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Good morning GUSyummies!  Today I really am relieved to have a break from the sorrow in this State and the nation and the world.  I'm going to focus on holiday desserts because I've already made my comments and said my prayers regarding our unspeakable loss.

There is an incredible foodie website I found by accident -- can't remember if it was for baba ganoush or something or other but it is now one of my favorites:  David Lebovitz: Living the Sweet Life in Paris.  David grabs great recipes from great chefs and cookbooks.  He loves food and has his own books.  I'm using many of his posted recipes plus some of my own. I'm only on page/date 30 something out of 174.  Lots of tips, pictures, France stuff and France and food and France.

First:  Peace and blessings for the innocents in my beloved State of Connecticut.  Peace and blessings for their families and friends.  And now we ease the mind.

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The first eight recipes are from my Mom's stash of recipes.  I've actually had every one of these recipes growing up -- and can attest to their pure deliciousness.

Crunch Bars

35 saltine crackers
½ cups butter
½ firmly packed brown sugar
1 pkg. (8 squares) semi sweet chocolate chopped – or easier, bag of choc. Chips
1 cup chopped walnuts.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place crackers in a single layer on buttered (or Pam) foil lined 10 x 15 (or approximate) pan or pyrex dish.

Heat butter and sugar in saucepan until butter is melted and mixture is well blended.  Bring to boil for 3 minutes without stirring.

Spread over crackers.  Bake 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate over the top.  Let stand 5 minutes – if not melting sufficiently put back into cooling oven.  Spread melted chocolate evenly over top.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Cool in fridge.  Cut or break into pieces.

This is really yummy and easy.

Sugar Cookies (Mace is the difference)

1 cup butter
2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp mace

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time beating well.  Add vanilla.  Fold in dry ingredients.

Chill for a short time (or you can make earlier and just cool down enough to roll).  Roll and cut into shapes or put through your cookie gun (spritz thingy) onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 400 degrees 6-8 minutes.  Check to make sure the edges aren't browning.  Bottoms should just be slightly golden.


1 cup shortening (I use crisco but you can use margarine or butter if you prefer)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup cold coffee
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 ½ cups raisins
1 ¼ cups chopped nuts

Mix shortening sugar and eggs thoroughly.  Stir in coffee.  Stir in dry ingredients after they are blended.  Add raisins and nuts.  Chill dough at least 1 hour.  Drop rounded tspful of dough 2” apart on lightly greased baking sheet.  

Bake in 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until there is almost no imprint when pressed in the middle.

Tiny Fruit Tarts (Thumbprint Cookies)

1 cup butter
6 oz. Cream cheese
2 cup flour
jelly, jam, or marmalade

Soften butter and cream cheese.  Combine until smooth and creamy.  Add flour ½ cup at a time, blending well.

Work with fingers into a smooth dough.  Wrap in plastic.  Chill several hours.  Shape into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Place on ungreased baking sheets.  With thumb, make a deep “well in each.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool.  Fill wells with jelly, jam or marmalade.  You can also freeze before filling.

Another method from Cook's Illustrated is to use a wine cork to make the wells.

Potato Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
½ cup cugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup crushed potato chips
½ cup chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugar.  Add rest of ingredients.  Drop by tsp on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  When cool you can sprinkle with powdered sugar if you want.
Cheese Cake from my Mom's NJ Italian friend


2 cup flour
pinch salt (pinch usually means 1/8 tsp)
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 lb. melted butter
1/2 cup sugar.

Mix together and press into 9 x 13 1/2 glass dish (pyrex)


Cream together:
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs

Add to creamed mixture:

4 eggs
2 tsp. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1 quart milk
juice of one lemon

Beat until Smooth.  Pour into shell and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes -- or until the center barely jiggles.  Chill thoroughly.  

This recipe is really astoundingly good.

Texas Sheet Cake  one of my Mother's most acclaimed cakes other than her "Better than Sex" cake -- for which I don't have the recipe -- yet.

In large mixing bowl

2 cups sugar
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

In heavy sauce pan:
4 tblsp cocoa
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter
1 cup water.

Bring to a rolling boil, add to dry ingredients and mix well.

Add 1/2 cup sour cream
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp baking soda

Bake in large greased sheet pan at 350 degrees about 35-40 minutes.

Just before cake is done, in same sauce pan:

4 tblsp cocoa
8 tblsp milk
1 stick (1/4 lb) butter

Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Mix in one box pwdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and one cup chopped nuts (walnuts).  Mix well and spread on cake as soon as you remove it from the oven.

Hawaiian Carrot Delight Cake

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsps nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups grated carrots
1 small (8 1/2 oz) can crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped nuts
2 1/2 cups flour

Blend oil, sugar, eggs till light in color.  Add pineapple and grated carrots.  Fold in all dry ingredients (after mixed) and nuts.

Pour into two 9" pans lined with waxed paper (or just buttered and floured)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Sweet Cheese Icing

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese softened
1/2 cup butter
1 box confectioner's sugar
2 tsp. vanilla.

Blend together til light and fluffy.  Frost -- you can also add coconut if you like.

Cook's Illustrated's Classic Gingerbread Cake

Makes one 8-inch square cake, serving 8 to 10

This cake packs potent yet well-balanced, fragrant, spicy heat. If you are particularly sensitive to spice, you can decrease the amount of dried ginger to 1 tablespoon. Guinness is the test kitchen's favorite brand of stout. Avoid opening the oven door until the minimum baking time has elapsed. If your cake pan has thin walls, you might want to wrap it with pre-made cake strips or make your own from cheesecloth and foil. This extra insulation will help ensure that the edges of the cake don't over-bake. Serve the gingerbread plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for 2 days.


3/4cup stout (see note)
1/2teaspoon baking soda
2/3cup mild molasses
3/4cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/4cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
2tablespoons ground ginger (see note)
1/2teaspoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon table salt
1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2large eggs
1/3cup vegetable oil
1tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Bring stout to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.
3. Transfer stout mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, and grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 11/2 hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature

Not So Gingerly with Gingerbread
Most cake batters require a gentle touch to avoid developing glutens in the flour and, thus, a tough crumb. But vigorous stirring actually gave our super-wet gingerbread batter the structure necessary to keep the center from collapsing.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake (America's Test Kitchen)

Serves 12 to 16

This recipe requires a springform pan at least 3 inches high. It is imperative that each layer is made in sequential order. Cool the base completely before topping it with the middle layer. We recommend Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar for the base and middle layers; our other recommended brand of chocolate, Callebaut Intense Dark L-60-40NV, may be used, but it will produce drier, slightly less sweet results. Our preferred brand of white chocolate is Guittard Choc-Au-Lait White Chips.

For best results, chill the mixer bowl before whipping the heavy cream. The entire cake can be made through step 8 and refrigerated up to a day in advance; leave it out at room temperature for up to 45 minutes before releasing it from the cake pan and serving. For neater slices, use a cheese wire (or unflavored dental floss) or dip your knife in hot water before cutting each slice.


Bottom Layer

6tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
3/4teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract
4large eggs, separated
 Pinch table salt
1/3cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, crumbled with fingers to remove lumps

Middle Layer

2tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5tablespoons hot water
7ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1 1/2cups cold heavy cream
1tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8teaspoon table salt

Top Layer

3/4teaspoon powdered gelatin
1tablespoon water
6ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
1 1/2cups cold heavy cream
  Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional (see note)

1. FOR THE BOTTOM LAYER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 91/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula.

3. Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.

4. FOR THE MIDDLE LAYER: Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

5. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

6. Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.

7. FOR THE TOP LAYER: In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).

8. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

9. TO SERVE: If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.


Slicing Soft Cake

To create perfectly smooth slices of soft desserts, the best tool is not a knife. It's a cheese wire—the minimal surface area produces less drag for cleaner, neater slices. If you don't have a cheese wire, dental floss will work almost as well.

1. Hold the handles and pull the wire taut. Using your thumbs to apply even pressure, slice down through the cake. Wipe the wire clean with a dry towel.

2. Make a second cut, perpendicular to the first. Continue to make cuts around the circumference.

Making Chocolate Curls

Wispy chocolate curls are an easy way to decorate desserts.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel curls off of a large block of milk or dark chocolate. (Large blocks of chocolate make nicer shavings than thin bars of chocolate.)

Here's some from David Lebovitz.

Marshmallow Cream Fudge

One 8-inch (20cm) pan

I altered the classic recipe slightly by using some unsweetened (bitter) chocolate. If you can’t get that, use 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Of course, you can swap out any nuts that you like – or omit them altogether.
A number of us DIY-types might inquire if regular homemade marshmallows could be substituted for the marshmallow cream. I haven’t tried it, but if you do, let us know in the comments how they work out.

2/3 cup (160ml) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
6 ounces (170g) salted butter, cubed
3 cups (600g) sugar
8 ounces (225g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces (115g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
7 ounces (200g) marshmallow cream*
1 cup (120g) roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. Line an 8-inch (20cm) square pan with foil, leaving an overhang on at least two sides. Smooth out any wrinkles or creases.
2. Put the evaporated milk in a 4-quart (4l) saucepan and fix a candy thermometer to the side.
3. Add the evaporated milk, butter, and sugar to the pan, and heat – stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn – until the temperature reaches 234ºF (112ºC).
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, as well as the unsweetened chocolate and marshmallow cream.
5. Stir in the peanuts, then scrape the mixture into the foil-lined pan. Let cool for at least four hours.

Once cool, lift the fudge from the pan, and cut into cubes

Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake

Eight to ten servings

Adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

I was attracted to this recipe because 1) I was intrigued but the words “moist chocolate”, and 2) It has beets in it. Because the author is British, superfine sugar (which is readily available there) is called for, which is called castor sugar. In France we have sucré semoule, but elsewhere you can simply whiz regular sugar in a food processor for about ten seconds until it’s fine.

I had a bunch of beets I was roasting so I used a couple of those, but for economy’s sake, you can boil the two beets or cook them as you prefer. You’ll need a scant 1 cup (250 g) of grated beet purée.

This cake is not overly sweet, which is good for those of you looking for more of a snack cake, rather than a towering, frosted dessert. Although the original recipe calls for chocolate that is 70% cacao solids, you can use one that is in the 50-60% range, depending on what’s available in your area. For those of you who can’t get crème fraîche, I suspect mascarpone would be interesting, or perhaps just sour cream. Or maybe just a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside

8 ounces (240 g) beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt
7 ounces (200 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (70% cacao solids), chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) hot espresso (or water)
7 ounces (200 g) butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 cup (135 g) flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar

1. Butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible.
4. Once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. Then add the butter. Press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.
5. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
6. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.
7. In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.
8. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
9. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.
Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.

Serving and storage: This cake tastes better the second day; spread with crème fraîche and sprinkle with poppy seeds shortly before serving. Or serve them alongside

Lamingtons (Australian Little Cakes)

16 Individual Cakes

It seems traditional to use regular unsweetened dried coconut, also known as desiccated coconut, but those with a bit of dedication surely would be rewarded if you took the time to shred fresh coconut. Unsweetened dried coconut is usually available in natural food stores, ethnic markets that specialize in Asian or Indian ingredients, and online.

For the spongecake:

6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup (175 g) cake flour*
2 1/2 ounces (70 g) melted unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the chocolate icing:

6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 ounces (40 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (180 ml) milk, whole or lowfat
2 cups (220 g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process (sifted if lumpy)
2 tablespoons boiling water
3 cup (200 g) unsweetened shredded coconut

1. To make the spongecake, butter a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the eggs and granulated sugar and salt on high speed for five to ten minutes, until thick and the batter forms a well-defined ribbon that remains on top of the batter when you lift the whip. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Fold the flour into the egg mixture by putting the flour in a sifter or mesh strainer and sifting the flour over the top of the beaten eggs while simultaneously folding the flour in using a whisk.
(You might want to steady the bowl on a damp towel, twisted and rolled up into a circle, or get someone to hold the bowl while you fold.) Fold in the melted butter until no streaks of butter are visible, but do not overfold.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
5. When cool, unmold the spongecake onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper. Trim the ends and cut the cake in half horizontally using a serrated bread knife. (I find it easier to cut the cake into two rectangles first, and cut each one separately.)
6. Make the chocolate icing by melting together the chocolate, butter, and milk in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water when smooth, then whisk in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
7. Spread a generous 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the chocolate icing over one layer of the spongecake, then top with the other half of the spongecake, sandwiching the two together with chocolate icing in the middle.
8. Cut the cakes into sixteen squares and whisk two tablespoons of boiling water into the icing. Put the coconut into a shallow baking dish or bowl.
9. Use your hands to dip the Lamingtons into the chocolate, rolling them around to make sure each side is coated with the chocolate icing, then wipe off any excess on the side of the bowl. Place the Lamingtons in the vessel of coconut, tossing them around gently to get them coated on all sides. (I do two at a time.)
10. Once iced and tossed in coconut, place the Lamingtons on a wire cooling rack and let stand until the icing firms up a bit

Baci di Dama

About 45 cookies

Recipe by Terresa Murphy of La Cucina di Terresa

Toast the hazelnuts in a 325ºF (160ºC) for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown color and the skins are peeling away. Remove from the oven and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts in a tea towel (or if they’re not too hot, with your hands), until as much of the loose skins come off as possible. Let them cool completely before grinding them up.

Terresa also says you can use almonds, which can be skinned by plunging them into boiling water for a minute, then draining them. And as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, pinching them to slide off the skins, then toasting them.

UPDATE: A couple of people noted in the comments that they had a bit of trouble coaxing the dough into a cohesive mass. It was recommended that if that happens, adding a small amount of butter (perhaps melted), is enough to bring it into shape. I haven’t tried that – or found it necessary – but if you do, I would add the smallest amount of butter possible.

1 1/4 cups (140g) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup (140g) rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
pinch of salt
2 ounces (55g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta. (See photo, in post.)
2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour (if using all-purpose flour, sift it in). Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does.
3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches.

OMG -- if you could see the pictures for these little nuggets, you'd eat your screen:
Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Makes 24 tartlets

Adapted from Little Flower: Recipes from the Café by Christine Moore

Christine uses some rice flour in the dough, to make them a little crisper, but said that you could use all-purpose flour if that’s what you have. Rice flour is available in Asian markets and natural food stores, and I made the mistake in my local store in Paris of getting a rice powder that was baby food (crème de riz), rather than farine de riz.
Because she makes these in her café, she uses her tasty caramels. You can order them through the Little Flower Candy Company website, or use homemade or store-bought soft caramels.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time getting fussy, making sure each little tartlet dough is absolutely perfect. Press them into the pan and get the edges reasonably even, but don’t worry too much about perfection as the little tartlets – and any imperfections – will get swept under by a swipe of dark chocolate ganache.
For salt, I use fleur de sel, which has a light, delicate flavor. You can use any flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top.

Chocolate Dough

4 ounces (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (110g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (35g) rice flour
(or use 1 cup, 140g, all-purpose flour, total)
6 tablespoons (50g) cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process

Salted Caramel Filling

4 ounces (115g) soft, salted butter caramels
3 tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream


4 1/2 ounces (130g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream
flaky sea salt

1. To make the tartlet dough, beat the butter and the sugar just until smooth in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla, and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, rice flour, and cocoa powder, then mix it into the creamed butter.

2. Butter the indentations of two mini-muffin tins with 12 places in each, or one mini-muffin tin with 24 places. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll each into a 3/4-inch (2cm) ball. As you work, put the dough balls in the indentations of the muffin tins. Take your thumb and press the dough down in the center of each indentation, then use your thumb to press the dough up the sides. (If the dough is sticky, dampen your thumb very lightly with water or oil.) Freeze the pans of dough for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Bake the tartlet shells for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough appear dry and cooked. Remove from oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to widen and smooth the inside of the little tartlet shells, pressing the dough that’s puffed up somewhat firmly against the sides. Let cool completely, then remove the tartlet shells from the muffin tins – the tip of a paring knife might be needed to help aid them out – and set them on a wire cooling rack.

5. Make the caramel filling by warm the cream with the caramels in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth. Divide the caramel into each of the tartlet shells.

6. Make the chocolate ganache* by heating the cream in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk the chocolate into the cream until the mixture is smooth.

7. Top each tartlet with some of the ganache and take a butter knife or small metal spatula and swipe off the excess. Sprinkle each tartlet with a few grains of sea salt.

*I had a bit of extra ganache left over from the original recipe, which called for “1/2 cup cream” and “1 cup (about 6 ounces) coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate.” I adapted the recipe to use the chocolate by weight, and reducing the amount of ganache called for. I don’t think you’ll need more, but If you do, melt together 2 tablespoons of cream with 1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate

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Candy Bar Fudge

Yield:  4 Pounds (about 7 Dozen)
This simple dessert turns an ordinary candy bar into an elegant dessert perfect for holiday parties.
6 Snickers candy bars (2.07 ounces each)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
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2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow crème
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil. Butter the foil and set pan aside. Cut candy bars into 1/2-in. slices; set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar, butter and milk to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees F (soft-ball stage), about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in chocolate chips, marshmallow creme and vanilla until smooth. Pour half into prepared pan. Sprinkle with candy bar slices. Top with remaining chocolate mixture and spread evenly.

Let stand at room temperature to cool. Lift out of pan and remove foil. Cut into squares

Smoked Almond Dreams OMG, OMG, OMG these look amazing!!!!!

Rich, soft, creamy caramel generously covering smoked almonds all enrobed in a layer of not-too-sweet dark chocolate. Make plenty of these dreams because heaven knows it's too hard to resist them.


Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup (5 ounces) coarsely chopped smoked almonds
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup (4.5 oz) bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate chips (recommended: Ghiradelli)
Espresso Sea Salt (who the hell has this stuff?)


Special equipment: a candy thermometer, a 24-count mini muffin pan

Spray a 24-count mini muffin pan, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Put the almonds in the bottom of each muffin cup and set aside.

For the caramel: In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, butter, sugar, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let the mixture cool for 30 seconds. Using a long-handled, metal spoon, carefully spoon the caramel over the nuts. Allow the caramel to cool about 15 minutes before putting on chocolate layer.

Put the chocolate chips in a medium stainless steel or glass bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted, about 4 minutes. Spoon the chocolate over the caramel and put a dash of Espresso Sea Salt on top of each candy. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using a thin-bladed spatula, remove each candy from the pan (caramel will be hard). Let the turtles stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour (to allow the caramel to soften) before serving.

Store in an airtight container

Maine Potato Candy  I remember these being sold when I was a kid
but I think they were covered with cinnamon to make them look like little spuds.  I'm sure they didn't use mashed potatoes.

4 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups flaked coconut
3/4 cup cold mashed potatoes (without added milk or butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound dark candy coating

In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, potatoes, vanilla and salt; mix well.

Line a 9-in. square pan with foil; butter foil. Spread coconut mixture into pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into 2-in. x 1-in. rectangles. Cover and freeze.

In a microwave or double boiler, melt candy coating. Dip bars in coating; place on waxed paper to harden. Store in an airtight container.

Classic Chocolate Truffles


For the Ganache Filling:

12 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup good-quality liqueur (rum, Cognac, Armagnac, Grand Marnier)
For the Dipping:
2 pounds good-quality bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces Dutch-processed cocoa powder (optional)

Using a serrated knife or the heel of a chef's knife, chop the 12 ounces of chocolate for the ganache into very small slivers and chips (no bigger than peanut-size). Put the chopped chocolate in a small stainless-steel bowl.

For untempered truffles, chop the entire 2-pound block for dipping and set aside.

For tempered truffles, chop 1 1/2 pounds.of the dipping chocolate. Using a chef's knife, chop the remaining 1/2 pound into very small slivers, even smaller than the other piles, and set aside from the rest.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil, and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate and cream, starting with small circles in the center of the bowl. The chocolate center will become a viscous, shiny emulsion. Gradually stir in larger circles, bringing in more chocolate from the sides. Keep enlarging the shiny emulsified center until all the chocolate has been incorporated and there are no unmelted lumps. If the emulsion cools before all the chocolate has melted, briefly flash the bowl over a pan of hot (not simmering) water for a few seconds, being careful not to overheat the ganache and lose the emulsion. When there are no more lumps, continue stirring for one more minute to develop a smooth ganache. Don't overmix. Set the ganache aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the room-temperature butter with a wooden spoon until it is very soft, smooth, and creamy. When the ganache has cooled to room temperature and thickened noticeably, add the butter, in small pieces a few at a time, to the ganache. The butter should blend in without melting. Scrape down the sides as necessary, stirring until no butter bits remain. Add the liqueur gradually, whisking constantly to maintain the smooth emulsion.

When you're ready to pipe, the ganache should be silky smooth and soft to the touch, almost like smooth peanut butter (but not as sticky). If you want to pipe the truffles immediately, chill the ganache in the refrigerator until it's cool but not firm, 10 to 15 min. If you're not piping right away, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until ready, up to one day.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip and fold down the bag half way. Fill it one-third of the way with the ganache (or use a strong zip-top bag the corner snipped off to create a 1/2-inch opening). Pull up the sides, and twist the bag closed. Line two baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the bag vertically, pipe the truffles on the baking sheet, aiming for marble-size drops. Don't worry if they're not perfect spheres, but do try for a vaguely round blob because the rounder the truffles are now, the easier they'll be to shape later. Refrigerate the truffles until quite firm, about 1 hour.

Shape each truffle into a smooth ball by rolling them one at a time between the palms of your hands. Your palms will be covered in chocolate after rolling a few truffles. If you sense that the truffles are melting too much as you roll, dip your hands in ice water, dry them well, and then continue rolling. (If you want to smooth the truffles even more, refrigerate them for 30 minutes and then roll them a second time.) Return the shaped truffles to the baking sheets and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to dip.

On a long work surface, set up your assembly line for dipping. If using cocoa powder for dusting, sift it into a shallow dish. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. If you're right handed, set the cocoa to the farthest right side of the work area. (If you're left-handed, reverse this order.) Set the lined baking sheet to the left of the cocoa. The remaining space will hold the melted chocolate and the sheet of truffle centers, in that order.

In a medium saucepan, simmer about an inch of water. Transfer the 2 lb. (or 1 1/2 lb., if tempering) of reserved chopped chocolate to a stainless-steel or Pyrex bowl that's large enough to rest over the water. Remove the simmering water from the heat, and set the bowl with the chopped chocolate over the pan of hot water. Stir the chocolate with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant rubber spatula until it's completely melted, being careful not to let steam condense on the melted chocolate. If you're not tempering, set the melted chocolate and the truffle centers on the work surface and skip directly to the dipping and dusting section. If you're tempering the chocolate, continue heating it until the chocolate thermometer registers between 120 degrees and 125 degrees F and proceed to the next series.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan, wiping the bottom of the bowl dry with a towel, and cool the chocolate to 86 degrees F. To bring the temperature down, add the reserved chocolate shavings, 2 tablespoons at a time, to the bowl, stirring gently after each addition. When the temperature reaches 86 degrees F and the shavings no longer melt (you probably won't use all the shavings), very gently raise the temperature to between 88 degrees and 91 degrees F by setting the bowl over the pan of hot water for 10 seconds at a time and wiping the bottom of the bowl every time.

To test if the chocolate is in temper, spread a teaspoon of chocolate on a piece of parchment or a spatula and let cool for a few seconds. The chocolate is in temper if it dries quickly and has an even gloss. If the chocolate has white streaks and is tacky to the touch, it is not in temper; start the tempering process again by melting the chocolate to 120 degrees F (or just continue, knowing that the truffles won't be tempered). Keep the chocolate in temper by holding it between 88 degrees and 91degrees F. To monitor the temperature, tape the thermometer to the bowl (or have a helper hold it). If the temperature in the center of the bowl drops too much, flash the bowl over the hot water in 10-second increments, until the temperature reaches 90 degrees F. Set the tempered melted chocolate and the truffle centers on the work surface.

Drop a truffle into the melted chocolate and spin it around to cover completely. Lift it out on the tines of a fork. Tap the fork on the sides of the bowl several times so the excess chocolate drips off and a thin chocolate shell forms around the truffle. Depending on the brand of chocolate and the thickness of the fork tines, you may have to tap 20 times or more.

If using cocoa, tip the fork so the truffle falls into the dish of cocoa and continue with the remaining truffles. When the dish of cocoa is full of truffles, snap the dish back and forth and gently transfer the truffles to another plate. For truffles without cocoa, gently set the dipped truffle on the lined baking sheet, using a knife to nudge the truffle off the fork.

If the fork has left an imperfection on the shell, give the truffle a quarter or half turn to roll it to the bottom. Chocolate will start to build up on the sides of the bowl, so just keep dipping in the center of the bowl and don't bother scraping down the sides. If the untempered chocolate thickens too much, or if the tempered chocolate falls to 88 degrees F, flash the chocolate over hot water in 10-second increments to warm it.

Store tempered truffles in a tin box or a plastic bag, and keep them in a cool, dry place. Untempered truffles must be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. Remove them from the refrigerator an hour before serving, keeping them covered to prevent condensation.

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