Friday, February 27, 2009


I use this glaze for my lowfat carrot cake, even though it doubles the amount of fat per serving (it's worth it!). Each piece of lowfat carrot cake with glaze still only has 10 grams of fat, which is pretty good for a big piece of cake. The only drawback with using a dairy glaze, like this, is that the cake must be refrigerated. Cakes usually taste better at room temperature, so you'd want to take it from the refrigerator about 30-45 minutes before eating.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces regular or lowfat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons milk (skim or regular)

In a small mixer bowl, beat the butter until creamy. beat in the cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until blended. Beat in the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze will fall from a spoon in a continuous ribbon.

Set the cake to be glazed on a rack, over a rimmed baking pan. Pour on the glaze. Transfer the cake to a cake holder or serving platter using a long or giant spatula (available from ). Refrigerate the cake until the glaze sets, but remove it from the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before you want to eat the cake.


I adore carrot cake but it has so many calories and so much fat, that when I started working on Light Jewish Holiday Desserts, I knew it would have to have a place in the Rosh Hashanah section where carrots are an important ingredient. I worked that recipe to death and came up with a wonderful, light version of carrot cake, but one that needed to be made a day ahead for best flavor. Having become less concerned about fat over the years, I thought I might alter the recipe to have a little more fat, but still less than a traditional carrot bundt. I made the cake, poured on a light cream cheese glaze and set the cake in the refrigerator to serve for my birthday, later that evening. When we returned from dinner I took the cake from the refrigerator to let it soften for 15 minutes and then served it to my guests. It was so disappointing. The texture and flavor were not what I was looking for. I put it back in the refrigerator to mellow for another day. Low and behold! Just like the very low fat version, this cake with double the amount of fat, also needed a day to mellow, and on the second-fourth days it got better and better. You can choose which version you prefer. Each version makes a dense, chunky cake, with a texture quite different from layered carrot cake (coming another day…). Without the glaze, this version has 1/10 the fat in a standard carrot layered cake, and the one with more fat has 3/4 the fat.

Makes 16 to 20 servings

1-1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and trimmed

1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour, lightly sprinkled into a measuring cup *
2/3 cup (70 grams) sifted cake flour, lightly sprinkled into a measuring cup*
1- 3/4 cups (210 grams) whole wheat pastry flour, lightly sprinkled into a measuring cup*
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or combine 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons water
2 cups firmly packed light or dark brown sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature
8-ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice
1-1/2 pounds carrots
Powdered sugar (optional)

Cream Cheese Glaze, optional (see recipe )
or powdered sugar

* you must measure the flour this way or you will end up with too much flour. For example, 1 cup of all-purpose flour measured using fluff, scoop and level, will have 130 grams - a little more than 1 tablespoon of flour more.

Preheat the oven to 325°F, with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Spray-grease and flour a 12-cup fluted tube (Bundt) pan.

Grate the carrots, using the food processor grating disk, or a box grater.

If using the processor, pulse-process the grated carrots with the metal blade until they are finely chopped, like the left side of the picture above. Measure out 3 cups of carrots, and discard any extra.

Sift together all three flours, spices, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the raisins and nuts. Set aside.

Place the oil, water, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Beat in the egg until well blended. On low, beat in the pineapple with its juice, and the carrots.
On low, or by hand, beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing just until the flour is incorporated. The batter will be fairly thick.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with no moist crumbs attached. Remove the cake to a rack and cool completely. Loosen the edges of the bundt (I like to use a wooden coffee-stirrer as it won't scratch my nonstick pans).

Invert the cake onto a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. If glazing with the Cream Cheese glaze, you'll need to set the cake onto a rack over a pan (see directions with glaze).

Variation: If you'd like a slightly moister cake or one without whole wheat, use 3-1/3 cups (433 grams) all-purpose flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups). Increase the oil to 1/2 cup , delete the water and add another 1 or 2 eggs.

The cake must be made at least 1 day ahead, but can be made 2 days in advance. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature. May also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baking Questions and Comments

If you have any baking questions, or comments, this will be the place for you to ask them. You'll be able to check back often by looking in the categories under "baking questions". I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Berry Frangipane Tart

I'm the kind of person who likes everything in its place (foodwise, not housewise!), so I usually arrange things on my desserts and serving platters. But I notice that not everyone does this! I especially like some of the tarts that I see where the fruit is piled haphazardly on top of the pastry. As hard as it was, I decided to give it a try, while photographing for Amazing Dairy-free Desserts. The results were quite spectacular and captured beautifully by my photographer, Richard Rudisill. The tart can certainly be made with dairy, if you prefer.

I love this oil-based press-in crumb-style crust because it’s so easy to make and uses ingredients that I always have on hand. It’s filled with a typical French almond filling (frangipane) and topped with fresh, seasonal berries.

Serves 8 - 10

Toasted Almond Crumb Crust
1 tablespoon unsalted non-dairy margarine (such as Fleischmann’s®), softened
1-1/2 cups sliced almonds, divided
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and leveled into measuring cups
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil

Toasted Almond Frangipane Filling
1 cup toasted almonds, reserved from above
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
7/8 stick (7 tablespoons- 3.5 ounces) unsalted non-dairy margarine, softened
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (Amaretto di Saronno®, for kosher)

3-5 cups berries of choice
1/2 cup seedless jelly or jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With 1 tablespoon of margarine, generously grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Place the almonds in a baking pan and set in the oven for 3 - 5 minutes until the almonds are fragrant and just barely starting to brown. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Reserve 1 cup of nuts to be used in the filling.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts in a food processor, along with the flour and sugar. Pulse on and off until the nuts are finely ground, about ten, 10-second pulses. With the processor running, pour the oil through the feed tube and process until the mixture starts to clump up. Pack the mixture into the sides of the prepared 9-inch tart pan so that they are a scant 1/8-inch thick. Press the remainder into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until the tart is lightly browned. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

For the filling place the reserved cup of almonds, the sugar and flour in the processor bowl. Pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the margarine and pulse until blended. Add the egg and the liqueur and process until all is blended. Pour the mixture into the baked crust. Bake for 15 - 25 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Let cool.

Brush some of the jam over the filling. If using strawberries, wash, dry, hull and slice the strawberries, lengthwise, into scant 1/8-inch slices. If using blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, wash them and pat dry. The berries can be mixed with the jelly or glazed with it. Raspberries, especially, taste better when they are brushed rather than saturated with the jelly. Arrange or pile on the berries using more if piled, and fewer berries if they are arranged.

The baked crust can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Leave it at room temperature, uncovered, until ready to use. The tart with the filling can be made 8 hours ahead, if refrigeratred.

Once the berries have been placed on the tart, it should be refrigerated for at least 1 hour to allow the jam and juices to seep into the filling, but should be served within 4 hours.

Serve the tart cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crumb-Topped Chocolate Chip Poundcake

If you're using my book, Amazing Dairy-free Desserts, I thought you might like to know that Fleischmann's margarine, which I recommend, has changed its formula and now contains more water than it did when the book was written.  I recommend increasing the amount of margarine to use by about 15%.   I expect that it will be changing again within the next two years as trans fats are completely phased out.  I guess that will mean more experiments!  I'll keep you posted…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pecan Chocolate Sandwiches

These fabulous, crisp, cookie sandwiches are among my most requested cookies. The dough is simple to make and doesn't need a prolonged chill. Making sandwiches can be time consuming, so I've given some quicker alternatives at the end of the recipe.


1 cup (3.5 ounces) pecan halves
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1-3/4 + 2 tablespoons (243 grams) all-purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and leveled

1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with shelves in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Food Processor Method:Grind the nuts and sugar in the food processor until the nuts are finely ground, about five, 5-second bursts.

Add the butter and vanilla, and pulse until well mixed. Add the salt and flour, and pulse on and off, until the mixture starts to form a ball. Turn the dough out of the processor onto a piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a ball and wrap the dough tightly and chill for 20 minutes or more, until firm.

Mixer Method:
Grind the nuts and sugar in a food process or other grinder. If using a spice or coffee mill, you'll have to do this in several smaller batches. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer bowl, and beat on medium speed for 10-15 seconds to blend the two together. Add the salt and flour, and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a disc about 1/2-inch thick . Wrap the dough tightly and chill for 30 minutes or more, until firm.

For a foolproof rolling method, cut open a jumbo zip-top bag so that it is hinged on one long side. Flour the inside of the plastic and place one piece of dough inside. Roll the dough between the sheets of plastic to slightly more than 1/16-inch.

Cut out cookies using a 2-inch daisy or 1-1/4-inch round cookie cutter. Cut out the centers, using a 1/4-inch pastry tip or cutter, or a cutter of the size you find pleasing. Place on the cookie sheets.

Bake for a total of 8-12 minutes, moving the top cookie sheet to the lower shelf and the bottom sheet to the top after half of the baking time (no need to do this if using a convection oven). The cookies should be starting to brown. Slide the parchment paper onto cooling racks. Let the cookies cool for 15 minutes before filling or decorating.

Melt the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe container, on medium power, until the chocolate melts, about 1-2 minutes. Stir until the chocolate and oil are well combined.

Spread a thin layer (about 3/4 teaspoon) on a cookie and immediately top with another cookie. Repeat until all cookies are sandwiched.

I make these cookies in all different shapes; oblongs without holes, cookies with only a hole in the top, rounds with smaller holes or the daisies, above. If time is an issue you can make single cookies (not sandwiched) and drizzle chocolate on them.

The cookies may be stored for a few days in a sealed container or plastic bag. They may also be frozen in a covered container, with waxed paper between layers. This way you'll be able to defrost each cookie individually. They’ll keep frozen for 3 months. Defrost at room temperature, unwrapped.

Gooey Pecan Tassies - Mini Pecan Pies

 This recipe can now be found on my CD-rom, Amazing Desserts - A Photographic Guide to Better Baking.  See MY BOOKS, above, for information on ordering it on CD or by download.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I've been sampling tassies for the last 25 years and have always loved them, but they always left me slightly disappointed because I wanted something gooeyer. As you'll see from the article, I began experimenting with them after tasting Tiz Faison Benson's tassies. I've been working on them every day this week, as they'll be donated to the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival and will also be in my upcoming book (working title is Amazing Desserts).

I have run into several problems as I've tried to perfect the recipe:
When I made them gooeyer, they tended to stick in the pans and this caused the pastry to break, allowing the goo run out. Getting them out of the pans was my number one priority. The first trick was to grease the pans well. Secondly, leave headroom when you fill them so that they don't overflow when the pastry starts to expand, and last and most important, was to remove the tarts from the pans while the pastry was still hot. All of these techniques will be listed in the recipe.

Another problem was getting the pastry the right thickness. It was hard, at first to press the balls so that the thickness was constant. I solved this by using a tamper and also perfecting how to use the tamper to best advantage. Rather than press the tamper all the way into the ball, I found it best to lightly tamp the balls down flat first. This filled out the cup so that when I then pressed the tamper in more, the dough flattened out evenly in all directions. Getting the sides thinned was also a challenge. I found it best not to roll the tamper around the sides, but to just tamp it around the sides. These techniques will also be in the recipe. I'll make them one more time tomorrow to check the serving size, and to try out a variety and combination of brown sugars and syrups.