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One of the cookbook’s sitting on my shelf is ‘Southern Italian Desserts’ by Rosetta Constantino.  I bought the book in the midst of moving so I never really had too much time to work with it.  Flipping through the pages, however, it’s exactly what I wanted it to be!  The recipes are authentically Italian, and unlike most American baked goods.  I was excited to try some new things… 

One of the recipes in this book is called ‘Africano.’  It’s a chocolate hazelnut cake roll.  (Umm, OKAY).  You make a homemade chocolate hazelnut paste (move over Nutella!) and wrap a thin layer of sponge around it.  After it’s set, you dip it in chocolate, and then dip it in white chocolate and chopped pistachios. Hazelnut?  Pistachio?  I reeeeeeally want to go to Italy!!  Actually my big goal is to take Ruby on a tour of Europe when she’s old enough to appreciate it.  I can’t wait!!!

One of the reasons I love this cookbook is because she groups her recipes by Italian region.  This dessert is native to Sicily and the author got to try an Africano while visiting Palermo, her husband’s hometown.  I had just binge-watched a ton of Food Network’s Baking Championship so I couldn’t help but say-a everything-a like-a I was channeling-ga my eener Damiano Carrara!  Ha!  

Did you know his bake shop, ‘Carrara Pastries’ is in Moorpark, CA.  That’s only two hours away… And THAT IS HAPPENING.  🙂

These were a little tricky to roll but the components themselves are very simple to make.  The rolling the cake up and the dunking in chocolate was the biggest challenge– BUT!  So worth it for a unique dessert I’d never had before.  

Below is a photo of the half sheet thin sponge I baked.  You divide it into four sections and spread the hazelnut paste all over it.  Then you roll the cake up away from you (toward the top of the photo) so you have four long logs.  You cut each log into three parts so you will eventually end up with 12 cake rolls. 

 

Next time I might skip the cake part completely and just eat a bowl of hazelnut paste sprinkled with pistachios.  But you do you…  😉

You can check out the book below!  Happy Wednesday!  xoxo

 

 

 

 

Africano
Yields 12
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Roll
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Ingredients
  1. HAZELNUT PASTE
  2. 1 1/2 c. skinned hazelnuts
  3. About 1 T. safflower or neutral-tasting vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
  4. FILLING
  5. 9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (40-55% cacao)
  6. 1 cup (240g) hazelnut paste (above)
  7. 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar
CAKE
  1. 3 large eggs
  2. 3 T. sugar
  3. 2 tsp mild-flavored honey
  4. 1/2 c. cake flour (50 grams)
COATING
  1. 16 ounces (454 g) dark chocolate (55-60% cacao)
  2. 3 T. safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil, divided
  3. 6 ounces (170g) white chocolate
  4. 1/2 cup (75g) finely chopped raw pistachios
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE HAZELNUT PASTE
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Toast nuts for 20-22 minutes until very dark and almost smoking.
  4. Pour oil into food processor along with roasted hazelnuts. Process until a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl and blade. Add a bit more oil if needed to get paste going.
TO MAKE CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FILLING
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, just until the chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the hazelnut paste until evenly combined. Sift in powdered sugar. Let stand until it is thick and spreadable.
TO MAKE THE CAKE
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a half sheet tray with parchment, butter and flour parchment. (You don't want to skip this step!)
  3. Beat the eggs, sugar, honey in a stand mixture with whisk attachment for 15 minutes, beginning at medium speed and increasing to high after ingredients are blended.
  4. Sift the flour over the top, one-third of flour at a time, gently folding in until completely incorporated without deflating mixture.
  5. Use a small spatula to spread the cake out over the half sheet. It will be very thin! Bake 8-10 minutes until just lightly golden. Lift out the cake on its parchment paper and transfer to a flat surface with long side facing you. Trim away crust edges of cake and then cut into four equal sections about 4 inches wide. (see photo in blog)
  6. While the cake is slightly warm and pliable, divide the filling evenly among the four pieces and spread over the top like peanut butter. With the long side facing you, roll one filled cake away from you into a long roll. Roll remaining three pieces.
  7. Transfer the rolls, seam side down, to a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15+ minutes to firm the filling. Trim the ends of the rolls to neaten them and cut each roll into three equal segments. Lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down.
TO MAKE THE COATING
  1. Melt the dark chocolate with 2 T. of oil in a double boiler, just until chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip each roll into the melted chocolate with a fork, shake off excess and put down on parchment. Coat all of the rolls and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  2. Melt the white chocolate with remaining 1 T. of oil in a double boiler. Put the pistachios in a small bowl. Dip each roll into the white chocolate and 'stamp' the ends into the pistachios. Refrigerate 15-30 minutes to set. Best served cool but not cold.
  3. **Refrigerate in a single layer airtight container for up to one week.
Adapted from Southern Italian Desserts
Adapted from Southern Italian Desserts
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone!  How we doin’?  🙂

It is insanely gorgeous up here in the mountains right now.  I know once summer hits, it’s going to get crazy hot.  I’m kinda dreading it.  I’m such a winter girl!  So I’m doing my best to enjoy it while the nice weather lasts.  🙂

And part of the enjoyment of this time of year is making a recipe like this one! Today’s post is a light, fluffy and refreshing dessert called ‘Blueberry Jamboree.’  Have you ever had it?  I used to work as a General Manager at Magnolia Bakery in Chicago and this was one of my favorite desserts that they served there.  I was grateful to find they shared the recipe when I searched online for it years later!  

I’ve tweaked it slightly adding lemon juice and nutmeg to the berries and vanilla to the cream cheese filling for personal preference.  I’ve also used frozen blueberries before in a pinch and it’s turned out beautifully.  (Now if they’d only post a recipe for those pistachio cupcakes!  Gah!!)  

The dessert consists of a pecan shortbread crust with a light, whipped cheesecake filling and a sweet blueberry compote topping.  It has a very mild and refreshing flavor.  It’s one of my favorite summer desserts for sure and because it’s not too sweet, you can eat an entire pan of it!  😉

It’s an incredibly easy dessert to make, too!  You make a blueberry compote out of blueberries, sugar, lemon, lemon zest, nutmeg and a little cornstarch.  While that’s cooling, you make a quickie shortbread crust and press it into a 13×9 pan.  You bake the crust for only 15 minutes which is also great because who wants the oven on that long in the spring & summertime?  

While the crust is cooling, you beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together, and fold in whipped cream.  Pile the light filling onto the crust, top with blueberry compote and keep it in the fridge for an hour to set.  That’s it!

This is a great recipe to try this time of year!  And if you do, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram:  @mandicrockersweets.  If you like what you see, don’t forget to subscribe to MandiCrocker and share this post on Facebook.  In fact, I dare say we just might have  a giveaway coming up… Shhhh!  You won’t want to miss a thing!  

Happy Tuesday, folks!  xoxox

 

Blueberry Jamboree
A crunchy, pecan shortbread crust filled with a light, whipped cheesecake filling, topped with a sweet blueberry compote. The perfect light and refreshing dessert for Spring!
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Blueberry Compote
  1. 3 1/2 c. fresh blue berries, divided
  2. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/8 cup brown sugar
  4. 1 Tbl. + 1 ½ tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbl. + 1 ½ tsp water
  5. ¾ tsp of Lemon Zest
  6. 1 tsp lemon juice
  7. 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
For crust
  1. 3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
  2. 2 c. flour
  3. 1 c. toasted pecans, chopped
For cheesecake filling
  1. 2 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 lb cream cheese, room temperature, cut into chunks
  3. 2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
  4. 1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 13x9 inch pan or line with parchment paper.
For blueberry compote
  1. In a large pot combine 1 ½ c. blueberries and both sugars over medium high heat.
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and blueberries begin boiling.
  3. In a small dish, mix together cornstarch with water.
  4. Whisk cornstarch into the blueberry mixture, stirring until it begins to thicken. Stir in zest, lemon juice and nutmeg.
  5. Remove compote from the heat and fold in remaining 2 c. of fresh blueberries.
  6. Set aside and refrigerate to cool completely.
For crust
  1. Melt butter and mix with flour and toasted pecans until a crumbly dough forms.
  2. Press mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes, or just until beginning to lightly brown.
  3. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
For cheesecake filing
  1. In a mixer, whip the heavy cream until thick. Put into a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.
  3. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until combined.
For assembly
  1. Pour cream cheese mixture over cooled pecan crust. Top with blueberry compote.
  2. Let set in the fridge for one hour and then enjoy!
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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I had every intention of posting this blog days ago… but alas, with a newborn, my time is not my own.  Actually, that’s a lie. Technically, Ruby is no longer a ‘newborn.’  At over three months, she is considered an ‘infant.’  An ‘infant?’  Sounds so…big…  No, she’s TOTALLY a newborn!!!  *cries real tears*  

But I digress…

Today on the blog I’m sharing a pavlova recipe.  Pavlova, for those that may not know, is a whipped mixture basically of egg whites and sugar that is baked at such a low degree, it doesn’t seem like it’s being baked at all!  The moisture is evaporated out until you have a hard outer shell and an ooey, gooey marshmallow-y (technical term) center.  

And the fun part about pavlovas is that not only is it a GREAT way to use up those egg whites after making pastry cream but it is also super fun to pipe.  I piped mine into a sunshine shape. Or a flower shape.  I can’t decide.  You decide?  

Pavlova can be very sweet (it’s pretty much a cup of sugar to 4 egg whites), so I love to cut it with some tart lemon cream.  In today’s recipe, I’ve adapted a lemon cream recipe from Tartine Bakery, in San Francisco, WHICH!  Visiting their website, I’ve learned they’re opening up some kind of juggernaut ‘manufactory’ in Los Angeles.  Ooohhhhh, exciting!!!

Anyway, this lemon cream is TO DIE FOR… It’s super tart and creamy.  All that I did in my recipe was remove some of the butter so the flavor would be even more tart to offset the sweetness in the pavlova.  But typically? It’s perfection in lemon cream.  If you’re a lemon lover, I don’t say these things lightly!  The recipe I’ve included makes 2 & 1/2 cups but trust me you’ll be grateful for leftovers it’s that good!

My go to pavlova recipe is Ina’s, OF COURSE.  “Ina, Ina, Ina, Mandi…”  I know.  (I want her to be my next door neighbor or great Aunt or something).  Pavlova was perfect for this weekend as not only can pavlova be decorated to match the spirit of the weekend, but my friend Candy gave me some wonderful lemons from her tree.  A total score!!  So I baked her off and filled the shell with lemon cream… 

 

 

Then I covered her in whipped cream and fresh berries. I was going to buy blueberries– you know– red, white and blue.  But up by us everything is ridonkulously expensive.  Blueberries at our local grocery were $4.99 for a non-organic 6 ounces!!!  I just… I couldn’t. And usually I’ll suck it up for ingredients cause I need them that bad.  For whatever reason, this got my goat.  Ha!  So I settled for our dreamy blackberries from Aldi’s for– ahem– $2.49.  (I want to live with Ina Garten at Aldi’s, by the way). 

So red, white and black it is!  But look, they’re blue star decorations!!!  *cue America the Beautiful*

 

Man, that lemon cream did its’ job and just cut through the sweetness of that pavlova.  Still sweet, for sure, but with the zip of the cream and the tart of the berries?  So refreshing!  Perfect barbecue dessert! 

Even Ruby thought so…  😉

OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THOSE LITTLE TOES ON MY NEWBORN!! I MEAN INFANT!!  I MEAN NEWBORN!!!  *cries again*

Pavlova’s are extremely easy but a little tricky.  🙂

For starters, our oven is pretty old and it’s hard to get it to stay at 180 degrees, so I had to check mine constantly– upping and lowering the temp continuously.   Second, you need to make sure to incorporate the sugar at the right time while whipping your egg whites– very slowly, around the soft peak stage.  This is to make sure the sugar has time enough to dissolve. Otherwise, you’ll have whipped egg whites with sugar granules.  It will deflate when you bake it and all of the sugar will ‘weep’ out.  You also won’t get that lovely glossy and marshmallow-y texture. If you’re not sure you’re quite there, just rub a bit between your fingers.  

And you know?  If it weeps a little… it’s just feeling its feelings, man. 

I’m not a huge meringue fan but watching The Great British Bake-off and all of Mary Berry’s masterclasses on these tall and frosted meringue cakes, it makes me feel all fancy pants to do it.  Ha!  It truly is a light and refreshing dessert for summer.  And be sure to eat it quickly!  It won’t last more than a day or two…

But who are we kidding?  Like that’s a problem?  😉  

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody!  Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and share with your friends!  And many, many thanks today to our courageous veterans.  Today I’m remembering my grandfather and father in law, who have both served and are no longer with us.  xoxo

Memorial Day Pavlova
A crunchy and marshmallow-y meringue treat filled with tart lemon cream, whipped cream and refreshing berries!
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Lemon Cream
  1. 2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice (meyer, if possible)
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1 large egg yolk
  4. 3/4 c. sugar
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
PAVLOVA
  1. 4 egg whites, room temp
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 1 c. sugar
  4. 2 tsp cornstarch
  5. 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  6. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
WHIPPED CREAM
  1. 1 c. heavy cream, cold
  2. 2 T. powdered sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
BERRIES
  1. 1/2 pint of strawberries
  2. 1/2 pint of blackberries or blueberries
LEMON CREAM
  1. On very low heat, combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a frying pan, whisking constantly until thickened.* Your thermometer should register 180° F. It should take about 8-12 minutes.
  2. Let cool for five minutes and stir in the butter.**
  3. Let set in the fridge for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
PAVLOVA
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together with a whisk attachment on high for about one minute. Until you just about reach the 'soft peak stage.'
  3. While the mixer is still on high, slowly pour in the sugar and beat for about two minutes. The meringue should be glossy and look like marshmallow. There should be no sugar granules when rubbed between your fingers.
  4. Sift in the cornstarch and add the vanilla and vinegar. Carefully fold together with a spatula until just combined.**
  5. Pile the meringue into the middle of the lined sheet pan. Make a well in the middle. (Or feel free to pipe a design, always leaving some kind of well for the cream and berries).
  6. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Then, turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
WHIPPED CREAM
  1. Whip cream until fairly thick. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until thick and desired consistency.
ASSEMBLY
  1. Fill the pavlova shell with lemon cream. Cover the top with whipped cream and fresh berries. Decorate to your heart's content!
Notes
  1. *Whisk constantly so that the mixture doesn't become too hot. If overheated, the eggs will literally scramble.
  2. **I use my cuisinart to add the butter to the lemon cream. It aerates it a bit, gets out any lumps and incorporates evenly.
  3. **Be careful not to overbeat as you don't want to lose the air incorporated into the whites.
Adapted from https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mixed-berry-pavlova-recipe-1948158
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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Ah yes, Gluten Free Raspberry Tarts… “for the celiac in all of us.”  Truth be told, I don’t make tarts often.  This is because I’m lazy.  Tarts can be very time consuming and due to their delicate nature (especially with a gluten free crust), can be often hard to master.  Also, cleaning tart pans is my version of hell.  You often have to soak them, wash them and dry them immediately because they rust easily.  Give me a cupcake tin any day!

With that said, tarts are both gorgeous and delicious.  They look so delectable and special all lined up in a bakery window. Worth it?  Absolutely.  And whose excited for fresh berries?!   I LOVE berry season!!!  When I was living in Washington, we’d go pick a ton of berries as the season progressed from strawberries to blueberries, and we’d keep them in our freezer throughout the year.  

I’m always trying to find good gluten free recipes because my best friend is actually celiac.  As a person that loves her gluten and loves to bake for her friends, eat with her friends, whose life revolves around food, food, glorious food… THIS SUCKS FOR ME.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, she has it easy!!!  😉

I kid… Like my heart healthy lifestyle and in the spirit of friendship,  this is a challenge that I accept with dignity, grace and determination! 

In the recipe I posted, I made six tarts.  I made my crusts on the thicker side because with gluten free crusts, they can get awfully crumbly.  I think that was a mistake.  In the creme to crust ratio, I would have made them thinner next time and the crusts held up well. If you’ve got eight tart shells, I would do eight!

To make creme brûlée, I always use Ina Garten’s recipe.  She’s a goddess and I don’t mess with perfection. 

Because this creme brûlée is for a filling and not individual desserts, I just use a casserole dish rather than ramekins.  You have to bake it a little longer but the clean up is so much easier.  Hot tip for the lazy!  And the water bath is extremely important.  I set the dish inside a 13×9 pan and fill it with water. 

If you’re in a bit of a rush, you don’t have to make the jam.  You can just buy a gluten free brand at the store.  I used about a tablespoon of jam per tart and spread it evenly over the bottom.  

Because tarts can be a little overwhelming to try, here’s another tip. Feel free to make the filling ingredients ahead of time.  That way, before you want to eat them, all you have to do is assemble.  🙂

After the shell is spread with jam, fill each tart with creme brûlée. I used a pastry bag for each tart (a little less messy) but a knife works fine, too! Then you sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top and torch it.  And then you have these cute little tarts!

The fun part is you can decorate them any way you want!  

I’ve been watching videos on chocolate garnishes.  Note for next time: Use the right chocolate.  I melted bittersweet Ghirardelli chips which are great for cookies and a good quality chocolate, but terrible for garnishes.  It doesn’t temper properly so it doesn’t turn back into a solid chocolate.  (And duh, I know this.  But mom brain… *sigh*)

This one felt very whimsical to me… like a fairy crown!

And you can decorate them any way you’d like or just keep it simple!

There’s something so comforting about baking on dreary days… But enough about these tarts, let’s eat these suckers! 

See the thin layer of raspberry in there?  Creamy filling, burst of acidity in the raspberries, the sweetness of the chocolate, nuttiness of the almond crusty, the sugar crunch on top… nom nom nom!

They’re really light and refreshing, especially with the fresh raspberries. A perfect spring or summer dessert!

“The perfect bite!”  What movie? 

And the best part?  Dinner’s already made for the hubs!  😉

If you get the chance to try these out, please let me know what you think!  And be sure to use the hashtag #mandicrocker.  

Happy Monday, y’all!! What are YOU making with fresh berries?!  🙂

Gluten Free Raspberry Creme Brûlée Tart
Yields 6
Creamy creme brûlée and tart raspberry layered inside a nutty shell.
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For the crust
  1. 3 c. almond flour
  2. 3 T. sugar
  3. 1/3 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1/3 tsp kosher salt
  5. 3 T. coconut oil
  6. 1 egg
Rasperry Jam
  1. 6 oz. fresh raspberries
  2. 1 T. sugar
  3. (or you can use jam!)
Creme Brûlée
  1. 1 extra large egg
  2. 4 extra large egg yolks
  3. 1/2 c. sugar + 6-8 T. more for brûlée
  4. 3 c. heavy cream
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 1 T grand marnier (optional)
To decorate (optional)
  1. Fresh raspberries
  2. Various Chocolate garnishes
  3. Powdered Sugar
For tart shells
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl whisk together almond flour, sugar, baking soda and kosher salt.
  3. Add coconut oil & egg. Mix well with hands until dough clumps or use food processor.
  4. Separate evenly and press into 6-8 tart shells.
  5. Bake until shell begins to turn golden brown. (Approximately 8-12 minutes if making eight tarts. Approximately 15-20 minutes if making six tarts.) Cool completely. Remove from tart tins.
For creme brûlée
  1. In a bowl, mix together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Scald the heavy milk in a saucepan.
  3. Slowly pour a 1/4 cup of scalded milk into the yolk mixture and whisk FIERCELY! 🙂
  4. Add another 1/4 cup of milk and whisk.
  5. Add the remaining milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add vanilla and Grand Marnier.
  7. Pour into six 8 ounce ramekins or use a casserole dish.
  8. Set ramekins/casserole dish into water bath. (I use a 13x9 inch pan)
  9. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes for ramekins. Bake for 50-60 minutes for a casserole dish. (Liquid should be jiggly like set jello but not watery or runny).
  10. Cool completely
To make raspberry jam
  1. Simmer raspberries and sugar on low.
  2. The jam will be done when most of the moisture has been removed and the jam has gotten thick.
  3. Cool completely.
To assemble
  1. Scoop 1 T. of jam into bottom of each tart shell.
  2. Fill tart shells with creme brûlée.
  3. Sprinkle sugar on top and torch.
  4. Decorate as you wish!
Notes
  1. **You will need a blowtorch for this recipe.
  2. **Make filling ingredients ahead of time.
  3. **Gluten free crusts tend to be a bit crumbly. Be careful when removing from tart shell.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/