Monday, November 29, 2010


While I was growing up my Dad was very active in our church's Men's Club. Once a month we would spend a Saturday shopping and then get up early on Sunday morning to prepare breakfast for the monthly meeting. When I was young my responsibility was something simple like toast or setting the table and it gradually progressed to cooking eggs to order (suspiciously similar to my job at the time). But this isn't about those breakfasts. It's Christmas and this Men's Club had a Christmas themed fundraiser every year - fruitcakes. Yep, fruitcakes.

Over a thousand of them. There would be several ovens going at once, including a convection over that could knock a kid down when opened. They would make two batches a night for four nights a week for four or five weeks. This was my first commercial baking experience. Again, my involvement grew as I did. I started as a decorator, making a flower pattern using almonds and a cherry and it was just the early batch, it was a school night after all. When I was older I was able to make the batter and pull the cakes from the pans to cool - both batches.

Yes, I know it is shocking. Fruitcakes as a fundraiser. A successful fundraiser at that. My Dad sells them with little effort as do the other members. They had to be kept in a locked closet to prevent theft. Yes, fruitcake theft. Two words you never thought you would see side-by-side, fruitcake theft. There were people we only saw once a year and that was when they were picking up their fruitcakes. This helped my youth group go on work trips every year. This fundraiser paid for meals at the Room At The Inn, a local shelter. And they are still doing it. Cakes are for sale. If you are near De Pere, WI, contact a member of the First United Presbyterian Church Men's Club about them.

I should have done this sooner...

When Lorrie and I were married two years ago, we had an awesome cake.  It fit our 70's disco themed reception perfectly without being cheesy.  It was from Alpha Delights European Bakery in De Pere, WI.

We tried several different vendors their cake was by far the best tasting.  Mary was very helpful and she and her staff delivered a cake that exceeded our, and our guest's, expectations.  The tiers were covered in white chocolate fondant with crystal sugar and were separated by sliver sequin lined disks.

We also gave out their almond horns as thank you gifts.  So good!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pistachio Ice Cream

I must say I was a little surprised to get this for my birthday. I've always wanted one but it really is such a want versus a need that I could never convince the miser in me to buy one. I would see the posts on other's blogs about the various sorbets and gelatos and ice creams and then I'd float over to Amazon to view the various options but that's where the fantasy ended. Or so I thought. Lorrie knew I wanted one and it isn't beyond reason that she would get me one. It's just she had been talking that my birthday gift was going to be a tattoo...for her. She wanted to get a tattoo similar to the raven on my shoulder. I thought that would be a pretty nice gift too.

Just as soon as the freezer bowl found a home among the frozen fish fillets and bags of icy fruit, I hit the cookbooks for recipes. I didn't need to go any further than the included recipe pamphlet to find what I needed to fulfill my promise to Lorrie: pistachio ice cream. Very simple to make and very easy to eat! This was so creamy, coat-your-tongue creamy. Just look at the ingredients and you can see why - three cups of heavy cream. Wonderful flavor and I was a bit surprised by that. When I added the extracts (and I didn't measure exactly like it asked but pretty close) I thought the flavors where a bit strong to taste. My concerns of this having the extract-y taste were for naught. Once frozen and mixed with the nuts, the vanilla and almond flavors were mild and only highlighted the pistachios.

Speaking of the pistachios, I couldn't find any unsalted or lightly salted. So I went ahead with the full salt ones anyway. It ultimately added a slight taste of salt, which I think made it better. I think the bigger issue was it lowered the freezing point of the cream mixture and it never really froze hard. I'm not sure I would use unsalted pistachios if I had access to them because Lorrie and I absolutely loved this ice cream as it was and I'm not sure unsalted pistachios would improve the flavor.

Before I started making anything, I consulted Kate Zuckerman's book The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. Chapter six is called Ice Creams, Sorbets, and Frozen Desserts, and she starts this chapter with guidelines for making frozen desserts. Kate gives an introduction to the science behind ice cream making and then relates her experiences making ice cream in restaurant kitchens and at home. The key is controlling ice crystal formation and she explains how the ingredients, preparation, and even the machines can affect your end product.

Pistachio Ice Cream
from page 5 of the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker Recipe Booklet

Makes about 2 quarts or so

1 1/3 cups whole milk, well chilled
1 1/8 cup granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios, roughly chopped (use plain or lightly salted and don't use red)

Combine the whole milk and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix by hand or with a mixer on low speed until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and the two extracts.

Set-up the machine and turn it on. Pour the mixture slowly into the bowl and churn until thickened. When it is close to being the desired thickness, add the pistachios. Once done, use right away or freeze for up to 12 hours to let it set. Use within a day or two.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Saturday, December 29, 2007


When I was frosting my "HO's" for Christmas I took a couple of the darker cookies and experimented a little with them. I was going for a candy cane look. However I didn't get it right; the frosting was too stiff and the bottle I was using to apply wasn't right. It should have had a broader tip. But this wasn't all for naught. This would be perfect for creating American flag cookies. So I need to keep this in mind the next time I'm in need for a patriotic or American cookie.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Almond Torte

We celebrated Christmas with my family early this year. Thanksgiving was with my parents in Wisconsin and Christmas is in Michigan with Lorrie's parents. So that meant an early exchange of gifts which actually really made this year quite easy as far as the whole Christmas rush goes. We were done by the time others were just starting.

I brought the dessert for the Thanksgiving meal and one of the things I made was this almond torte. It is based on a family recipe; one that is hugely popular. I've made tortes before but not like this. My favorite dessert was chocolate torte but that was pudding based and had cream cheese in it. This had neither. It was custard based and so delicious. The almond flavor was present but not overpowering and this was very creamy. It actually tasted a lot like a blitz torte only without sponge cake in it.

I am submitting this as my best recipe of 2007 mainly because this is my new favorite dessert! The best of 2007 is being put on by Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte and Sandra from Un tocco di of 2007 By the way, since this is 'roughly' a Christmas post, check Zorra's advent calenders.

Almond Torte

1 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c flour
1/2 c melted butter
1/2 c chopped almonds.

Mix & pat in l0 x l4 pan. Bake at 325 °F for l0 to l5 min until light brown.

1-1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
5 eggs separated
1/4 cup sliced almonds + enough to sprinkle across top just before serving
1/4 tsp salt
2 T corn starch
1-1/2 T Knox gelatin
1/4 c cold water
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Combine milk, l c. sugar, & egg yolks in double boiler & beat until sugar is dissolved. Add salt and cornstarch & cook until thick. Dissolve gelatin in 1/4 c. cold water & add to cooked mixture. Cool. Add almond extract. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, & sugar. Fold into cooled filling and sliced almonds. Pour onto cooled crust & refrigerate 6 hours. Best if served within 24 hours.

Top with whip cream and sliced almonds (I beat 1 pint of heavy cream and this was enough to cover the whole thing sufficiently).