Archive | Desserts

Rhubarb-Lemon Squares



By Laura Sorkin

This is my all-time favorite rhubarb recipe. It is a springtime tweak on the traditional lemon square. One may think that the acidity of rhubarb would be too much with the acidity of lemon but put them in a curd with plenty of sugar and they play very well together. The result is a beautiful rose-pink color and the flavor is addictive. You can use any type of shortbread underneath, adding flavors such as candied ginger or a touch of anise. I have included a fairly basic shortbread recipe that has a little cornmeal added for texture.

¾ cup butter, diced
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
⅓ cup sugar

Rhubarb-Lemon Filling
¾ pound rhubarb, washed and diced
¼ cup maple syrup
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter, diced

For the shortbread: Preheat oven to 350° and butter a small gratin dish (any variation on the 8- by 8-inch size will do). Place all of the ingredients for the shortbread in a bowl and knead the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers. When it has the consistency of moist breadcrumbs and all the butter is incorporated, pour into the gratin dish and press down into the bottom. Put in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until it just begins to brown. Remove from the oven.

For the filling: Put the rhubarb in a saucepan with the maple syrup and place over medium heat. Let the mixture simmer and break down until the rhubarb has “melted” into a purée and most of the liquid is boiled off. Set aside.

In a medium-sized pot put the yolks, sugar, zest, juice and butter. Stir with a whisk over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved and it starts to thicken (about 5 minutes). Add the rhubarb purée and cook an additional 3 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly, being careful not to let it scorch. Pour the mixture over the shortbread and return to the oven for 8 minutes. Remove when the rhubarb purée has just begun to set.

Let cool, cut into squares and dust with some confectioner’s sugar if you wish.


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Simple Philly-Style Vanilla Ice Cream


For a really hot day, when you’re looking for something to cool you off that isn’t too heavy, Philly-style ice cream is great. It pairs really well with fresh summer fruits and makes a great milkshake!

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (adjust to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl; stir to insure that the sugar is beginning to dissolve. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day to make sure the sugars are dissolved fully. This process is called aging and allows the ingredients to blend.

Place the ice cream mix in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. If you are using a frozen bowl attachment, make sure that the bowl has been frozen for at least 24 hours. If it is really warm in your kitchen, try to insulate the bowl with a cool, damp towel and a dry towel around that. The colder the bowl, and the faster the ice cream freezes, the better the texture of the ice cream.

Strawberry-Basil Compote

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4–6 sprigs fresh basil, finely chopped

Clean and slice strawberries. Combine in a mixing bowl with sugar, lemon juice and basil. Let stand for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Top fresh ice cream with compote and enjoy!

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Makes one 9-inch tart

Adapted from Pie It Forward

Traditionally, sticky toffee pudding is a steamed sponge cake made with dates and then soaked in toffee syrup. Who needs tradition, though, when you can mix it up and make a tart with an equal measure of moist goodness and stickiness along with the convenience of a pastry shell?

For the Tart:

  • 1 batch Simple Tart Dough (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed-
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough into a rough 11- inch round. Line a 9-inch round or square tart pan with the dough and prick all over with the tines of a fork. Freeze the dough for 20 minutes. Line the dough with parchment, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, and blind bake it for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment and bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the bottom no longer looks raw and wet.

Prepare the filling:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Chop the dates into very small pieces. Place them in a small bowl and add the hot coffee and baking soda and stir. Set aside until cooled.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the lemon zest and vanilla; beat until blended. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  4. Remove the mixing bowl from the machine and fold in the date mixture by hand, using a rubber spatula. Pour the filling into the prepared shell. Bake until the pudding is set, 30 to 35 minutes.

Prepare the sauce:

Combine the butter, cream, brown sugar, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has completely melted, then raise the heat to medium and simmer gently until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

Finish the tart by spreading 1 cup of the sauce over the top of the tart. Serve it immediately, drizzling a little more toffee sauce over each piece.


Makes enough for 3 to 4 8- to 9-inch tarts

Adapted from Pie It Forward

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, cold
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse together the flour, butter, and salt until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and egg. While pulsing, slowly pour this into the flour until the dough just comes together.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently turn over a few times until it is smooth, the dry ingredients have been completely integrated, and the dough holds together. Take care not to overwork it.
  4. Shape the dough into a loose circle, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
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From Al Ducci’s, Manchester, VT

  • ½ cup Arborio rice
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add rice in a rolling boil for approximately 10 minutes, then drain.
  3. Put milk in a pot and warm. Add sugar and rice.
  4. Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer. Let simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. When the milk is 80% absorbed, turn off heat. Next, add vanilla and the heavy cream. Mix well and pour into a bowl to set and cool.
  6. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Let set overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
  7. Serve at room temperature.
  8. Serve with warm Marsala-soaked currants or raisins.
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From Alison Baker and Cedar Circle Farm

At the 2011 Pumpkin Festival the farm was eager to get away from the heavy, cloying desserts most often seen in autumn. The farm’s stores were bursting with winter squash and bushels of apples that looked so good side-by-side, they decided to pair them in this twist on a classic crisp. At the farm, they get their apples from Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, or from their own trees. This recipe works well if half of the apples are the type to hold their shape, and the other half dissolve easily when cooked.

Serves 8

  • 1 cup raw whole almonds
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • ¾ cup organic cane sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups (about 1¼ to 1½ pounds) Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ⅛-inch slices
  • 6 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into ⅛-inch slices

For Topping

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup organic cane sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 200°. Place almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, approximately 40 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, sugars, vanilla extract, tapioca starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a large bowl. Add the squash and apples and toss to coat. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Cover and bake until the squash is fork tender, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely ground. Add the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and butter; pulse until crumbly.

When squash is tender, stir apple/squash mixture, remove from oven and spread topping evenly over the squash-apple mixture. Bake uncovered until crisp is light golden brown and bubbling, approximately 30 minutes.

Cool crisp slightly, allowing juices to absorb.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Note: If you use a mandolin, preparation for this dish is very quick and easy. Otherwise, slicing up the squash and apples takes some time, but larger pieces will work just as well.

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making puff pastry

Adapted from Pie It Forward

Puff pastry is called puff because it puffs! It’s true. The procedure of folding the butter in “turns,” a process known as lamination, creates alternating layers of butter encased in flour. When touched by the heat of your oven, these become puffed layers of infinite flakiness. The resulting pastry is glorious and unruly—and perfect with custards, which, at their heart, are astoundingly rich and sweet. The Quick Puff crust, with its insane buttery crispness, puts what could otherwise be over-the-top sugary creaminess in its place.

This version is called “quick” (or “blitz”) because you cut the butter into the dough instead of going through a proper lamination, as you do with Traditional Puff Pastry. You also make all the folds and turns at once instead of resting in between, as in the traditional method.

making puff pastryMakes approximately 4 pounds 11 ounces of dough

  • 2 pounds cold all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 1½ cups cold water
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and butter.

Massage the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers until the butter pieces are a bit smaller, about the size of a dime. Add the water and smoosh everything around with a wooden spoon or with your hands, coating the mixture with water (this gets terribly messy and sticky). Gently knead until the whole mess looks like it’s just barely holding together. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a loose square.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter, where the flour will continue to absorb moisture from the water and the butter. Then roll it out gently, sprinkling flour on your work surface and your rolling pin to keep everything from sticking.

Roll the dough into a rough 12-by-20-inch rectangle. Make a single fold by bringing one short edge of the dough to the midline of the rectangle, then fold the other side over on top of the first fold—just like folding a letter (that’s why this process is also called a letter fold)! Turn the dough 90°, roll the dough out again to the same size rectangle and make another letter fold. Do this twice more, to make 4 folds and turns in total. This is a holy mess until you get to the last turn. Bits are going to plop off willy-nilly. Don’t worry. Just be patient. Shove the errant dough chunks back into the whole and persevere!

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before using.


Delicate crusts like Quick Puff often slough down around the edges during blind baking. Here’s a trick to prevent this from happening: Lay a sheet of parchment on top of your chilled dough in the pie plate; then, instead of weighing down with pie weights, stack another like-size pie plate on top. Flip the two sandwiched pie plates over onto a sheet pan and bake the crust, upside down, for 20 minutes.

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apple pie

Adapted from Pie It Forward

This is a glorious, tall apple pie! But it’s possible to make any pie into a miniature beauty, or even a pie pop. This pie is particularly tasty because it contains the perfect combination—slightly tart Vermont apples laced with a touch of Vermont maple, topped with Vermont cheddar and tucked into a flaky Vermont butter crust (at least I use Vermont butter). Whether you make it tiny or large, you get the perfect amount of each ingredient in each bite.

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • ¼ batch Quick Puff Pastry (see recipe on page 26)
  • 10 tart apples, such as Vermont Crispin
  • ½ cup Vermont maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup finely shredded extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese
  • Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water)

Prepare the crust:

Divide the dough into two pieces, one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger portion into a rough 11-inch round.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with the dough, leaving a slight overhang. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Roll the second piece of dough into a 10-inch round (you want this to be slightly larger than a traditional top crust since it has to fit over the large mound of apples). Using a 1-inch round cutter (I use a small apple cookie cutter for the task), cut a vent hole in the middle of the dough. Cover the top crust dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare the filling:

Core the apples and cut them into ½-inch to 1-inch cubes. Toss these in a bowl with the maple sugar, flour and salt until evenly coated.

Assemble the pie:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the Crust Dust (see Note) in an even layer over the bottom crust. Pile the apples into the bottom crust, mounding them highest in the middle. Sprinkle the cheddar in an even layer over the apples. Place the top crust over the apples and crimp the bottom and top crust edges together.

Brush the top of the crust with the egg wash.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown.

Note: Crust Dust is Gesine’s secret weapon against soggy crust bottoms. It is equal parts granulated sugar and all-purpose flour. She keeps a container of it on her counter and sprinkles a tablespoon or two on the bottom crust before adding her filling.


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Adapted from Pie It Forward

A pithivier is the original double-crust pie. Frankly it’s the best double-crust pie because what’s better than luscious almond frangipane smooshed between two delectable rounds of puff pastry? Still thinking about that? That’s right! Nothing!

Makes one 10-inch pastry

  • ¼ batch Quick Puff Pastry (see recipe on page 26)
  • 5 ounces almond paste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
  • Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water)

Prepare the crust:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

Divide the puff pastry in half and roll each piece into a 10-inch round approximately ⅛ inch thick. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Prepare the filling:

Place the almond paste in a food processor and pulse until the paste is broken apart. Add the butter, flour and egg, and process until smooth.

Assemble the pithivier:

Place the first round of dough on the prepared sheet pan. Brush the edge of the dough with the egg wash and mound the frangipane on top, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Fan the pear slices on top of the frangipane.

Place the second round over the first and press down on the edges so that they adhere. Using a sharp knife, cut the edges of the pastry to create a fluted edge. Pierce the center of the pastry to create a steam hole and then, using the same sharp knife, score the pastry, starting at the steam hole and gently etching a curved line to the edge of the pastry. Repeat this curve evenly around the pastry.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry has puffed and is a deep golden brown.

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berry galette

Adapted from Pie It Forward

A galette is a free-form pie, a lovely round of dough, its center piled high with fruity goodness and its edges simply tucked up and over to form a makeshift dam to keep that goodness from flowing out. This galette takes advantage of the bounty of New England berries freshly picked from the vines or frozen and preserved for the winter. Because frozen berries hold more moisture, Gesine says to take more time in the beginning process of combining the fruits over heat to make sure the mixture thickens properly.

Makes one 12-inch galette

  • ⅛ to ¼ batch Quick Puff Pastry
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 pint black raspberries
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons water)
  • 2 tablespoons sanding or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the pastry into a rough 14-inch round and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Dock (prick it gently all over with the tines of a fork) the middle of the dough and refrigerate it for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, combine the rhubarb, cranberries, sugar, zest and vanilla. Cook until the fruit juices start flowing and start to simmer.

Ladle approximately ¼ cup of the juices from the pot into a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch. Pour the mixture back into the pot and stir it into the fruit until combined. Bring the mixture to a simmer and gently stir in the black raspberries and strawberries. Set the pot aside to cool.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and spoon the filling into the middle of the round, leaving a border of about 1 inch uncovered all around. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, leaving the majority of the fruit exposed, creating pleats as you go along.

Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the exposed dough. Sprinkle the entire top with sanding or turbinado sugar. As an insurance policy, I’ll place a cake ring the same size as the galette around the sides to provide extra stability and keep everything tidy. Bake the galette for 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

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John Vitko and Sarina Gulisano use blueberries that they grow in front of their house in Warren, Vermont, to make the jammy syrup that gets swirled into this refreshing lemon ice cream.

Makes 1 quart

1 pint organic blueberries, rinsed and dried
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 lemon
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream

Combine the berries with ¼ cup of the sugar and a splash of water in a small, stainless saucepot. Cook the berries and sugar over medium heat, mashing the berries with a potato masher, until they release their juice and the syrup starts to bubble. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning and cook until the syrup is thickened slightly; cool completely.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks, the remaining sugar and the juice from the lemon (about 4 tablespoons) in a stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until pale yellow and thickened.

Combine the milk, heavy cream and the zest from the lemon (about 2 tablespoons) in a double boiler. Stirring constantly to prevent burning, heat the milk and cream to 130° (you can use a digital thermometer to take the temperature).

With the mixer on low, add the hot milk and cream into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Return the egg-cream mixture back to the double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches 175°.

Immediately pour the custard base through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl placed in an ice-water bath. Cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Pour the base into an ice cream machine; freeze. Layer with the blueberry syrup; freeze again to set.

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