Baking · Italian · Mediterranean

Flatbread dough

This is a very versatile and easy dough for flatbreads, pizzas or strombolis. The beauty is there is no kneading required.

You will need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2/3 cup warm water


  • Coat a medium bowl with olive oil and set aside
  • . In a food processor or in another bowl with your hands, combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.
  • Add warm water and olive oil and combine until the dough forms.
  • Shape into a ball and place in the oiled bowl. Roll around lightly until it is lightly covered.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and cover with a dish towel in a dark, warm place for 45-60 minutes until it has doubled in size.
Baking · Holiday

Almond Crescent Cookies

These are the classic Christmas cookie that I grew up with and this is my great-grandmother’s recipe. The recipe itself could possibly go further back.

While many families get nostalgic about sugar cookies or their specific treats, these were the cookies that we prized the most in my family. My mother was the master at this, and always made them well in advance of her mother’s Christmas Eve party. It was difficult work hiding them from us, and I remember scouring cupboards, sewing tins, and the deep freezer in a vain attempt to find them. In truth, they symbolize a lot for me – the work my mother put in, my grandmother’s amazing Christmas Eve family party where our extended relatives rolled up in car after car. We were so happy to see each other and be around our cousins, aunts and uncles. This was a time when video cameras were not an economic reality for most. A few pictures exist, but what remains is mostly in my mind. I don’t remember a lot of the food that was served (although I am certain there was a massive amount), because I was focused only one thing – my utter excitement at seeing those cookies on the plate and finally being allowed to eat them. We never ran out, despite all of those people – no doubt due to my mother’s insanely good hiding skills.

Supposedly the crescent shape is to symbolize victory over the Turks, but who knows? What I do know is that I miss the bygone era of dressing your best, and celebrating your whole extended family without the distraction of phones and television. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were so very fortunate to have one another.

I’ve seen many iterations of this cookie, and even ones where you dip the ends in chocolate. I hope you pardon my insistence that the old way is the best way – at least for me. Sometimes simplicity is the best way, because it connects me to a time and place that lives only in my heart and memories. It’s also really delicious.


  1. 2 cups cake flour or soft flour (White Lily)
  2. 1 pinch salt
  3. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  4. 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  5. 3/4 cup almond flour
  6. 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped into the dough


  1. Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the rest of ingredients util a crumbly dough forms. If the dough is too crumbly, add 1-2 tbs water
  2. Use your hands and press the dough together and wrap in plastic wrap.
  3. Chill the dough for an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
  5. Break off the dough in to the size of a small walnut and roll into small cylinders and taper the ends into dull points. Each should be the length and thickness of your pinkie finger. Bend into a crescent shape and place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake for 14 -17 minutes until edges are golden. They should not brown. Dust with vanilla powdered sugar while slightly warm. When cool, dust again or roll them around in sugar.

*Pro tip -if you find it tricky to roll between your hands, cover a board with plastic wrap and roll the pieces against the plastic, using the heel of your hand

*Pro tip – Place two vanilla pods in your container for powdered sugar to infuse it with more flavor.

Baking · Holiday

Amaretti (Gluten Free)

Amaretti are classic Italian cookies. There are many iterations – this one is soft, light and airy with a slightly crunchy outer layer. You can forgo the powdered sugar at the end for a more traditional biscotti to have with your coffee in the morning. This version is powdered and decadent for the holidays. It is also gluten-free, so it is a great alternative to other holiday cookies out there.


  1. 5 egg whites
  2. one pinch of salt
  3. 5 cups almond flour
  4. 2 cups sugar, divided
  5. 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  6. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1 tsp almond extract
  8. 2 tsp lemon zest* (optional)


  1. Separate 5 egg whites into a bowl, then add a pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  2. Sift 5 cups of almond flour with 1 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar into a bowl.
  3. Add about 1/3 of the almond flour mixture into the egg whites and fold it in gently with a spatula. Do this very gently so you do not knock the air out.
  4. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp of almond extract to the mixture and then quickly fold it in.
  5. Add the second third of the almond flour mixture to the egg whites and gently fold it in.
  6. Add in the remaining third of the almond flour mixture and fold it in one last time. At this point, the cookie dough should have a thick paste like texture.
  7. Scoop out mounds of the cookie dough and place them onto a plate of the remaining granulated sugar. Roll the scoop of cookie dough into the sugar, then take it into your hands and round it out to a ball.
  8. Drop the ball into a bowl of powdered sugar and evenly coat it.
  9. Place the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly press each cookie with your hand. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.

Baking · Dessert

Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

This recipe actually derived from an accident. I was attempting to make a chocolate peppermint cake, and added way too much chocolate. At the time, I should have realized melting chocolate and adding it to a cake would make brownies, but I was busy, and in all honesty, I still have much to learn! So, what follows is my happy accident that I found absolutely decadent and delicious.

This recipe proves that even if you have some experience and knowledge, we still can make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are actually better than what you were intending in the first place. What I have come to love about this recipe is that it is fairly easy, and not much longer to put together than a box mix; however, the flavor is so much better.

You will need:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 16 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13 pan. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Use a double boiler (or the bowl/saucepan method) and warm butter and chocolate until completely melted. Stir to combine.
  3. Whisk sugar, peppermint and vanilla until combined with butter/chocolate mixture. Whisk in eggs and buttermilk until combined. Fold in flour mixture.
  4. Pour cake batter into bans and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for an hour on wire racks before topping with whipped cream.

Baking · Dessert

Orange Almond Ricotta Cake

This is a lovely pound cake – you can use sour cream or yogurt in place of ricotta, as cheaper alternatives, or if you prefer a bit of tang in your sweets.

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ricotta, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tbs orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (2) oranges
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly roasted
  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tbs orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Step one:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and arrange slivered almonds on a baking sheet. Cook for 5 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool. Turn up the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, ricotta, and orange juice. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

Spoon the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla and orange zest together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Top with roasted almonds and powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Baking · Dessert · Mediterranean

Pistachio Cardamom Cake

This recipe is recipe based off one from Martha Stewart, although I strongly doubt she was intrinsically versed in Middle-Eastern baking. Pistachio is ever-present in Southern Italian baking, and rosewater to a certain degree, but most likely those are due to the influence of the Moors and Middle-Eastern traders.

The more I learn and read about baking and cooking, the more I believe it is important to be aware of ingredients and their origins and give credit where it is due. i.e. I can’t pretend I just “discovered” cardamom or these flavor combinations. Rather, I am already a pistachio lover and come by it honestly, but have really been enjoying baking new recipes and exploring cardamom in my desserts.

You will need:

  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • Topping
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp rose water


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan. In a food processor, grind pistachios until finely ground.
  • Prepare dry ingredients: Whisk pistachos, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom in a bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare wet ingredients: Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour in two batches, alternating with buttermilk. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  • Cool cake pan on a a wire rack set over parchment paper. After 30 minutes, turn cake out onto rack and cool completely. While the cake is cooling, whisk confectioner’s sugar,milk and and rose water until smooth. Use milk to adjust desired consistency. Pour over the top of the cake.

Baking · Dessert

Chocolate Coffee Cake

According to my mother, chocolate cake recipes are always better with coffee as an enhancing ingredient.  I think the coffee in this cake is perfect, as the flavors enhance each other and make it somehow even more chocolatey. This recipe is adapted from Barefoot Contessa, and I’ve yet to find a better recipe for rich, intense, chocolate cake than this one. If I have ever made chocolate cake for you – this is the recipe. We have used it for years, without fail.

Because it so rich, you may want to consider using minimal icing. I usually bake this in a bundt, and either top with powdered sugar or simple chocolate ganache. This is also a great chocolate layer cake, in which you may want to consider a chocolate buttercream frosting.

You will need:

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)*


  1. Preheat – preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease & Flour two 8-inch round cake pans or one bundt pan.
  2. Prepare dry Ingredients-  Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Prepare wet Ingredients – In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.  With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake – Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. If using 8 inch cake pans, bake for 26-28 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. If using a bundt pan, bake for 42-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Decorate – After the cake is completely cooled, you can decorate in a variety of ways:
    1. Simply dust with confectioner’s sugar
    2. Chocolate ganache – whisk 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tbs of cream over low-medium heat. This is good for a bundt cake.
    3. Chocolate buttercream frosting – see instructions below. This is ideal for layers.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  1. 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate
  2. 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  3. 1 egg yolk, room temp
  4. 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  5. 1 Tbs instant coffee


  1. Melt chocolate in a double broiler or in a pyrex bowl over simmering water.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes.
  3. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  4. Dissolve the coffee in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t overwhip. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
Baking · Dessert · Italian

Classic Almond Biscotti

There are many different versions of biscotti floating around on the internet, some traditional and some experimental. Some are geared more towards the American palette (think lots of chocolate and sugar) and other towards the simpler, traditional fare for coffee dunking. I tend to prefer my biscotti for drinking with my coffee and prefer to ease up on the sugar, but then again there are times a dark chocolate biscotti with orange call me like a siren. Fun fact: my all time favorite biscotti flavor is pistachio. But in the end, I truly love a classic almond, as well. I think, in the end, there is a great versatility with this recipe: they can be standalone or you can add chocolate or other elements fairly easily.

This recipe can be modified as you see fit. The alcohol provides a depth to the flavor of the cookie. Be sure to add almond extract to achieve the almond flavor.

Time: 3 hours (including chilling & cooling). Actual assembly time is around 30 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen

You will need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, unsalted & lightly toasted
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional combinations:
  • Dark or milk chocolate – you can add as chips or melt to dunk one side of the cookie when finished.
  • Roasted pistachio (1 cup) & dried cranberries (1/2 cup). Use orange zest rather than lemon.
  • Anise – use 1/2 tsp anise extract rather than almond extract.

Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer almonds on a sheet pan and toast for 3-5 minutes. Check the almonds every minute to ensure they do not become overcooked. Color should be very light brown. Cool.

Step two:

Blend melted butter, sugar, amaretto, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined. Add almonds.

Step three:

Chill the dough for 30 minutes to ensure that it is easier to work with.

Step four:

Wet your hands (this makes shaping easier) and halve the chilled dough and form 2  loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet. I recommend getting a bowl of water and dipping your hands and rubbing them together; then immediately shape the loaves with your wet hands.

Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Allow the loaves to cool for five minutes on the baking sheet. Remove the loaves (I use a pizza spatula) and cool on a wire rack for and additional 15 minutes.

Cut the loaves with a serrated bread knife.

Step five:

Place biscotti (cut-side down) on a clean baking sheet and bake another 15-20 minutes. The color should be light golden.

Cool the biscotti on a wire rack.

Baking · Central American · Dessert · Spanish

Tres Leches

There are many iterations of Tres Leches that vary according to country and tradition. Regardless of recipe, tres leches is essentially a cake soaked in three types of milk (evaporated, condensed, and cream). While soaked sponges is far from new (i.e. rum cakes or tiramisu), tres leches utilizes canned milk, which became popular in the 20th century. Several writers trace the cake’s origins to Mexico, but it quickly became popular in Central and Latin America. The recipe that follows is an adaptation from my former colleague who is from Venezuela. Years ago, we had a tres leches bake-off, and out of all the recipes we have tried, hers was the clear and proven winner. This is a very simple, but very delicious recipe. Although it fast to bake and assemble, you will need several hours for cooling and chilling.

For the cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 200g sugar (1 cup)
  • 200g flour (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon, for dusting


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C).
  2. Cream butter & sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until fluffy and light. Add in flour and baking powder, and beat until well-blended. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
  3. Prick the baked cake multiple time with a fork and allow to cool completely. After the cake has cooled, blend condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Drizzle over the cooled cake and allow it to rest in the fridge for several hours (2-2/12 hours). This will allow the cake to expand and absorb the liquid.
  4. Beat remaining cream (2 cups) with confectioners sugar and vanilla until stiff. Layer onto the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon. Serve chilled.
Baking · Dessert

Easy Tarte Citron

Tarte Citron is one of those classic desserts that are deceptively simple, yet take a lifetime to master. What follows is a much EASIER and quicker tarte citron that I promise you will enjoy. A few months ago, I ran a taste test with both the traditional method and this version, and we found that we liked both equally. The French version was more refined, but this version was creamier and a bit more decadent.

Now, if I wanted to impress someone and make homemade pastry, I would go for the classic. But often, I don’t want to make homemade pastry or do bain-maries, I just want a gorgeous lemony tart. As a result, there many shortcuts (i.e. the crust) and using condensed milk instead of creating a custard. That said, I recommend making sure the lemons are fresh squeezed, if possible. We love it, and I hope you do too.

Time: prep – 30 minutes, total – 2 hours

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs or 5 graham crackers crushed
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 egg yolks, large
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (two large lemons)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack on the lower level. Arrange pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Let cool. Juice your lemons.
  2. In a food processor or blender, finely grind the graham crackers, sugar & pecans. Add the butter and combine.
  3. Press this pecan mix into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned (around 7-8 minutes).
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with condensed milk, and stir in lemon juice. Pour filling into the crust and bake until the filling is set (15-16 minutes).
  5. Cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour.