like Mother’s Cake or Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie?


Scratch made Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Your wish is my command.

Auntie’s Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

1 recipe of Auntie’s Meyer Lemon Pie Filling (it’s just Lemon Curd)

1/2 recipe of Pâte Brisée (I’ve always used Martha’s)

1 recipe Meringue:

4 Egg Whites

½ C. granulates Sugar

¼ tsp. Cream of Tartar

Pinch of Salt

Make the pie dough first; roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap, it’s easier that way, into approximately a 13 inch disc, an 1/8th inch thick.  Place gently in a 9 inch pie plate.  Trim away all but 1 inch of excess and crimp.  I chose to trim the crust right to the edge of the plate, less fuss.  Prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork several times; cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400⁰F

Place a piece of parchment paper carefully over the pie shell and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice.  Bake for 10 minutes and then remove the paper and rice; bake for another 12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely on a rack.

Once the shell is cooled spoon in the filling and spread it out evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill until the filling is firm.

In a stand mixer, add the eggs, salt, cream of tartar and whisk on low speed until it starts to foam.  Increase in speed to Medium-High and beat to soft peaks.  Slow the machine down a little and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream; increase the speed again to High until you have stiff peaks.

Preheat the oven now to 350⁰F

Remove the plastic from the filled pie shell and add about half of the meringue, spreading it out to the edge of the crust, covering the filling completely.  Now mound the rest of the meringue, making lots of peaks that will brown and look pretty.

I used a large open star tip, Wilton® 1M, and a pastry bag filled with the remaining meringue to decorate the top.  Hold the bag at a 90 degree angle to the surface of the pie, squeeze and pull up to create those beautiful peaks.

Bake until the meringue is GBD (golden brown and delicious), about 15 minutes.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie cooled completely on a rack

Allow to cool completely on a rack

All Homemade Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

… then serve.

TO BE CONTINUED (we still didn’t have dinner)

HEY! What About Dessert?

After a nice Italian-style meal, you NEED dessert, don’t you think?

I had the meanest ONOS (hunkerin’) for some sort of baked good.  HMMM.  Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars, yeah, that’s the ticket.  I had about a half cup of dried Blueberries in the cupboard that I hadn’t used up yet, I thought that might be a good substitution for Raisins.  I pulled down my box of Quaker® Old Fashion Oats, removed the top and there’s that “new” recipe again.  Well, let’s try it as a half batch and see how it goes.

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Bars with Dried Blueberries

They look good, they taste out of this world, but I don’t know.  This new recipe calls for less butter, as well as less brown sugar, making them a bit crunchier; I kinda like the chewier bite myself.


I think that I’ll stick with the old recipe.

ATK’s Almond Biscotti

I may have made mention from time to time that I watch just about ALL of the cooking television shows that I can find.  I really like America’s Test Kitchen and I also subscribe to their magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.  I was watching an episode “From an Italian Bakery”, were Julia makes Biscotti, we love those!

So, I’ve done a copy&paste of the recipe to share with you all.


Almond Biscotti

Makes 30 cookies

*The almonds will continue to toast while the biscotti bake, so toast the nuts only until they are just fragrant.

1 1/4 C. (6 1/4 ounces) whole almonds, lightly toasted

1 3/4 C.  (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, plus 1 large white beaten with pinch salt

1 C. (7 ounces) sugar

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Vegetable oil spray


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8 by 3-inch rectangles, spaced 4 inches apart, on piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.
  2. Pulse 1 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to second bowl. Process 2 eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, almond extract, and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of flour mixture over egg mixture and, using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.
  3. Divide batter in half. Using floured hands, form each half into 8 by 3-inch rectangle, using lines on parchment as guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash. Bake until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  4. Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer loaves to cutting board. Using serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down, about 1/4 inch apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 month.

I followed this recipe to the tee, so why did my cookies come out so flat?  I just don’t know.  Neither do I know why they came out tasting, well, just blah, nothing.  I even tried to improve the flavor by drizzling some Vanilla flavored Candy Melts® over the tops, NOPE!  Sorry Christopher Kimball, this one was a dud.

Another Recipe For Cinnamon Buns

My SIL gave me her recipe for Cinnamon Buns many years ago, of which I have made over and over, mainly for Christmas Morning brunch.

SIL's recipe for Sticky Cinnamon Buns

SIL’s recipe for Sticky Cinnamon Buns

They’re very good, but more of a stick bun and I wanted to try something different.

I watch Cook’s Country on our local PBS station; I never miss an episode.  Most recently, Bridget Lancaster made Quicker Cinnamon Buns, I immediately printed out the recipe (you’ll need to sign up online in order get more recipes from America’s Test Kitchen as well as Cook’s Country) for Sunday Brunch, and you know I always do things with my own twist, so here we go.


Quick Cinnamon Buns


¾ C. packed light Brown Sugar (5 ¼ oz.)

¼ C. granulated Sugar (1 ¾ oz.)

1 Tbsp. ground Cinnamon

1/8 tsp. Salt

2 Tbsp. melted unsalted Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Extract


1 ¼ C. whole Milk

4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise Yeast

2 Tbsp. granulated Sugar, divided

2 3/4 C. All-purpose Flour (13 ¾ oz.)

2 ½ tsp. Baking Powder

¾ tsp. Salt

6 Tbsp. melted unsalted Butter


3 oz. softened Cream Cheese

2 Tbsp. melted unsalted Butter

2 Tbsp. whole Milk

½ tsp. Vanilla Extract

1/8 tsp. Salt

1 C. Powdered Sugar (4 oz.)

*Tip-since you’re using so much melted Butter, melt it all together, 10 tablespoons.  Also, if you only have light colored cake pans, place the oven rack at its lowest, increase the temp to 375⁰ and bake for 29-32 minutes.

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl until it looks like course sand; set aside.

Prepare a dark 9 inch round cake pan by greasing it with some soft butter and then line it with a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit the bottom of the pan and grease the paper as well.

Pour ¼ of the milk into a small bowl and heat to 110⁰ in the microwave.  Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar as well as the yeast, stir to combine and let proof for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 5 teaspoons of sugar.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of melted butter, the yeast mixture and the remaining cup of milk, until the dough comes together, this will be very sticky.  Turn the dough out on the kitchen counter that has plenty of flour on it.  Knead the dough until its smooth, about 2 minutes or so.

use the bench flour to guide you to the 12x9 inch size

use the bench flour to guide you to the 12×9 inch size

Roll this out into a 12 inch by 9 inch rectangle.  Brush the top with 2 tablespoons of melted butter (you might need to give the melted butter a good stir or even a few seconds in the micro again if it tightens up), leaving a ½ inch border at the farthest edge from you.  Spread the filling evenly over the butter and press it in firmly.  Using a bench scraper or a spatula, loosen the dough from the counter.

12 inch log of Cinnamon Buns

Start to roll the dough away from you, into a log as tightly as you can.  Pinch the edge to seal it and turn that edge over towards the counter.  Cut the log into 8 equal pieces.  Place one piece, cut side down, into the middle of the cake pan and then the rest of the buns around it, again, cut side down.  Brush the tops with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

In the mean time, preheat the oven to 350⁰ with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Remove the plastic and bake for 23-25 minutes.


Loosen the buns with a butter knife and set to cool on a wire rack over a sheet pan for 5 minutes.  Turn the buns out on to a large plate; remove the parchment paper and turn back over onto the rack and let cool another 5 minutes.

glazed Cinnamon Buns

Here’s where I differ, the glaze.  I left out the cream cheese because my husband is not a fan.

oh my, Cinnamon Buns

Simply whisk all of the glaze ingredients together and pour evenly over the now cooled buns and serve.

Serving suggestion:

Another Sunday Brunch

 Happy Sunday Brunch!

Homemade Italian Bread, MMM!

Over the past year, DH and I have taken a break from our diet, I mean different way of looking at food, as you can tell by some the posts that came from My Kitchen In The Middle Of The Desert.  It’s been a blast, but all good things must come to an end, and what better way to go out than by making some delicious homemade bread, Italian Bread to boot!  I haven’t made this is years.

Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads - Revised and Expanded

I’ve owned this cookbook, Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads – Revised and Expanded  for many years and have actually only made one recipe, Pain Italien.


The recipe calls for a half cup of non-fat dry milk.  When I went looking for this ingredient, I found a package that will make up to one quart of milk, once reconstituted with water.  This made sense to me to buy the packet versus a big container of dried milk.  Just then, a bell went off in my head.  A couple of weeks ago our dear Niece-In-Law, Mary Elizabeth, called me to ask what she could use as a substitute for milk in a recipe and all I could think of was water and maybe add a little fat.  Some families cannot tolerate dairy products, other than if cooked/baked, and therefore don’t have milk in the house … DING!  This would solve that issue.  I’m keeping my envelope of leftover dried milk in the `fridge until I need it again.

malt syrup

Another ingredient that you may have a challenge finding is Malt Syrup.  I found this finally at Whole Foods.  Don’t skip over this and use something else, it gives the bread a gorgeous flavor.

This took me just about all day to make.  There are three risings of the dough, so this is a recipe that you may want to try when you’re stuck at home with nothing to do.  I’m not going to give you the entire recipe, mostly because it is so long and is under copyright, but I did see there are some folks that have posted it on the Internet, if you do feel so inclined.

This is the most heavenly smelling bread that I have ever made and the taste is out of this world.  DH asked me to make more and stash it in the deep freeze until we’re done with our different way of looking at food.