Apple Kuchen


First things first…I was SO happy there has been a slight respite from the high heat and humidity we have been experiencing curtesy of some tropical storm down south of us.   For us Native Californians, we can’t handle this humidity and it is hard to get in the baking mood when you are literally melting!

My In-Laws were especially excited about this recipe…my husband too actually.  My Mother-in-Law immigrated from Austria when she was 18 years old, so this recipe brought back family memories of “kuchen”…which I am gathering, refers to a variety of German sweets. She said her mom must be dancing in heaven seeing me bake “kuchen”.  :)

I started this recipe one afternoon and served it the following day.  There is some waiting time for chilling the dough and then also the baking time, which was listed as 60-70 minutes but in reality took close to 2 hours to get the knife to pull out somewhat cleanly.

The dough was easy to work with and smelled heavenly with the added lemon zest. Next time I wouldn’t be worried at all about fitting it into the pan…it is very forgiving as you patch and smooth.  The one thing I did underestimate is how long it takes to core, peal, and slice up 3 lbs of apples!  That is a lot of apples!


Since I opted to leave out the rum soaked raisins, I went a little rogue and added some cinnamon to the apple mixture…I mean what is an apple dessert without a little cinnamon right??


The only real problem I had with this recipe is the custard firming up while baking.  If I made this again, I would definitely tent the top so the apples didn’t brown so much.  I didn’t need to add the butter and broil because mine got so brown in the baking process. I did sprinkle the sugar on top though, to add some sweetness.  When I pulled the tart out of the oven, I still was not happy with the knife being fully clean but figured close to two hours just has to be good enough and hopefully it would firm up in the fridge overnight, which it did!!  Next time I just wouldn’t worry about that at all…seemed to work itself out just fine with a little chilling time.


It is an impressive dessert when you present a mile high slice.  I heard an audible gasp of delight from one of my tasters and was so happy that the taste matched the appearance…because that isn’t always the case haha!

Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies


I was surprised by these.

  • The dough wasn’t as fussy as I expected…quite easy actually.  I made the dough and let it chill overnight, baking the cookies the next morning.
  • I still had my blackberry jam that I used for the Florentine Squares so I went ahead and used that.
  • I used a mason jar as my cookie cutter.
  • The process of wetting the cookie and pressing the next layer on top went very smoothly.
  • Cooked up in the 17 minutes suggested.
  • Baked up 14 cookies out of the mix




Seriously, easy….and should I add…LOVED be everyone!  My dad’s text went so far as to say he has extended his top 5 category to the top 10 as this cookie needs to be added to the top list….quite an endorsement of the recipe wouldn’t you say?!

I did add the dusting of confectioners sugar as suggested because you know it just elevates anything you dust upon! :)


Bubble Eclairs


My tasters, nor the baker (me), are experts on eclairs…some had tried them before but others never had.   I for one, had no idea there were so many options…crackle topping, streusel topping, pearl sugar topping…and that is just the toppings… the fillings are a whole different story.  These that we are making are “bubble eclairs” because the cream puffs are placed right next to each other creating a row of three little puffs so close they bake together.

I have to share my favorite comment about this recipe…”these look so good…they remind me of when I was a kid and we went to get donuts…these were the ones, the fancy ones on the top shelf we weren’t allowed to choose” haha!

There are the bold eclairs, simple eclairs and everything in between.  I decided to do a more simple one with just a dusting of confectioners sugar and then go all out on the filling, making the Chocolate Pastry Cream.  I would say both are relatively easy.


This recipe makes quite a few eclairs which is also allowed for seconds.  My husband had the suggestion to add some whipped cream on top of the chocolate cream, which to hear everyone’s reaction, took it over the top.   According to my tasters, to say these were a hit would be an understatement!  Everyone loved these!  They were called “the bomb” and in one taster’s top 5.  Not too difficult and quite showy…I would say they are a keeper!

Cherry Crumb Tart

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This was a fun one!

  • I loved how easy the recipe was
  • I loved that I remembered this time to have a light touch with the tart dough
  • I loved that I remembered to tent the crust
  • I loved how I could make each part and move onto the next one during the waiting time
  • I loved decorating with the delicious cherries
  • I loved that my parents said “I hit a home run with this one”
  • I loved that my in-laws “adored this one”
  • I loved that my husband loved it and said the next day he couldn’t believe it was even better than the first slice
  • I loved that every single taster said this one was amazing

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This makes the not so good ones worth it…you know you will come across some that are truly keepers.  I have a feeling this one might be requested :)

Miniature Florentine Squares

IMG_3059 I had a feeling as I was baking, that these might be more widely accepted by my tasting group than the last few recipes we have made.  We have already made the Ladyfinger Genoise, but in this recipe it is created into mini-cakes with a very showy marbleized design on top…”echoing the intricate patterns celebrated by Florence’s master papermakers.” I always try very hard to follow the recipes we bake as is…that is the point, but there were a few modifications I made in this one…both because of what I had on hand and for ease of getting these to my tasting group. I used Limoncello for my gloss of wine syrup and blackberry jelly for my filling. IMG_3055 I cut my cake into 16 squares instead of 36 and to help preserve the moistness until I got them delivered to tasters, I glazed each side of each cake as well as the top.  We had plenty of the white chocolate glaze and I figured who ever complains because there is too much glaze, right? I also individually decorated each top instead of before the cake was cut. IMG_3051 IMG_3060 The most fun in this recipe was decorating the tops of each mini cake.  After you pipe milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate into lines on top, you pull the glaze and chocolate with a “multi-pronged tool” to create the pattern.  I used a toothpick and just did it multiple times and it worked perfectly. I would say these are very pretty and would look great on a dessert table at an event.  ALL of my tasters loved this one, surprise, surprise…and even I ate it.  For me, it seemed like a lot of work and it looked better than it tasted.  They were inhaled and gone though so I guess everyone else would disagree haha!

Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta


The question of the day was, what is “Panna Cotta”…and it wasn’t just me, all my tasters too!  I am thinking we weren’t alone, but who knows, maybe we just aren’t as worldly in our experiences…but now we all know.

Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made from sweetened cream thickened with gelatin.

Our recipe tells us it is the perfect dessert; elegant and simple, rich and luxurious…and so versatile.  Since I knew 4 servings was not enough for my family and tasters, I opted to make 1 1/2 of the recipe and split it into 8 servings, which turned out to be the perfect amount.

This is really a very easy and simple recipe: puree the mango and lime juice in a food processor or blender; heat the cream, sugar, milk, and then add vanilla; bloom some gelatin and add to the cream mixture.  There is some chilling time involved and then assemble.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had never “bloomed” plain gelatin and then liquify it. It was kind of strange.


After these were assembled and chilled, the texts went out…available for pick-up.  I think everyone was equally intrigued about this dessert, but it quickly became obvious there were lovers and there were non-lovers.  I find this part of the baking so interesting…the how it is received part.   I sat and watched my son and girlfriend inhale theirs and my husband and daughter take one bite and say “ya, not so much’ at which time son and girlfriend quickly took it off their hands and inhaled that one too.  Also interesting is the lovers, loved both the mango and panna cotta and the non-lovers did not like either part.  All in all, it was a draw…4 lovers and 4 non-lovers…and me the non-taster..just the baker and observer haha!

So, not sure what to say about this one other than if you love fruit and smoothies, I would guess you would love it based on my reviewers. :)

Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack


I feel bad for this recipe…first of all it tells us “it makes you think of last-forever crackers…the kind packed on long voyages more for indestructibility than tastiness.”   The cookbook states not with these but honestly how can a cracker stand up to following the White Chocolate Patty Cake or the Apricot Raspberry Tart???  They just didn’t have a chance…these weren’t a winner with my tasters…but that is ok, there are new ones to try right around the corner.

What I found more interesting this past week was looking at where in the world my blog hits are coming from.  Our “Baking With Julia” and “Baking Chez Moi” are international baking groups but seriously it is so exciting to see where all of us are baking from!  I love knowing that as I am baking here in my home others are doing the same exact thing all over the world!!  I love hearing how bakers have to substitute ingredients either because it is just not in season where they live or not available.  I love being a part of this group!

Check out the list:

  • Bulgaria
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  • Puerto Rico
  • Poland
  • Finland
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Malaysia
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Saudia Arabia
  • Australia
  • Serbia
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  • Ireland
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  • Philippines
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  • Qator
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