Oranges with Caramel, Ginger and Mint





Growing up in Europe, the Cook Sisters have childhood memories of Christmas dinner ending with a fiery plum pudding. It was made a year ahead of time, then steamed for a couple of hours before arriving at the table doused with flaming rum and served up warm with rum butter and Christmas crackers. The fact that we never actually liked the pudding itself never stopped this Old World tradition from being our favorite part of the meal. Scroll forward a few decades, and today we have our own traditions. We offer up this dessert for consideration. It makes a great dinner-party dessert because it’s not heavy, and it’s healthy, which leaves diners feeling virtuous. What could be better to end a Christmas dinner? Don’t answer that. Just enjoy this. We demoed this for Brookside back in 2011. 

oranges5 seedless oranges, such as navel
2 T crystalized ginger
1/3 C sugar
8-10 mint leaves (optional)

Zest one orange and reserve. Trim oranges of their skin and white pith; reserve top and bottom for juice. Cut trimmed orange in half lengthwise and remove core. Lay the halves flat and cut into half-moons. Arrange orange slices on a platter. Using a small paring knife, dice crystalized ginger; mix with orange zest and scatter over orange slices. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat 2 T water and the sugar until they begin to boil. Turn the heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes until sugar turns to medium brown; remove from heat. Carefully drizzle caramelized sugar over prepared orange slices; the sugar will bubble and sizzle and harden in place. Squeeze juice from reserved orange ends over the caramel. Scatter mint over all and serve within an hour for maximum crunchiness.

Rhubarb Tart with Orange Glaze

1 C fresh orange juice
1 T fresh lime juice
2/3 C sugar
3-4 large rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced diagonally
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4-ounces package), thawed
grated orange zest
crystalized ginger, julienned

Preheat oven to 400̊F with rack in middle. Stir together orange juice, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl. Add rhubarb and let stand, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut pastry in half lengthwise; arrange pastry rectangles side by side on an ungreased large baking sheet. Make a ½-inch border around each pastry rectangle by lightly scoring a line parallel to each edge (do not cut all the way through). Prick pastry inside border all over with a fork. Strain rhubarb mixture, reserving liquid. Top 1 pastry rectangle (within border) with half of rhubarb, overlapping slices slightly. Repeat with remaining pastry and rhubarb. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden (underside of pastry should also be golden), about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, boil reserved rhubarb liquid in a small saucepan, skimming foam if necessary, until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer tarts to a rack. Brush rhubarb and pastry with glaze and sprinkle with zest and ginger.

Eight servings.

Persimmon Folly

It’s a variation on Raspberry Fool, so we’re calling it Persimmon Folly.  As simple as getting out your beater and splitting a ripe persimmon or two in half, putting together this luscious dessert takes about 10 minutes.  Pop it in the refrigerator and bring it out effortlessly at meal’s end, along with after-dinner coffee.  We did just this Sunday evening and the Folly was a hit way out of proportion to its preparation.  One thing we all have agreed upon over the years, the decision to plant an Asian persimmon tree in full view of the front porch and the parlor-come-front-office window was no folly. In October, the tree’s foliage gleams brilliant shades of gold and orange, deepening to a pinkish red before tumbling with a dancer’s grace.  A lot of the leaves fall into the adjacent frog pond.  And what I don’t have a picture of yet is what the tree looks like when all the leaves finally are gone – to expose the dazzling fruit, hanging like so many incandescent Christmas ornaments from the elegant little tree. 

Late-season frog amid floating persimmon leaves

Late-season frog amid floating persimmon leaves

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Honey Ingots

photo tresbonbon

A meld of ground nuts and honey, these addictive little French cakes are called “financiers,” (ingot) for their golden sheen and traditional rectangular shape.  A muffin tin is a more commonly available alternative. This recipe produces about 20 mini-muffins; they freeze well. They are served after a meal with coffee.

6 T butter
1/3 C honey
1 C blanched almonds, pine-nuts, hazelnuts or a combination of light-colored nuts
1/3 C sugar
3 T flour
1/4 t salt
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
extra butter for the muffin pan

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and simmer gently until it begins to turn brown and smell nutty, about two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the honey. In a food processor, combine the nuts and sugar and process until the nuts are finely ground; add the flour and salt, pulse to combine. Pour in the butter-honey mixture and pulse to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time, or the egg whites one-half at a time, pulsing each time to mix well. Pour the batter into a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour and up to a day. To bake, preheat oven to 350. Prepare the mini-muffin tins by buttering lavishly. Remove the bagged batter from the refrigerator and with scissors snip a corner of the bag to form an opening about 1/4 to 1/2-inch. Pipe the batter into the muffin tin, filling each mold about two-thirds up. Bake 16-20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool before trying to unmold. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. The cakes will keep four or five days in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

Lemon Custard Cakes


Not really a cake but more dense and textured than custard, this is an aptly-named recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. Serves 6

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for custard cups
3 large eggs, separated
½ C granulated sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
2-3 t grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
1/4 C lemon juice
1 C milk
1/4 t salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Set a kettle of water to boil. Butter six 6-ounce custard cups and place in a baking dish or roasting pan, lined with a dish towel to anchor the ramekins. In a large bowl, whisk or beat egg yolks and sugar until light; add flour. Gradually add lemon juice, then milk and zest. Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Add to lemon batter and fold in gently with a whisk (batter will be quite liquid). Divide batter among prepared custard cups; place baking dish in oven and fill with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of cups. Bake until puffed and lightly browned (but pudding is still visible in bottom), 15 to 20 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Apple-Fig Crisp


3/4 C plus 1 T flour
2/3 C plus 2 T golden brown sugar, packed
1½ t pumpkin pie spice, such as Penzey’s, divided
6 T chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 C pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/4 C chopped dried figs (about 6 oz.) — Black Mission preferable
1/4 C brandy
4 medium apples, peeled, cored, sliced ½-inch thick

Prepare the topping: mix together 3/4 C flour, 2/3 C sugar, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice. Rub in butter until mixture forms moist clumps; mix in pecans. (Topping can be made 1-2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate). Combine the figs and brandy in a bowl; let stand at least 30 minutes. (Mixture can also be made 1-2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate). Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and 8x8x2 inch glass baking dish. Mix apple slices with remaining 1 T flour, 2 T sugar and 1 t spice. Add fig mixture. Transfer mixture to baking dish, sprinkle with topping and bake 40 minutes. Cover loosely with foil and continue to bake until apples are very tender, about 20 minutes more.


Persimmon Pudding

If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.  This is from Martha Stewart’s Christmas book.  Unlike some of her recipes, it’s unfussy.  It’s also a very reliable recipe and always delicious.  Persimmon pudding has become a holiday tradition in our household, so much so that Adrienne now has a mature persimmon tree in her yard, from which she dispenses an abundance of persimmons to all who want some.

3 large ripe persimmons, washed and green crowns removed
½ C sugar
1/3 C veg oil
4 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
2 t cinnamon

Oil 3-quart pudding mold. Mash persimmons in a food processor or blender. In a
large bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and beat until fluffy; add persimmon
pulp. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; add to
persimmon mixture and beat until smooth. Pour into pudding mold. Cover pudding
mold with parchment, then foil so it is tightly sealed. Place on rack in large pot
and add boiling water until it comes halfway up the mold. Cover with a lid and
steam on low heat for three hours, adding water as needed (I actually never had to
add water). After three hours, turn off heat and let everything cool, then remove
pudding container from water bath and invert it onto serving platter. Serve with
lemon sauce.