Category Archives: Dessert

Raspberry Almond Cake Bars

I love the flavor of almond in baked goods. Frangipane, marzipan, almond paste, shaved almonds – however the almond flavor gets in there is fine with me – so it should come as no surprise that my favorite flour to bake with is almond flour. I love the richness that it adds to baked goods, and because of the natural oils from the almonds, you use less fat in your recipes. A few years ago, I tried a Bakewell tart with frangipane, raspberry jam and icing. The tart, which originated in England, was delicious, but little too sweet and rich for my taste. I loved the combination of flavors but wanted a lighter version, so I decided to create my own. The bottom layer is a crispy shortbread crust, the filling is a raspberry jam, and the top is a moist almond cake made with olive oil and Meyer lemon zest. These bars are perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a late-night snack. Enjoy!

Raspberry Almond Cake Bars

Yield: 9 large bars or 16 small bars

Non-stick baking spray


Shortbread Cookie Crust

1 stick of unsalted cold butter, cut into 16 cubes

1/4 cup of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour


Almond Cake Layer

1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

3 ounces of almond flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of almond extract

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of whole sour cream

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest



1/2 cup of raspberry jam (Bonne Maman is my preferred brand)

1/2 teaspoon of organic cornstarch



1/8 cup of toasted sliced almonds

Organic confectioners sugar for dusting, optional



1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan with non-stick spray.

2. To make the shortbread, add the butter pieces into a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed for 1 minute.


3. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes until creamy. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Beat until just combined.

4. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add 1 cup of the flour. Mix until most of flour has been absorbed by the butter-sugar mixture.


5. Using your hands, press down on the shortbread so the mixture comes together.


6. Transfer to the greased pan and press down evenly to create the shortbread crust. Using the tines of the fork, create holes throughout the crust.


7. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes

8. While the shortbread is baking, add 1/2 cup of flour to a medium bowl. Whisk in 3 ounces of almond flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.


9. In a large bowl, whisk the 2 eggs and the sugar until combined. Add the almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whisk again.


10. Add the sour cream and olive oil and whisk until smooth.


11. Add the flour mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula until no lumps are present. Set aside.


12. Remove the par-baked shortbread from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes.


13. Increase the temperature of the oven to 350°.

14. Add the cornstarch to the raspberry jam and whisk well.


15. Spread the jam evenly over the shortbread, leaving 1/4″ border.


16. Carefully spoon the cake mixture over the jam and smooth out with a rubber spatula.


17. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds.


18. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Use a toothpick to test the center for doneness.


19. Cool on a wired rack for about 1 hour before cutting. Dust with confectioners sugar.


20. Serve with coffee or tea. Leftovers keep well in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.


Pecan Malt Syrup Tart

Of all the wonderful pies I’ve had over my life, my favorite from back when I was a child is pecan pie. This southern classic has to be one of the sweetest pies I have ever eaten, and I recall baking it middle school with a pre-made pie shell and both light and dark corn syrups. This was the default recipe one found on the side of every Karo corn syrup bottle and back then, when it came to desserts, the sweeter the better. Now as an adult, I find pecan pies to be cloyingly sweet, but I still have fond memories of the dish, so I started experimenting with ways to reduce the sugar level while maintaining the integrity and the custardy structure of the pie.

My solution is, rather than using corn syrup for the entire pie, I substitute half of it with barley malt syrup, as malt syrup has less sugar than corn syrup. Plus it has a malty flavor that I love! I also reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe and added more pecans. And of course, I made my own pie shell. Overall, the recipe is pretty easy. There is some advanced preparation required with the par-baked pie shell, but you have that ready, it’s easy as pie. I recommend you make this dish for Thanksgiving or your next holiday gathering. Enjoy!

1 par baked 10-inch tart shell (see recipe below)
2 cups of pecans, chopped
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of organic corn syrup*
1/2 cup of organic barley malt syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of unsalted melted butter, cooled
Special equipment:
10-inch tart pan
Pie weights or dried beans

1. Heat the oven to 350°

2. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Let cool.


3. In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.


4. Add in the corn syrup, malt syrup, salt, vanilla extract and melted butter and whisk until combined.


5. Put the par-baked tart shell and the pan on top of a baking sheet. In the tart shell, add cooled pecans and spread evenly.


6. Give the custard mixture a final whisk and pour over the pecans.


7. Place the pecan tart in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes (turning the tart at the halfway mark) until the center is set.


*Organic Light Corn Syrup and Barley Malt Syrup can be found in most natural foods market like Sprouts or Whole Foods.

One 10-inch Tart Shell

1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water

1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.


2. Add butter. Pulse 3 to 4 times.


3. Add water. Pulse 2 to 3 times until the dough comes together.


4. Move the dough to work station and gently knead it until it just comes together, and then form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.


5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. Heat the oven to  325°

7. Roll out the tart crust wide enough to cover the tart pan. This will be roughly be 13 inches in diameter


8. Press the crust down into the pan. Using a rolling pin, roll over the crust and to cut the portion hanging over the tart pan.


9. Place the crust and pan in the freezer for 5 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, cut out a round piece of parchment paper about 12-inch in diameter.

11. Remove the pie crust from the freezer and line the parchment paper over the crust. Add the pie weights. Par-bake for 20 minutes.

12. Once out of the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Let the shell cool completely on a wired rack.

Birthday Cupcakes with Organic Sprinkles

Whenever my 4-year old sees sprinkles on donuts or cookies at bakery, I can’t steer him away from them. I make suggestions for other healthier options, but he’s insistent on the confetti-speckled treats. He, along with most kids, are drawn to the cute little, colorful dots. The sprinkles make kids smile from ear to ear. As a mom who’s constantly looking for healthier alternatives, I try to avoid foods with artificial coloring, so I recently started using sprinkles with natural food coloring. The colors are derived from natural vegetable dyes. Although the colors are little more pale and not as vibrant, the kids don’t notice the difference.

What better time than my son’s 9th birthday to use these sprinkles. They are perfect toppers and decoration for birthday cupcakes. Here is a simple birthday cupcake recipe using the best ingredients. The frosting is light and not too sweet and the cake is moist and tender. The sprinkles add a nice crunchy texture. These cupcakes are popular with the kids, but the leftovers were a hit with the adults at my office as well. Enjoy!

Birthday Cupcakes with Organic Sprinkles

Yield: about 1 dozen

1 1/2 cups cake or pastry flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
6 tablespoons of unsalted organic butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup of organic sugar
2 large organic egg whites
1 large organic egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/3 cup of low fat organic milk
Vanilla bean frosting (recipe below)
3 oz of organic or natural dye sprinkles*

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.


3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides.


4. Reduce the speed to low. Add the egg whites one at a time, and then the whole egg, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Scrape.


5. Alternate 1/2 of the flour and then 1/2 of the milk. Repeat. Stop the mixer once the batter is just combined.


6. Remove the bowl off the mixer. Fold in 2 oz of the sprinkles.


7. Using a large ice cream scoop, divide the batter into the cupcake liners. (Make sure you level out the batter evenly to the top, no more and no less to ensure perfect size for icing.)


8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean.


9. Cool on a wire rack until cool before frosting.


10. Using an off-set spatula, spread a generous amount of vanilla bean frosting on each cupcake. Decorate with the remaining sprinkles.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

1 cup of unsalted organic butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3 cups of organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1. On a stand mixer on medium speed, add the butter, salt and vanilla bean seeds. Beat for 2 minutes.


2. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, making sure that the sugar is incorporated before adding the next 1/2 cup.


3. Add the vanilla extract and increase the speed to medium and beat until cream about 1-2 minutes. The frosting should be light and fluffy.


4. Place in an airtight container and keep at room temperature until ready to use.


*India Tree and Sprinkels brand offers sprinkles with natural dyes.


Peach Cobbler

Summer is my favorite time to visit the farmers market because of all the stone fruits that are in season. Nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots – all of them are plentiful everywhere you turn. They are ripe, sweet, juicy and tart; in other words, they’re perfect for making warm cobblers!

Cobblers are baked fruit desserts that have a shortcrust, crumble or biscuit topping. I have tried many different versions of cobbler and my favorite combination is peach cobbler with a biscuit-like topping. In this recipe, I sprinkle crystallized sugar on the biscuit topping, which makes the crust crispy on the top but still moist above the cooked fruit. Since this recipe uses less sugar than most other cobbler recipes, it is important use ripe and sweet peaches. Serve the cobbler with some good vanilla bean ice cream and you’ll have a wonderful summer treat! Enjoy!

Peach Cobbler

Serves 9-12

6 cups sliced ripe, yellow peaches (1/2 inch thick slices)
1/3 cup of sugar + 1/4 cup of  sugar
1 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (divided in half)
3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 cubes
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon of heavy cream
Crystallized or turbinado sugar, for topping
Vanilla bean ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, add the sliced peaches, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to combine. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, add the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Pulse 3 to 4 times.

4. Add the cubes of butter. Pulse 5-6 more times or until the mixture is pea-sized chunks. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

5. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla extract to the dry mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in carefully until just combined. Set aside.

6. Grease a 9 x 9 square baking pan with a non-stick spray. Give the peach mixture a quick stir. Pour filling into the pan.

7. Spoon the crust mixture in evenly-spaced dollops on top of the peaches.


8. Brush the crust with heavy cream. Generously sprinkle the crystallized sugar on top.

9. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. (Check the cobbler at the 20 minute mark. If the cobbler browns too quickly, you can cover it with aluminum foil.) Cool for at least 20 minutes.

10. Spoon into a bowl and serve with a large scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.


Mini Berry Tarts

Fruit tarts are delightful summertime treats, with the combination of rich pastry cream, crispy tart shell, and seasonal berries, creating a wonderful taste and texture sensation in your mouth. The crust is crispy with hint of salt, the pastry cream is sweet, smooth and creamy, and the berries add a lovely tart flavor. Because making fruit tarts is such a production, I reserve making them for special occasions. With blue and red berries in season, what better time than the 4th of July to make these lovely treats!

A typical fruit tart shell is made with pâte sablée, a rich French crust that resembles a shortbread cookie in flavor and consistency. For my tarts, I use a graham cracker crust recipe, which is more crispy and golden in color. It holds up well to the pastry cream without getting soggy. It also has just enough salt to balance out the sweetness. The pastry cream recipe has Grand Mariner and orange zest to add a hint of orange flavor. Make the pastry cream and the tart shells a day in advance so you can just assemble the fruit tarts the day of serving. This recipe makes 12 mini fruit tarts, perfect for a family gathering. Enjoy!

Mini Berry Tarts

Yield: 12 mini tarts

1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Grand Marnier pastry cream (recipe follows)
12 mini graham cracker tart shells (recipe follows)
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of fresh blueberries
Superfine sugar for sprinkling, optional

1) in a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until your mixture gets to medium peaks.



2) Fold 2/3 of the mixture into the pastry cream. Fold carefully so as not to deflate the whipped cream. Reserve the remaining portion in the refrigerator for decoration.


3) Using a small ice cream scoop (just shy of 1/8 cup), portion out the pastry cream to each of the tart shells.


4) Arrange the berries on top of the pastry cream. Sprinkle a little sugar, if using.


5) Take the remaining whipped cream out of the refrigerator. Place a star tip on a pastry bag and add the whipped cream, decorating the fruit tarts with stars. Serve immediately or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.



Graham Cracker Tart Shells
(Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s Recipe)

Yield: 12 mini tart shells

1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/8 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of honey

1) In a medium bowl, add both types of flour, salt and cinnamon.


2) In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add the butter, both types of sugar, and the honey. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula.


3) Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the flour mixture. Beat well until there is no visible flour.


4) Scrape the dough and transfer onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and double wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.


5) Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator.

6) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

7) Dust a workstation lightly with flour. Roll the dough into 1/8″ thickness. Using a round 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles. Carefully transfer each circle to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.


8) While the dough circles are being chilled, grease 12 mini tart pans* with cooking spray. Heat the oven to 325°.

9) After 10 minutes, take out the cut dough from the refrigerator. Quickly press each of the circles into the tart shells. Using a fork, make several pricks in the dough, even on the sides.


10) Transfer the tart pans onto a baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer for 5 minutes.

11) Remove the tart shells from the freezer. Place them directly into the oven and bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.


12) Cool in the tart pans for 10 minutes. Tap the bottom of each tart pan to remove the tart shells. Cool completely on a wired rack. The tart shells can be made a day in advance and placed in an airtight container.


*Use mini tart pans with a 2″ base and the rim 3″. If you don’t have mini tart pans, you can use muffin tins. Just make sure you line the muffin tins with 2″ parchment paper circles.


Grand Marnier Pastry Cream

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

3 large egg yolks
1/3 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, optional
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

1) In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed for about five minutes. The consistency will be thick and the color will be light yellow.


2) Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, add the milk and the vanilla bean with seeds. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.


3) After five minutes, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the cornstarch. Beat until the cornstarch is no longer visible.


4) Keeping the mixer on low, add the boiled milk mixture in a slow stream. Make sure you don’t pour too quickly or the mixture will curdle.


5) Transfer the entire mixture back to the medium sauce pan. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir.


6) Add the Grand Marnier and orange zest and swap out the rubber spatula for a whisk. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Once the mixture boils in the center, cook for 1 more minute. The mixture should be thick like pudding.



7) Pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and place over a medium glass bowl. Using a rubber spatula, press down the pastry cream mixture. You should get a smooth and shiny pastry cream in the bowl. Whisk in the butter.



8) Place a plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to avoid a skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to cool. This mixture could be made a day in advance.


Sour Cherry Pie

Sour cherries are extremely hard to acquire here in Southern California. They’re coveted by many pastry chefs at the farmers market because they are great for baking and due to the limited supply. Your best options are to pre-order them or to have them shipped to you from Oregon or Utah. Personally, I haven’t had much luck with sour cherries the past few years but I scored some last week at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I bought just enough to make one pie. I explained to my son that a sour cherry pie is a seasonal treat and that it is important to use the best ingredients when making them.

For this pie, I used Grist and Toll’s pie crust recipe. Grist and Toll is a local flour mill in Pasadena that produces high quality flour worthy of such a special treat. Typically I use my own pie dough recipe, but the owner encouraged me to try her recipe and I was pleased with the results. The recipe calls for their Sonora wheat flour. One important thing to note is that the crust browns more quickly then other pie crust recipes, so it is important to keep an eye on the pie and tent it early enough in the baking process to prevent it from burning before the contents of the pie are completely cooked. The only two changes that I made to the pie crust recipe are: 1) I added one additional tablespoon of sugar, and 2) I used a food processor instead of cutting in the butter by hand.

When you buy sour cherries, you can pit them and freeze them until you are ready to use them. They freeze beautifully. This is a great pie for Father’s Day or for the Fourth of July. And if you can’t acquire sour cherries this year, there’s always next year. Enjoy!

Sour Cherry Pie

Yields one 9-inch deep dish pie (about 8 slices)

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped for seeds
6 cups of sour cherries or tart mountain cherries (washed and pitted)*
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 Grist and Toll’s double-crusted pie crust recipe or your favorite pie crust recipe**
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar crystals
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to  375° .

2. Place the cherries and lemon juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pour the dry mixture over the cherries. Stir to combine. Set aside.


3. In a lightly floured workstation, roll out the first pie crust dough into a 12″ inch wide circle, 1/4″ thickness. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t soften. Gently roll the pie crust around your rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, draping it over the edges as you unroll it. Press the pie crust down into the dish and cut off any excess crust. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.


4. Place a large piece of parchment paper on your workstation and lightly dust with flour. Roll out the second piecrust dough into large circle, a little bit larger than the last piece. Go a little thinner than 1/4″ thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel or a pizza wheel, cut into 1″ strips. You should have about 12-14 strips. Place the strips in the freezer for about 5 minutes and remove.


5. Remove the pie dish from the refrigerator. Give the cherry mixture a quick stir and pour into the pie crust. Place 6 to 7 vertical strips on the pie, all in the same direction.


6. You will weave the remaining strips in one strip at a time, horizontally, to make it look like an Easter basket.


7. Cut excess dough on the edge. You don’t want the edges to be doughy when baked. Fold over the edge and seal the pie crust. Then crimp the edges using your forefinger from one hand and your thumb and forefinger from the other.


8. Place the pie in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

9. Using a pastry brush, brush the heavy cream all over the lattice top. Sprinkle with the crystal sugar.


10. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

11. After 30 minutes, tent the edges of the pie with foil to prevent it from browning too fast.

12. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove the tent and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Remove the pie out of the oven place on cooling rack for about 1 hour before slicing. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

* Finding sour cherries may be difficult. Try the farmers market or order them from your local cherry farmer if possible. If you have no other options, you can use frozen tart cherries, but you may need to increase the cornstarch a bit.

** If using the Grist and Toll pie crust recipe, you can make it in the food processor. See pictures below. You want to add all the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and pulse 6-8 times. Add the water vinegar mixture and pulse a couple more times. Then transfer the entire mixture to your workstation and proceed with the recipe as written. If you choose to use another double crust pie recipe, make sure the pie crust can hold up to the juicy filling. I tend to work my piecrust dough a little bit longer to give it more structure when making cherry pies. You still want the piecrust to be flaky and not tough.

Strawberry Frangipane Tart

Frangipane is an almond filling used in French pastries, most commonly found in almond croissants. I absolutely love frangipane because it is only mildly sweet for a custard-like filling and it brings out the best in almonds. Frangipane also compliments seasonal fruits well, especially in tarts. Strawberries at your local farmers market are at the peak of their sweetness right now, so what better time to make a strawberry frangipane tart!

This strawberry frangipane tart is beautiful enough to serve at dinner party, but casual enough to whip up for Sunday brunch at home. It is also a forgiving recipe, because the tart crust is free-form – that is, there is no need for a special tart pan and no need to create perfect edges. The crust is very flaky and crumbly, which balances the texture of the fillings. Also, the frangipane helps absorb the natural juices from the strawberries, which results in jammy strawberries in this tart recipe. When strawberries are not in season, you can use this recipe with other fruits like stone fruits or apples. Happy baking!
Strawberry Frangipane Tart

1 tart – 6 servings

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
3/8 cup of granulated sugar (divided into 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt (divided into 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of ice water
3/4 cup of ground almonds
1/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch
3 ounces of butter (room temperature)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
1 pint of ripe strawberries (washed, hulled, and cut in half)
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of raw sugar or crystal sugar for sprinkling
1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.


2. Add butter. Pulse 3-4 times.


3. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.


4. Move the dough to your work station, then gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.


5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. To make the frangipane, spread the ground almonds on a small baking sheet. Bake at 300° for eight minutes. Cool.


7. Place the cooled ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in the food processor. Pulse 5-6 times.


8. Add the butter and pulse 3-4 times.

9. Add the egg and extracts and process until smooth.


10. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

11. To make the tart, remove the tart dough from the refrigerator. Remove the frangipane from the refrigerator.

12. Preheat the oven to 400°.

13. Dust a little flour on the work station. Roll the tart dough to a 13-inch circle.


14. Transfer dough on to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the dough in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

15. Spread frangipane all over the dough up to 1 1/2 inch around the edge. (You will have extra frangipane. You can spread the rest on brioche bread or croissants and bake until golden brown)


16. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, until all the frangipane is covered.


17. Fold the edges of the tart dough over the strawberries, creating a pleat as you fold them over.


18. Brush the edges with heavy cream.


19. Sprinkle the edges with the raw sugar. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the strawberries.


20. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes. Cut a slice and serve.


Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

First of the season cherries have arrived in California! Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, in part because the season is so short. Since cherries aren’t available at the market year-round, they feel extra special when they become available. When they’re in season, I especially like to bake them in desserts like muffins and pies. A good cherry pie is crispy and flaky with a nice golden color. When I think back to my first cherry pie experience, oddly enough, it was at McDonald’s.

Back in the 80’s, McDonald offered two different pie options: cherry and apple. They were delicious, deep-fried, individual hand pies. My mom would buy me one after ballet or choir performances and it always made me smile. McDonald’s cherry pie inspired me to make own version, but with a couple changes: my pie is baked instead of fried, and also has ricotta added to cut down on the sweetness. The dough is flaky and the crystal sugar adds a little crunch. There are some steps required before assembling the pies, so please read the entire recipe before you start. Also, you can prepare the pie crust a day in advanced. Enjoy!

Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

Yields: 4 hand pies


1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water
2 cups of pitted red cherries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
8 ounces of ricotta, drained overnight in cheese cloth
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg, beaten (divided in half)
2 teaspoons of whole milk
Sugar crystals for sprinkling

1. To make the pie crust, place flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 3-4 times.

3. Add butter, pulse 3-4 times.

4. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.

5. Move the dough to work station, gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.

6. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

7. To make the cherry filling, add cherries to a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium.


8. Cover pan with lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt. Remove lid and stir in the dry mixture until no lumps are visible.

10. Add lemon juice and cook for 2 more minutes.

11. Remove from heat and cool completely. Set aside.

12. To make the ricotta filling, add the ricotta, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and 1/2 of the beaten egg in a small bowl. Stir until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

13. Take the other half of the beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of milk and whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

14. It’s time to assemble the pies. Lightly dust a work station with flour. Roll out pastry dough until 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into 4 inch squares.


15. Add a tablespoon of ricotta filling and a tablespoon of cherry filling on top. Brush with egg wash around the perimeter. Fold over and seal, making a rectangle. Using the tines of a fork to press along the edges to secure the seal.

16. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other four hand pies. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

17. Preheat on oven to 350°. Remove the hand pies from the freezer and score 3 diagonal lines on top of each pie. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar crystals generously on each hand pie. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until nice and golden brown. Place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Mini Blackberry Cobblers

When I think of blackberry cobbler, Cynthia’s Restaurant (now defunct) on 3rd in Los Angeles comes to mind. Like many, I used to frequent the restaurant just for their famous blackberry cobbler, however, the owner was not too keen on diners who didn’t eat their entire meal (appetizer, entree and dessert) at the restaurant. The problem was, aside from their boneless fried chicken and their cobbler, everything else was mediocre at best. The restaurant survived as long as it did because of their blackberry cobbler, but in the end, their one famous desert could not save the restaurant. When the restaurant closed their doors, I was pretty bummed.

This easy blackberry cobbler recipe is a tribute to Cynthia’s version. The mini cobblers are made in tall, individual ramekins, and meant to be shared like the ones they served at the restaurant. My version has a crumble made with roasted, ground almonds and locally milled Sonora wheat flour, giving the dessert a nice nutty flavor. This recipe makes 3 mini cobblers either in 1 cup ramekins highlighting the berries or in shallow creme brûlée ramekins with a more even crumble-berry ratio. Either way, there is plenty of crumble topping for the cobblers. Also, you can substitute the blackberries with other berries or make mixed berry cobblers. Add your favorite vanilla ice cream on top, and you have a warm and cold comforting sweet dessert.

Mini Blackberry Cobblers

Yields: 3 mini cobblers (6 servings)

4 1/2 cups of fresh blackberries (washed and dried)
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of organic corn starch
2 teaspoon of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 recipe of crumble topping (recipe below)
Your favorite vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375 °.

2. Place blackberries in a medium mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice. Toss to coat the berries evenly.


3. Divide the berries evenly among 3 ramekins (either the tall 1 cup ramekins or the shallow creme brûlée ramekins).


4. Top the berries with a generous amount of crumble. You may have some crumble mixture left-over.


5. Place the cobblers on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Check after 25 minutes. You want a nice golden brown crumble and the juices from the berries bubbling and overflowing. Remove from the oven and placed on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.


6. Serve warm with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.



Crumble Topping

3/4 cup of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of ground roasted almonds*
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
5 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/4″ cubes

1. In a medium bowl, add the flour, ground almonds, brown sugar, and salt. Stir well with a whisk or fork.


2. Add the cold butter to the dry mixture. Using your clean hands, incorporate the butter into the dry mixture by rubbing them between your fingers. You should get nice little clumps of dough.


3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

*To make the roasted ground almonds, place 2/3 cups of whole raw almonds on a baking sheet. Roast for about 7 minutes. Cool. Pulse in a food processor until you get a coarse ground texture. Measure out 1/2 cup for this recipe.