I have been baking. Quite a lot, actually!


I made the Frozen Lime Meringue Pie into cupcakes and I made the Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake. Both recipes turned out great! But obviously I didn’t post about it.


I was planning on making other recipes, but that didn’t happen either.


What have I been doing instead?

Work has been crazy busy. But in a good way. I have been doing the communications and marketing work I have wanted to do for years!


My MS symptoms have been up and down. I have been mostly feeling pretty good, but sometimes not so much. Then I have to conserve energy, and Alpha Bakers is something that doesn’t get the attention I would like to give to it.


More exciting though is I have been teaching baking classes through Adult Continuing Education at my old high school. Teaching has been great, and I will be talking about it.

And, for my 50th birthday, which was back in July, I decided that instead of a big party, I wanted to take a baking class at King Arthur Flour in Vermont. Last Sunday, my mom and sister and I drove two plus hours to Norwich Vermont for their More than a Mouthful: Pastry Miniatures class.

cutting-in-the-butterAlthough the class was not quite what I was imagining (I was thinking petit fours and financiers), the items we made were really good, a little challenging, and I got to geek out with the instructor when she was talking about the different protein / gluten levels in flour.


The first recipe we made was for pasta frolla, which is a press-in tart crust, scented with orange oil.

baking-injuryMaking the dough was simple, but then we had to press the dough into these tiny tartlet pans! The largest dimension on any of them was 1 1/2 inches.

And some of them had sharp and point edges! My poor sister ended up cutting her finger on one of them and bled all over her side towel and apron. Granted, she admitted that she could cut herself on a dull butter knife, but still.

When I first saw the pans I thought “OMG how cute!” By the end of the day, I was like “OMG no way I am making this tart in tiny tins again!”

So after the whole tartlet tin filling and bleeding thing, our next project was a chocolate almond cream filling.

This was not a cooked pastry cream. We made it in the food processor.


It had butter, sugar, eggs, yes, but also included almond flour and chocolate. And it was baked in the unbaked tartlets.

The filling was really good. I kept eating it raw!


4-small-tartsWe finished the tartlets with melted chocolate and toasted almond slivers.

I will make this recipe again. But in a full-sized tart pan, or in the comes in a pack of 4 smaller tart tins. Like these!

Here are the recipes from the Baking Education Center at King Arthur Flour. I tweaked them a little bit based on my notes from the day.

Crust – Pasta Frolla

This dough is a middle ground between pie crust dough and Pâte Sucrée


¾ cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (3 oz) pastry flour

¼ cup (1¾ oz) sugar

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

optional: 1/8 tsp orange oil, or zest from ½ lemon, orange or lime


  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in the egg, and extracts and oil or zest and combine well, until a dough forms.
  4. Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes, or immediately press into tart pan, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling or baking.

Leftover pasta frolla can be rolled into a log and cut into cookies. Bake ~10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Filling – Chocolate Almond Cream


½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup (3½ oz) sugar

2 eggs at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (4 oz) almond flour

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped


  1. In a food processor, combine the butter and sugar.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse until just combined.
  3. Add nut flour and chocolate and pulse until combined.
  4. Spread into prepped tart shell or refrigerate.


For mini tartlets, fill with ~ 1tsp of chocolate almond cream, bake ~10 minutes at 375 degrees.

(Not) Gooseberry (but Strawberry Rhubarb Cherry) Crisp

I have to admit to some jealousy of people who live in “berryland”. Places like the Pacific Northwest, where I hear about the abundance of different berries. Marionberries, boysenberries, black raspberries, gold raspberries, maybe even gooseberries.


I couldn’t find gooseberries around here. I even went to the farmer’s market. Nope. Blueberries? Oh yeah! Even local peaches, even though we had a spring frost and it killed the peach flowers at local orchards. But no gooseberries.


Not a problem. I had some frozen local strawberries, some rhubarb, and some frozen cherries. That would give some nice juice, great color, and tart flavor to this not-gooseberry crisp.


Instead of cooking the fruit, I thawed it in a strainer and got a lot of juice just from that.


I cooked the juice with the sugar, lemon and salt separately from the drained fruit.



I probably could have cooked the juice down longer, but I was baking on Tuesday morning before work and didn’t really have that much time.



I tossed the fruit with a tablespoon of the cornstarch, tossed it in the pan with the juice, then put it in a casserole dish.


I made the crisp part while the juice was cooking. Topped the fruit with the crust and put it in the oven.


It cooked up really nicely, and the juices were bubbling away. I pulled it out of the oven and off went to work. I would have brought it to work, but we already had muffins from Monday and I was making brownies on Wednesday for my co-worker’s birthday.


We had some on Tuesday night. It was pretty good but it was runny. I dished up some more tonight, adding whipped cream. It was a lot less runny.


The verdict? Pretty good! Cool and tasty, sweet but with a tart edge. I personally would have liked more crisp on top. I would double the crisp if I made this again. And I will, even if I never see a gooseberry.


SUMMARY – don’t wait for a party to make this cake. Perfect for breakfast, dessert or le weekend. Great flavor and lots of crumb topping.


When I was a kid, Freihofer’s (a regional bakery) used to make a Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Ring. It was a yeast coffee cake with a cinnamon swirl, topped with a confectioners sugar glaze and crusted with pecan pieces. When we had this as a Sunday after church brunch treat, us kids would fight over the nuts on the bottom of the box.


Sadly, after they were bought out by Entenmann’s, the recipe changed and the nuts got scant. I don’t think they make it anymore.


But this coffee cake, even though it’s a cake base and not a yeast dough base, is a cake that my siblings and I would have fought over.


A couple of things about this cake.


I didn’t quite have enough sour cream, so I supplemented it with heavy cream.


I also didn’t have enough blueberries. So I cut up some rhubarb, sugared it and let it macerate and mixed it into the crumb topping.


I kept poking it with an instant-read thermometer and it wasn’t at the listed temperature. I ended up adding a half hour to the baking time! And, since I didn’t wrap the pan with strips, it got a little dark. Now I know to ignore the temperature and just go with baking time.


This coffee cake was so good! Everyone liked it a lot. And it was good that this was a big cake, since everyone had multiple pieces of it.


I even brought some into work to share. One of my co-workers, who doesn’t like coffee cake, and she really liked it!


I will be making this again. But I might make it into muffins instead of a whole cake.

Cherry Sweetie Pie

SUMMARY – plum puree gives this cherry pie a little something extra. The filling stays in the crust and is not runny, even when warm.

The great thing about pies is that you have to make separate components for them – the crust and the filling. Then you have to assemble it, bake it, and cool it.

Which is awesome if you aren’t in a hurry for a pie. Annoying if you want homemade pie immediately.

Thankfully, I was not in a hurry for pie.

I worked on the crust Sunday, made the filling Monday, assembled the pie on Tuesday morning, baked it when I got home from work, and ate some Tuesday night with ice cream. Perfect!

Of course, I have observations about this pie.

I liked the idea of adding plum puree to this for some extra tartness. The plums I got were reasonably soft, juicy and peeled easily. But they lacked flavor.

They were not farmers market plums, the ones you have to eat outside because they are so juicy.

If I made this pie again, I would probably cheat and buy some organic plum baby food. Because the plums in it would probably be better than supermarket plums, the pureeing is already done for you, and I don’t have to remember to hit the farmers market.

I used frozen cherries, too. Because, well, pitting. It was a bag of mixed sweet and tart cherries. Not exactly what this recipe called for. Actually looked pretty good; the cherries weren’t all icky-looking like Marie’s canned sour cherries.


I also wanted to try a fancy lattice top. There’s one with thick and thin dough strips that looked really cool. But I couldn’t find a ruler to use as a cutting guide. Plus my crust dough was rather stiff. I didn’t want to risk messing it up. And, this is the second lattice-topped pie that I have made in my life. I went with the regular non-fancy lattice top. And the strips still broke.

Considering the presence of tart cherries and lackluster plums, this pie was a success. I did get feedback that it was a little tart. I liked the tart flavor. And … there is now pie left.

Ah, the power of pie.


Rum Raisin French Toast
SUMMARY – better than any store-bought bagged raisin bread. Great texture and crumb made the raisins really shine.

Like Marie, I only made the bread.


Because you have to use stale bread for the best French toast. You could use fresh bread, but it doesn’t soak up the egg custard as nicely.

Which means that you have to leave bread around for a few days.

This raisin bread was probably the best raisin bread I have had. And I have eaten a lot of bread with raisins in it over the years. (Raisin bread is one of the few ways I will eat raisins in baked goods by the way.) Paska, challah, store-bought in a bag, I’ve eaten it and even made it. Hands down, this was either the best ever or at least the best in recent memory.

I was not the only person in the house that really loved the raisin bread. Everyone loved it and had buttered slices for dessert!

I ask you, what sane person or household would leave home-baked, yummy raisin bread around long enough that it got stale enough to make it into French toast?

The last piece was devoured about a half hour ago. No, French toast will not happen with this particular raisin bread. Unless I make 2 loaves and hide one. Hmmm.


Blueberry Buckle
It’s Sunday, Mother’s Day. I’m up and in the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. Working on blueberry buckle for Mother’s Day breakfast.

Why? Because I created a Mother’s Day breakfast tradition a few years ago, when I had no money. Me and my siblings converge on her house and make her Mother’s Day breakfast. And it has to be super-early, because she has to be to church on time. And church is a half-hour drive.

I used to make breakfast in bed for my mother when I was a kid. I don’t recall much of my efforts, but I probably made a huge mess for her to clean up. Even back then, I would rather cook than clean up.

These days she somewhat more flexible about getting to church on time. She played church “hooky” and went with my dad and other siblings and their spouses to see Captain America: Civil War. I went home and back to bed, since I was up too early, and my MS symptoms were acting up.

Back to the blueberry buckle. It ended up being a strawberry-blueberry-peach buckle. I did not have enough blueberries. But since I also made my mother strawberry-rhubarb-honey preserves (in an effort to use up last years’ fruit before this years’ fruit starts coming in) the day before as her present, and I had leftover strawberries. It morphed into a berry buckle. Mom really likes peaches, too. And I had some left, after I made one of the girls at the corner store a peach galette for her mother for Mother’s Day!

I mixed up the fruit and made the batter at my house. Packet it up and brought it over with eggs and some other groceries to make shashuka (eggs poached in pepper/tomato sauce) for her breakfast, too.

Just my opinion, I don’t know that I would consider this recipe Q&E for the general public. For us Alpha Bakers, yeah it is pretty quick. Because we are baking super heroes. Or mutants. Or something. But for normal mortals, not so much. Because the cake part involved egg separation and a stand mixer.

I get to Mom and Dad’s and put together breakfast. I finish up the buckle and put it in the oven. My sister and brother and their spouses came over with scones, bacon, sausage and real orange juice.

We have a great breakfast and Mom tries to scoop out the buckle. And …. it is way undercooked. Crap. I put it back in the oven.

It finally finished cooking, but at that point it was too hot to eat. Instead of waiting longer, everyone left for movies or bed. I figured they would have it when they got home.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to have any of it. I did call Mom and ask her how it was. She said it was really good, and that both Dad and my brother, not big dessert eaters, had second helpings.

Can’t get a better endorsement than that!


SUMMARY – crunchy, sweet, buttery, nutty, sticky. Spirals of goodness that call out for a doubled recipe.


One of the great things about growing up in and still living in update NY is a unique level of ethnic diversity. By diversity, I mean, I was surrounded by (mostly European) immigrants. In my family and neighborhood, and within my circle of friends, there were Poles, Italians, Quebecois, Ukrainians, Greeks, Scots, French, Irish, English, East Asians, Chinese. Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists. First, second, third generation immigrants.


A lot of this diversity came out in food. I know exactly what rugelach are, even though my family never made them.


In comparison, my roommate Bill is from Missouri, with a short layover in San Diego (from his dad’s Navy deployment). By his own admission, he knows Mexican food and Kansas City BBQ. He does not know what a rugelach is.


He knows what they are now, though! 😉


These reminded me a little of the Cookie Strudel we made a few months back. Make a simple dough and top with fruit, nuts and a sticky filling. Roll it up.


I made the dough in the food processor. A quick observation – don’t use frozen butter. Let it soften up a bit first.


I made two different batches of these. One was apricot, raisin (currants are technically Zante raisins) and walnut sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. The other was mini chocolate chips, almonds and strawberry jam sprinkled with turbinado sugar.


I portioned the apricot batch out as a 12-cut. But I had some cuts that were bigger than others. Don’t you hate it when your pizza has skinny and fat pieces?


To make it easier, I portioned the strawberry batch out as a 16-cut. They were smaller, but the sizes were more consistent.


I rolled them up, put them in the fridge, brushed them with milk, and coated them with either the cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar. Put them on the foil and into the oven.


And … I had the same problem that Marie had. Sticky jelly on foil = super glue. This was similar to the problem with the birch twigs on a Silplat.


I did manage to get most of the cookies off the foil. I had a lot of bakers treats from them, that’s for sure.


Even with that problem I would make these again. I brought some into work and they went over big!


I would try the Silplat. No egg white!

Meringue Birch Twigs
SUMMARY – light and tasty. Gluten-free! Easy to assemble, harder to execute. Prettier than grisini.

I always seem to have extra egg parts. Either I need a bunch of yolks or a bunch of whites. Never at the same time, of course. BTW egg parts freeze well, in case you can’t use up your extras within a reasonable time frame. Luckily I had a mason jar in the freezer full of extra egg whites. No need to create more extra yolks!

FYI – I learned this fact at a Paleo baking class I took last week. Eggs are not dairy. That is all.

Making the meringue was the easy part. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar? Check!

Add sugar slowly? Check!

Add flavoring? I used coconut. Beat some more? Check!

Put meringue in pastry bag? Check! Line baking sheets, one with parchment and one with my solo Silplat. Check!

Surprisingly, piping was easy, too! Put them in the oven, bake, cool. I also let them sit overnight. Why? Because trying to move them off the sheets broke them. Yikes.

The next day, I gingerly loosened them off the parchment paper and put them between the twigs on the Silplat to drizzle the chocolate.

More problems. I seriously couldn’t get them off the sheet without breaking. Don’t use a Silplat with these. Use parchment.

Needless to say, my twigs look a more like kindling than branches. They are still super cute and taste really good, but they are certainly not tall enough to display in a vase. Sad face.

With that in mind, I would use a larger tip. They wouldn’t be as thin but I could get them off the sheets!

“The Dutch” Pecan Sandies Banner
SUMMARY – an unassuming cookie that is tender, buttery, nutty, crunchy and cinnamony all at once. This recipe proves your freezer is a baking tool.


When I first looked at this recipe, I checked out the picture of it. OK, it’s a round sugar cookie with sugar sprinkled on it. Been there, done that.


As a kid I was a big fan of pecan sandies that the elves baked in their tree. They were also one of the very few packaged cookies that my mom would buy, probably because my dad liked them, too. Only if she had a tripled coupon, though.


There had to be something to these cookies, though. I saw plastic wrap, cooling and resting in the freezer these called for. Looks like a 2-day project, if only not to fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes.


I browned the butter first. Which took a while to do, since I didn’t want to scorch the last bit of the good Irish butter. I did that and worked on dinner (and played Farmville o.O).


As an added bonus, I was heating up chicken cassoulet for dinner. Yes, this is leftovers in my house, the other half of the big batch I made a few weeks ago. After I strained the browned butter, I scooped out the solids and put them on the cassoulet breadcrumb topping. Butter on top of crunchy chicken skin and butter? Not thinking this is bad. Of course, my cholesterol numbers may disagree.


I measured the butter out (a little more than the recipe needed but it’s butter!) and put it in the refrigerator to cool during dinner.


After the dinner dishes were corralled I started on the rest of the dough. It’s a good thing I heated up leftovers instead of dirtying a cutting board, knives and pans, since I had to break out the mixer and food processor for the dough.


Cream together the butter and sugars? Check. Grind the pecans with the flour and dry ingredients? Check. Great idea here to prevent over-processing the nuts. This would probably be even better in a recipe with toasted nuts. Toasting the pecans for this recipe might be interesting, as it would reinforce the nuttiness of the browned butter. I’ll file this idea away.


Scoop out the dough and knead it? Yeah … ugh … plastic wrap is involved.


I hate plastic wrap. It doesn’t stick to what you want it to stick to, only itself. The stupid cutter thing on the box never works right. I think Rose uses top-secret special plastic wrap. Wrap that is nice and wide, sticks what you want it to stick to, and cuts nicely. Navy Seal Team “Cookie” brings it to her. Shhhh.


I managed to get the dough divided and into the refrigerator without too much incident.


The next night, after dinner, and after letting the cold dough warm up, I finished up the cookies. Again, with my off the shelf plastic wrap. Sigh.


I finally used my hexagonal cutters (a Christmas present from last year), so there wasn’t much re-rolling. The last batch I cut had only a little bit of dough left. There was no sense in re-rolling it, we ate it. Yum!


Because of the freezer rest time, the cookies took longer than a drop cookie. But the results I think were worth it. Tender and crunchy, nutty and buttery, cinnamon and pecan, so good.


As I was eating one, I thought that this dough would make really good pie crust for a pumpkin pie. Or for the pumpkin-pecan pie we made last year. Ooooo …. another idea to file away!


Vegan / Vegetarian


Chickpea “Tuna” Salad is Not Tuna, But No One is Mad via Food52
Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats from The Kitchn
roasted yams and chickpeas with yogurt from Smitten Kitchen
10-Hour Slow-Cooker Chana Masala from The Kitchn



The Easiest Buttercream You’ll Ever Make (+ Meringue 101) from Food52
Yung, Wild and Free: Crucial baking advice from a Michelin-starred pastry chef from Tasting Table
You Deserve an Entire Cake All for Yourself from Bon Appétit
Classic Smith Island Cake from Saveur
Claire Ptak’s recipes for halva brownies and cookies from The Guardian

Techniques / Equipment / Etc.


6 Things You Should Do to Take Care of Your Knives from Food52
The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away from Serious Eats
The Temperature Rule to Follow When Converting a Dutch Oven Recipe to a Slow Cooker from The Kitchn
Chained to the Stove: What It’s Really Like to Write a Cookbook from Serious Eats