Experience the Magical Harry Potter Realms at Universal Orlando Resort

Award-winning author and travel writer Kathy Witt is again a Special Guest Blogger. Enjoy her blog post about Universal Orlando Resort below.

It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Universal Orlando Resort (www.universalorlando.com) walks the Dumbledore talk.

Having already made magic with its Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter, the park keeps cranking up the enchantments. The latest? Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure—what Universal calls a “story coaster”—set in the Forbidden Forest and replete with ruins, dragon eggs and Skrewts.

Play:

Standing in line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure following the passing of Robbie Coltrane might be a bittersweet experience for some Harry Potter fans. Wait times can clock in by as much as 185 or more minutes—plenty of time to remember the actor who brought such humanity to the role of the gentle giant. But this adventure is an unabashed tribute to Harry’s beloved friend—and it just might be the best ride you ever experience.

Located at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s is a hair-raising three-minute hurtle traveling up to 50 miles an hour and featuring the first free-fall vertical drop in the USA. (Yep, that was your stomach that just dropped.) The ride shoots forward like a bat out of Azkaban, dips, spirals, accelerates, reverses, drops and revs up again . . . and again. Surely Hagrid himself is at the wheel.

There are three rides in this world—the other two being Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey—but each is a major attraction combining thrills and theatricality. Also in Hogsmeade: the Triwizard Spirit Rally and Frog Choir, which bring to life the music of the Harry Potter movies, and foodie fave Three Broomsticks.

Board the Hogwarts Express to reach Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. The train travels between Hogsmeade Station and King’s Cross Station (a Park-to-Park admission ticket is required) and guests are either treated to Harry meeting up with Ron and Hermione or tortured by Dementors, depending on the direction of the journey.

At Diagon Alley, swap Muggle currency for Gringotts with the goblins of Gringotts Money Exchange; step into movie history by boarding the Knight Bus—an actual prop vehicle used in the series’ third film, “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban”; and keep a wary eye out for Voldemort, Bellatrix and a gang of trolls on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts rollercoaster ride. (The vault is inside the building with the giant fire-breathing dragon perched atop.)

In either land, visit Ollivanders to purchase a wand for the park’s interactives and to see a wand choose a wizard—who gets to keep it. (The lucky wizard chosen will save more than $50.)

Visiting the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter is like stepping into the book or movie—and a true bucket list adventure for fans, many of whom dress in their house robes and other such attire when visiting the parks.

Stay:

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (www.universalorlando.com, click “Places to Stay) is one of eight Universal hotels, each offering free and convenient transportation to the parks and early park admission, among other benefits). With a gorgeous lobby overlooking the lagoon, the largest hotel pool on the campus and Strong Water Tavern, which serves up more than 100 types of rum along with tasty tapas, this Caribbean-inspired oasis casts a magic spell all its own.

The hotel has 1,000 rooms and suites, including Kids Suites with separate nautical-themed bedroom for the little ones, and four dining options, including the poolside Drhum Club Kantine, plus room service. The lavish tropical-themed pool area has sandy beach, hot tub, waterslide, firepit, children’s play area, cabanas (for rent) and more.

Guests can park their car and forget about it, traveling to the park by complimentary water taxi by way of Universal CityWalk, a shopping/dining/entertainment complex tucked between Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Those counting their steps can trek the walking paths to the parks.

Eat:

For breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to the Leaky Caldron in Diagon Alley. It’s the restaurant come to life, complete with a patina of dinginess that befits its centuries of use. (It was built in the 1500s, after all). Amidst the glowing chandeliers, cubbyholes and old pictures askew on the walls, tuck into British fare such as Toad in the Hole, Bangers & Mash and a Ploughman’s feast of English cheese, crusty bread, salads and Scotch eggs—those deep-fried sausage snack sensations swaddling soft-boiled egg so beloved by the Brits. The only thing missing is Tom the Innkeeper.

Treat:

Guests staying at one of Universal’s hotels will pass through Universal CityWalk to and from the parks. Take time to explore, catch a show, play miniature golf or test your skills at Universal’s new Great Movie Escape (www.universalorlando.com, click “Things to Do”), the first-ever escape room experience that features two rooms with interactive state-of-the-art missions, elaborate storytelling and intricately detailed sets.

Go head to head with Biff, the bully from “Back to the Future,” in Outatime or run for your life from an apex predator on the loose in Jurassic World: Escape. Inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s blockbuster films, “Jurassic World” and “Back to the Future,” these missions are a fun group activity for all ages.

Read:

The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. The 240-page book includes 100 recipes from the world of Universal—from snacks to main dishes to desserts and drinks—including Fish and Chips from The Three Broomsticks and Pumpkin Juice from Hog’s Head.

For more information about visiting Universal Orlando Resort and Orlando and for trip planning assistance, click into www.visitorlando.com.

Recipe

Love Potion

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes at Universal Studios Florida

Serves 4

In introducing the Love Potion recipe in her book, The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook, Ashley Craft writes: “Love Potion, or ‘Amortentia,’ is a powerful agent of magic in the Harry Potter books and movies, as it causes the drinker to be intensely infatuated and obsessive. The scent of the potion morphs and changes to match whatever the subject loves best.” Hmm. Feeling emboldened? Craft cautions all to “enjoy in small quantities because the flavor is powerful.”

Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP corn syrup
  • 1 TBSP rose water
  • 1 TBSP pure honey

Instructions Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Decant into four small vials or bottles and serve.

About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt

Award winning writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild

She is the author of Secret Cincinnati; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, GA: A Photographic Portrait

NEWCincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures is now available.

NEWPerfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler arriving Fall 2023

Le Relais de Venise’s Secret Sauce: A Parisian Mystery Solved

 Little did we know that when we dined at the corner restaurant near our hotel in Paris that we were eating at a place where for years there’s been a fight over the secret sauce that’s served with their steaks.

        Maybe it’s a French thing.

        For some background. My husband and I were on our honeymoon and had booked a Viking River Cruise on the Seine and then added some before and after stays in Amsterdam where it is more easy to get run over by a bicyclist then a car and Paris where we stayed at a little hotel near the metro in the 17th arrondissement, known as  Batignolles-Monceau, so we could visit other parts of the city without spending a fortune on cabs. Though we didn’t plan it this way, Hotel 10 Le Bis, our hotel was near numerous little cafes and a little grocery store where we could easily—and cheaply–buy food for quick meals and snacks.

        One intriguing café was Le Relais de Venise (the name translates to Venetian Inn)where every night we would see long lines of people waiting to eat either in their dining room or on their outdoor patio. Though the interior of the restaurant looked so French bistro with its polished dark wood, tiny tables with crisp white table cloths, and servers dressed in black uniforms, the outdoor section was right on a busy corner filled with traffic and pedestrians, noise, and the rumbled of trucks and sounds of horns honking.

        What could be so great about lining up to eat there, we wondered. But one evening, after climbing up from the metro station and seeing there was no line, we decided to give it a try. The only tables available were outdoors and so we sat at a very small table next to another small table where a single woman sat, smoking a cigarette. That turned out to be a very lucky thing.

        When our server arrived I asked to see a menu and she (we would find out later her name was Gertrude) abruptly told us she was the menu. Well, what could we order? Steak frites, she replied—either “bloody or well done.”

        We told her “bloody”, and she gave us an approving look. But we were a little baffled. Was there really only one dish on the menu?  It turns out that at this restaurant which opened in 1959, there was only one entrée and steak with French fries was it. When our waitress returned with a salad topped with walnuts (no one inquired whether we had a nut allergy—which fortunately we don’t) and a crusty French baguette, I saw there wasn’t butter on our table and asked for some. Oops, one would think I had tried to order a Big Mac.

        “No butter,” Gertrude told us.

        “There’s no butter?” I asked.

        “No butter,” she replied.

        “How about olive oil?”

        “No olive oil,” she told us.

        Now, I knew that in a French restaurant there had to be both in the kitchen, but I guess neither butter nor olive oil was allowed to be carried into the dining area, so we ate the bread—which was very good—without either.

        This is when the woman at the table next to us decided to intervene. She lived in Paris she told us but had spent years in the United States working as a publicist for musicians in New York. Le Relais de Venise was unique, she continued, because they only served one dish—steak with French fries served with Le Venise’s Sauce de Entrecote.  I guess that makes decided what to order for dinner super easy. If you’re wondering what entrecote is, as I was, it’s a cut of meat like a New York strip or strip steak. Or at least in it is in Paris.

        Since the creation of the sauce, its exact ingredients have been kept secret and that probably worked until the invention of the internet.  After some type of family squabble and a going of separate ways, the sauce itself became a battleground so complex and full of intrigue that the Wall Street Journal did a lengthy article about it all six years ago.   I guess when you serve only one dish and the sauce is a necessary part of it, feelings about who owns the recipe loom large.

        Anyway, after we ate our salad (no choice of dressing as it already was dressed with a vinaigrette which was very good), our steak with fries arrived—with the sauce spooned over the meat. It was delicious.

        What’s in it? I asked the woman next to us.

        “It’s a secret,” she said. “But I’ve been eating here for decades so I know it. But it’s really better to come here.”

        She promised to give me the recipe, but I think she changed her mind because she never sent it. She may have been afraid that Gertrude would get mad at her or maybe the restaurant owners wouldn’t allow her back in. Neither would surprise me.

        I noticed, as we were eating, that the servers were moving through the crowded café with platters of meat and piles of crisp, hand-cut pomme frites or French fries. Almost as soon as I had cleared my plate, Gertrude showed up again, heaping—without asking but that was okay—more French fries and slices of steak and then poured the secret sauce on my plate. At no charge. but no ketchup or mayonnaise either, for dipping the fries Gertrude informed us.

        “They’ll do that until you say you don’t want anymore,” the woman told us.

        “Is there a charge?”

        “No, it’s all part of the meal.”

        Which was a deal as the tab wasn’t very high even with the addition of a glass of the house wine which is made at the family owned vineyard Chateau de Saurs in Lisle-sur-Tarn, 30 miles northeast of Toulouse. Indeed, the restaurant was opened by Paul Gineste de Saurs as a way to help market the wines but now there are at least three more—in New York City, Mexico City, and London. As for the sauce there are several stories. A rival restaurant said to serve a similar sauce says that it is not new but instead wis one of the classic sauces that are the backbone of French cuisine.

        Another has it that the restaurant where we ate was modeled after Cafe de Paris bistro in Geneva which has served this dish since the 1940s. The sauce, according “The History and the Development of the L’Entrecote Secret Sauce,”  a Facebook page devoted to the subject, was developed by the owner’s father-in-law.

        I told you it was complicated.

        Of course, as soon as we got back to our room, I Googled the restaurant and the sauce. It took some digging, but I found recipes for both the secret sauce and the salad. Or so I think. I’m planning on trying them soon along with a French baguette or two from Bit of Swiss Bakery which I will be serving with butter.

Le Relais de Venise-Style Salad Dijon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste (nutritional info based on 1/4 tsp)
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or walnut oil)

Whisk or shake in a mason jar until mixture is homogenous.

Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves topped with some chopped walnuts and shaved Parmesan.

Serving Size: 4

Le Relais de Venise’s Steak Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Peel and slice the shallots.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic.

Add the olive oil to a small pot over medium heat.

Add the garlic and shallots and cook until soft and slightly colored.

Add the chicken stock. Simmer for three minutes.

Pull the tarragon leaves off of the stems and put them in a blender.

Add the remaining ingredients to the blender.

Carefully pour the chicken stock mixture into the blender.

Puree until completely smooth.

Pour back into the pan and bring to a boil. Cook for one minute. If the sauce is too thin simmer for a few more minutes.

Pour over slices of rare or as Gertrude calls it “bloody” or however you like your steak. Serve with potatoes or French fries.

Salamati: Hamed’s Persian Kitchen: 70 Recipes and Stories from Iran to the Other Side of the World

for the adventuresome home chef, Allahyari offers a world of flavors.”

In mortal danger for his beliefs, Hamed Allahyari and his pregnant girlfriend fled their homeland of Iran, first spending two months in Indonesia and then, after grueling hours long by truck over badly paved back roads and then days crammed aboard a boat another five months on Christmas Island before being granted asylum by the Australian government. Once there, life remained extremely difficult for the young couple who were now parents of two young children, and though Allahyari had been a chef and restauranteur in Iran, no one was interested—or so it seemed—in Persian cuisine.

Unable to find work Allahyari began volunteering at the Resource Center, an organization that provides support, legal advice, and other assistance including meals to refugees and people seeking asylum.

“Every day they feed 250 people a free lunch,” Allahyari writes in the introduction to his cookbook Salamati: Hamed’s Persian Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Iran to the Other Side of the World. “I started cooking there two days a week, making Persian food for people from all over the world: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Miramar, Sierra Leone, all kinds of places, and most of them had never tried Persian food before. But when they tried it, they liked it. They talked to me about it, asked me about it, and it made me happy.”

Culinary Connections

At the recommendation of others, Allahyari also began teaching cooking classes, demonstrating how to make such dishes as Zeytoon Parvadrah (Olive and Walnuts Chunky Dip), Abdoogh Khiar, Yogurt and Cucumber soup, Sabzi Pofow Ba Mahi (Fish with Herb Pilaf), and Persian Love Cake. Over the years, Allahyari taught more than 2500 people how to make Persian food. Now, he caters and is chef/owner of SalamiTea, a restaurant located in Sunshine, an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Melbourne. The name is a play on “salamati,” the Persian word meaning both “health” and “cheers.”

Salamati is more than just a cookbook, it’s also a memoir and homage to the country he had to flee. The introduction to the featured recipes in his book might offer a personal connection to the dish, a description of a unique ingredient that helps define it and bring out its best flavors—though he also offers a substitute for such items as Persian dried limes, which might be difficult to locate outside of a major city, and/or puts the food in context with the scenes to Iran.

This dish is traditionally served in Iranian shisha shops, the cafes where older men gather to smoke water pipes, drink tea and solve the problems of the world,” he writes about Ghahve Khunee Omelette (Street-Food Tomato Omelette). “Shisha shops don’t really serve food but inevitably people get hungry while they’re hanging around, so it’s become traditional for staff to whip up a quick tomato omelette for customers and serve it with bread, raw red onion, herbs and lemon. If you want one, all you ask for is ‘omelette.’ There’s no menu as such.”

Not all the recipes are easy but for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, there are enough simple ones to get started. Full-color photos of each recipe show what the finished product will look like. And for the adventuresome home chef, Allahyari offers a world of flavors.

This review originally appeared in the New York Journal of Books.

Cheesecake Love by Joyce Brubaker

“If it doesn’t have cheesecake in it, it should” is the baking motto that Jocelyn Brubaker lives by. Over the years, she has baked thousands of cheesecakes and challenged herself to work cheesecake into any and every dessert for the millions of readers who try and trust the recipes on her blog.

Now, in her debut cookbook, Jocelyn will show you all the wild and wonderful ways you can go beyond traditional cheesecake. You’ll find creative and mouthwatering cheesecake desserts like:

* Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Brownies
* Cookies-and-Cream Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
* Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Cookie Bars
* Marshmallow S’mores Cheesecake
* Apple Crumb Cheesecake Pie

With over 75 delicious recipes, dozens of easy-to-use baking tips, gorgeous color photos, and Jocelyn’s warmth and bubbly personality on every page, this cookbook will become the go-to source for all things cheesecake, perfect for new and experienced bakers alike. With Jocelyn by your side in the kitchen, every dessert can become a blank canvas for a little cheesecake love.

About the Author

JOCELYN BRUBAKER is the baker, photographer, and writer behind the popular blog Inside BruCrew Life, which she started in 2008. Jocelyn’s recipes regularly appear on BuzzfeedThe Huffington Post, and Cosmopolitan.com, among other sites.

Orange Cream Cheese Cheesecake

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN MAKING THIS ORANGE CREAM CHEESECAKE RECIPE:

  • Make sure you set your cream cheese out ahead of time. It’s so much easier to beat it when it is softened.
  • Toast the macadamia nuts in a skillet for a few minutes, then let them cool before pulsing them in a food processor. Just do not over pulse the nuts, or you will end up with macadamia butter.
  • Place a large baking sheet on the very bottom rack in your oven. Fill it halfway with water and let it heat up. This creates a steam effect as the cheesecake bakes. No water baths ever happen in my kitchen!
  • Do not over mix the cheesecake batter because it will add air bubbles into the batter which could cause cracks as it bakes.
  • When the cheesecake comes out of the oven the second time, let it cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge. This loosens the cheesecake from the pan, so it doesn’t crack as it cools.

For the Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups chopped macadamia nuts
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup melted butter

For the Cheesecake

  • 1 – 10 ounce can mandarin oranges
  • 3 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten slightly
  • Zest of 1 large navel orange

For the Topping

  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed navel orange juice (from orange that was zested)
  • 1 – 8 ounce container Cool Whip, thawed
  • maraschino cherries with stems, patted dry
  • 1 navel orange cut into small segments
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Place the macadamia nuts in a skillet and toast over medium heat for a few minutes. Remove and dump the nuts onto a tray to cool completely. Once cool place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Do not over pulse and create butter.
  3. Mix together the chopped nuts, crumbs, and butter. Press firmly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  4. Place a large baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it halfway with water. Let the oven reheat to 350 degrees.
  5. Drain the can of mandarin oranges very well. Place the orange segments onto paper towels to drain even more. Cut each segment in half and press with a paper towel. Set aside.
  6. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the sour cream, orange juice concentrate, vanilla, and flour and beat again.
  7. Add the eggs and beat again until mixed in. Do not over beat the mixture. Gently stir in the orange zest and mandarin orange pieces.
  8. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust. Place the pan on the oven rack directly above the pan of water. Bake for 55 minutes.
  9. While the cheesecake is baking, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and orange juice. Place in refrigerator.
  10. When the cheesecake is finished baking, remove from the oven and spread the sour cream mixture evenly on the top of the cheesecake. Bake another 5 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack.
  11. Let the cheesecake cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen the sides from the pan. Let the cheesecake cool for 2 hours on the wire rack, then place it in the refrigerator to chill completely.
  12. Loosen and remove the springform pan sides. Gently lift up the cheesecake and remove the parchment paper. Place the cheesecake on a serving plate.
  13. Use a piping bag and icing tip 1M to swirl Cool Whip around the top of the cheesecake. Top each swirl with a maraschino cherry or orange piece.

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Crust

  • 8 Oreo cookies with filling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Cheesecake

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ▢4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate melted
  • 2 large eggs

Mousse

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce container Cool Whip thawed

20 mini Oreo Cookies with Filling

Instructions

Place a large rimmed baking sheet onto the bottom rack of the oven. Fill halfway with waterPreheat the oven to 350° F. and line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Line 8 wells of a second cupcake pan with paper liners as well.

Crust

Place the Oreo cookies into a food processor and pulse until they become fine crumbs.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and the cookie crumbs. Evenly distribute the crumb mixture into the cupcake liners. Press the crumbs down firmly.

Cheesecake

In a mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the sugar. Beat again until smooth.

Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat again until well incorporated.

Pour in the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Fully incorporate the eggs and be sure to not overbeat the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter over the cookie crusts. Place the cupcake pans on the oven right directly above the tray full of water. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecakes in the pan for 10 minutes.

Gently remove the cheesecakes from the pan and place them on the wire rack. Cool for 1 hour and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until completely chilled.

Mousse

Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In a food processor, pulse the 7 regular size Oreos until they are crumbs.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the Cool Whip into the cream cheese mixture. Then gently stir in the cookie crumbs.

Using a piping bag and a 1M icing tip, swirl the mousse onto the top of the cheesecakes. Top each one with a mini Oreo cookie.

Eight Great Restaurants and Food Artisans Feed the Soul: Slow Food in Southwest Germany

In tranquility lies good flavor.

Love, time, and wonderful ingredients are the heart of Southwest Germany’s Soul Food and Slow Food–a movement defined by local chefs creating traditional regional specialties It’s a way to honor the past as well as transport us from our hectic daily lives and into the sublime with meals made to be savored, slowly, of course.

Artisan Unpasteurized Cheese: Langenburg Sheep’s Cheese

Deutschland Baden Wuerttemberg Langenburg Hohenlohe – Langenburger Schafskaeserei Demeterhof von Norbert Fischer Slow Food Schafskaese

Norbert Fischer’s Demeter-Hof, nestled between meadows and fields in the Hohenlohe-Langenburg region, began in the early 1980s as a small, self-sufficient farm with a couple of sheep and now has grown into a substantial operation with a huge barn, a cheese dairy, farm shop and home. Everything is made from wood and glass accented with colorful flowering plants on the roof tops. Over 250 sheep live here under the care of Fischer, their shepherd. He uses their milk to hand produce fine sheep’s milk cheeses ranging from tangy Pecorino, to mouth-watering Camembert, and strong “Roque blue” cheese. Other products include organic ice cream and meat, sheepskins and the farm’s own picture book.

Lemon Ricotta Cake

  • 3.2 cups (400 grams) flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 3/8 (340 grams butter), melted
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar
  • 2 eggs

> Knead everything and spread the dough on a baking tray

Bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees

  • 3.3 cups (800g) ricotta
  • 6.76 fluid ounces (200ml) cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 6.76  fluid ounces (200ml) lemon juice

Mix everything and pour over the dough

Bake for 30 minutes at  325°F.

Put in the fridge and before serving, sprinkle with fresh mint.

schafkaese.com

Deutschland Baden Wuerttemberg Langenburg Hohenlohe – Langenburger Schafskaeserei Demeterhof von Norbert Fischer Slow Food Schafskaese

Fragrant bubbly: Blütenzauber Manufaktur in Bächlingen

The Jagst is one of the Neckar River’s largest tributaries. It winds its way from the Eastern Alb, over the Hohenloher and Haller Plain into the Heilbronn district. On the way, it meanders through the little village of Bächlingen. This is where Bernulf Schlauch lives, the Slow Food regional coordinator for Hohenlohe and inventor of blossom champagne. He uses a laborious process to produce sparkling wines from elder, acacia, rose blossom, and meadowsweet – deliberately taking things slowly.

“These sparkling wines need time for their flavors to unfold”, says Schlauch. For him, Slow Food does not just mean allowing time for the products themselves, but also taking time for guests and delicious food.

holunderzauber.de

Love of the Loaf: Eselsmühle Mill in Musberg

Eight donkeys, a shop, the Mühlenstube restaurant, a garden bistro, and a wood oven where the Demeter bread is baked. Sounds like the good old days and real proper bread, luckily at the Eselsmühle this is all on offer right now. The mill’s history goes back over 600 years, when the local millers supplied surrounding villages with food.

In 1937, the mill was acquired by the Gmelin family, who are still working passionately to preserve it and have created a genuine feel-good location in the extensive grounds surrounding the site, a place where everyday stress is banished. All the products here are certified organic and most come from this beautiful bucolic region.

eselsmuehle.com

Organic Fine Dining Pioneer: “1950” in Hayingen

Located in the heart of the Swabian Alb biosphere is the world’s first Demeter & Bioland fine dining restaurant. The “1950” is a new addition to the Tress family’s gastronomic offerings and honours the legacy of Grandfather Johannes, with the name marking the year he laid the foundation for the sustainable company philosophy that is still upheld today. The key feature: for every course on the vegetarian “CO2 menu” served here, guests also get comprehensive information about the ingredients. From CO2 emissions, to the distance involved between the producer and restaurant. To avoid producing waste in the kitchen, Simon Tress and his team strictly follow the principles of “leaf to root” and “nose to tail”.

tress-gastronomie.de

Holistic Gamekeeping: Schussental Game Products in Fronreute

“Once upon a time, there were three hunters …” – it sounds like the start of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but in fact this is how the success story began for the Schussentaler Wildmanufaktur game company in Fronreute near Ravensburg. Their mission: to convince the residents of Upper Swabia to eat game. Game lives in a natural habitat, it is sustainable and largely free from harmful influences, offering the finest quality meat with a favourable environmental impact. Nonetheless, many people have reservations about the taste and are unsure how to cook it. The Wildmanufaktur hunters are doing their bit to restore its image by selling local, freshly hunted game that is ready to cook as a roast or goulash, grilled sausage or meat loaf.

schussentaler-wildmanufaktur.de

Copper pan cherries: Faller jams from Utzenfeld

Whether it’s black cherries from Baden, forest blueberries or Bühler damsons: ever since the company was founded in 1913, Faller jams have been cooked in small quantities using traditional, open copper pans and stirred by hand to preserve the natural, original taste of the fruit for the finest possible results. Short transportation distances also contribute to the quality of these jams.

Following this tradition, Faller continues to source large quantities of fruit and berries from the nearby Kaiserstuhl and Markgräflerland regions. This family-run Slow Food business has links with farmers that often go back many years. Their produce can be sampled in the “Therese” jam café. Or order jars of these sweet temptations straight from the online shop to enjoy for breakfast at home.

shop.fallerkonfitueren.de

Slow brewing amidst the pines: Rothaus Grafenhausen, Baden’s district brewery

Baden’s district brewery, Rothaus, demonstrates how you can capture the essence of the Black Forest in a bottle. All you need is tranquillity, care and time. The raw materials also come entirely from the surrounding area: the brewing water bubbles up from local springs in the nearby forest, native spring barley is used as the brewer’s malt, the aromatic hops are sourced from Tettnang and Hallertau, and the yeast comes from the company’s own pure culture. The “Slow Brewing” seal of approval confirms the exceptional quality and full-bodied, mature flavour of the Rothaus beers. This final feature is undoubtedly also owed to the brewery’s special location, up at an altitude of around 1,000 metres, between the Black Forest pines and spruce trees.

rothaus.de

Café Goldene Krone in St. Märgen

The “Golden Crown” has welcomed numerous guests over its centuries-long history. From 1753, it operated as a pilgrims’ refuge, later it became a grand hotel. Famous people called by here: from Heidegger to Adenauer. When the hotel was closed in 1990, a hush descended. A citizens’ action group halted the threatened demolition and, a good ten years later, went on to rescue this historically significant building and revive the village centre.

Tuniberg im Sommer 2008

Hugely successful, today the “Golden Crown” is once again a popular meeting place. This “countrywoman’s café” with a small shop is a fine example of social, economic and environmental sustainability. Instead of trained professionals, the shop and kitchen facilities is run by 20 committed local women, all adding their own special flavour to the regional dishes with their personal recipes.

Cafe Golden Krone

cafe-goldene-krone.de

For more information:

State Tourist Board Baden-Württemberg

Esslinger Strasse 8

70182 Stuttgart, Germany

ausland@tourismus-bw.de

If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants

Now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians, the Lake Chapala Region, nestled in a valley almost a mile high in Mexico’s Volcanic Axis,  has long been a draw for ex-pats and vacationers, lured by its almost perfect climate and beauty.

In his book If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants about Mexico‘s earliest international tourist destination (also available in Spanish), award-winning author Tony Burton shares his knowledge and interest in a region where he has spent more than two decades. Burton, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who was born and educated in the United Kingdom, first visited Mexico in 1977. That visit was obviously a big success as he returned and for almost 18 years lived and worked full-time in Mexico as a writer, educator and ecotourism specialist.

He met his wife, Gwen Chan Burton who was a teacher of the deaf and then director at the Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, one of the three main towns lining the shores of Lake Chapala. Though they now reside on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Burtons continue to revisit Mexico regularly and he is currently editor-in-chief of MexConnect, Mexico’s top English-language online magazine. The other two towns, each with its own distinctive vibe, are Ajijic and Chapala, native villages resettled by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. “This book looks at how Chapala, a small nondescript fishing village in Jalisco, suddenly shot to international prominence at the end of the nineteenth century as one of North America’s earliest tourist resorts,” writes Burton. “Within twenty years, Chapala, tucked up against the hills embracing the northern shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, was attracting the cream of Mexican and foreign society. Thus began Lake Chapala’s astonishing transformation into the vibrant international community it is now, so beloved of authors, artists and retirees.”

The book, organized as a walking tour, covers not only existing buildings but also pinpoints the spots where significant early buildings no longer stand but their histories still weave a story of the town. It’s only a partial guide, explains Burton, noting that an inventory prepared by the National Institute of Anthropology and History identified more than eighty such buildings in Chapala including many not easily visible from the road but hidden behind high walls and better viewed from the lake.

Among the famous people who lived in Chapala at some point in their careers was author D.H. Lawrence, probably best remembered for his risqué (at the time) novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In 1923, Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, rented Casa de las Cuentas (House of Rosary Beads), a house that dates back to the 1800s. At the time, a one-story abode with a half-moon entrance and heavy wooden gates, it was located at 307 Calle Zaragoza, a street formerly known as Calle de la Pesquería (“Fishing street”) so named as it was where the local fishermen repaired their nets and hung them out to dry. It was while living on Calle Zaragoza that Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, published in 1926. The novel is described asthe story of a European woman’s self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico.”

Over the decades, after the Lawrences moved out, subsequent changes were made to Casa de las Cuentas including  the addition of a swimming pool in the mid-1950s when artist Roy MacNicol and his wife, Mary, owned the home.

While Lawrence’s writings were considered by some as scandalous, MacNicol’s life had its scandals as well. Burton describes him as “colorful” in that he was married multiple times and was involved in many escapades as well as lawsuits.

Mary, embracing the local culinary traditions including the use of flowers in cooking, authored Flower Cookery: The Art of Cooking With Flowers.

It wasn’t the work of a dilettante as reviews of her book such as this one on Amazon shows.

“Flower Cookery is recipes, but far more than recipes,” writes one reviewer. “The book is organized by the popular name of the flower in question. Each section is introduced with quotations from literature, philosophy, and poetry that feature the blossom. This is followed by the recipes, interwoven with mythology, stories, and aphorisms about the flower, the plant from which it grows, its symbolism, and the culture or society in which humans discovered the value of the plant or blossom. The recipes include original favorites as well as recipes collected from historical sources and contemporary sources around the world. Here is just the tiniest sampling of the riches in the book.”

Burton shares her Christmas Cheer recipe from when she lived at Casa de las Cuentas.

Christmas Cheer

10-12 squash blossoms with stems removed

2 eggs, beaten

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Flour, enough to thicken mixture about one tablespoon

Salt and pepper

1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or safflower

Wash and dry squash blossoms on paper towels, making sure to remove all the water. Mix remaining ingredients except oil to make a smooth batter. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350-375°F. Dip blossoms in batter and fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

As for the house, it was renovated again in the early 1980s and is now Quinta Quetzalcoatl, a lovely boutique hotel.

If Walls Could Talk is one of four books that Burton has written on the Lake Chapala region. The other three are Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican Village; Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales  (2008), and the recent Lake Chapala: A Postcard history. All are available as print and ebooks on Amazon.

The above maps, both copyrighted, show Chapala 1915 [lower map] and 1951 [upper map].

In all, he’s planning on adding several more to what he currently calls the Lake Chapala Quartet, these focusing on the writers and artists associated with the area.  I asked him  to describe the region so readers who have never been there can get an idea of what it is like, but it turns out the Burton is NOT a traveler who meticulously plots every moment of a trip before he arrives. Instead, he tells me that part of the fun when traveling is to not know in advance what places are like and instead to see and experience them for yourself.

“That said,” he continues, “the various villages and towns on the shores of Lake Chapala are all quite different in character. The town of Chapala, specifically, is a pretty large and bustling town. It is growing quite rapidly and has added several small high end boutique hotels in recent years, as well as some fine dining options to complement the more traditional shoreline ‘fish’ restaurants. The many old–100 years plus–buildings in Chapala give the town a historic ‘air’ where it is relatively easy to conjure up images of what it was like decades ago. By comparison, Ajijic, now the center of the foreign community on Lake Chapala, has virtually no old buildings and more of a village and artsy feel to it, though it also has very high quality accommodations and more fine restaurants than you can count.”

Other structures still standing include the Villa Tlalocan, completed in 1896 and described by a contemporary journalist as “the largest, costliest and most complete in Chapala… a happy minglement of the Swiss chalet, the Southern verandahed house of a prosperous planter and withal having an Italian suggestion. It is tastefully planned and is set amid grounds cultivated and adorned with flowers so easily grown in this paradisiacal climate where Frost touches not with his withering finger…”

Also still part of the landscape is Villa Niza. One of many buildings designed by Guillermo de Alba, the house, according to Burton, was built in 1919 and looks more American than European in style. Located at Hidalgo 250, it takes advantage of its setting on Lake Chapala and has a mirador (look out) atop the central tower of the structure, which affords sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and lake. De Alba’s strong geometric design boasts only minimal exterior ornamentation.

Burton, who specializes in non-fiction about Mexico, related to geography, history, travel, economics, ecology and natural history, has written several fascinating books about the history of the Lake Chapala region.

In If Walls Could Talk, Burton invites you to walk with him through time as you explore the city.

If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants

Now one of the most popular retirement area for Americans and Canadians, the Lake Chapala Region, nestled in a valley almost a mile high in Mexico’s Volcanic Axis,  has long been a draw for ex-pats and vacationers, lured by its almost perfect climate and beauty.

In his book If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants about Mexico‘s earliest international tourist destination (also available in Spanish), award-winning author Tony Burton shares his knowledge and interest in a region where he has spent more than two decades. Burton, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who was born and educated in the United Kingdom, first visited Mexico in 1977. That visit was obviously a big success as he returned and for almost 18 years lived and worked full-time in Mexico as a writer, educator and ecotourism specialist.

He met his wife, Gwen Chan Burton who was a teacher of the deaf and then director at the Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec, one of the three main towns lining the shores of Lake Chapala. Though they now reside on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Burtons continue to revisit Mexico regularly and he is currently editor-in-chief of MexConnect, Mexico’s top English-language online magazine. The other two towns, each with its own distinctive vibe, are Ajijic and Chapala, native villages resettled by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. “This book looks at how Chapala, a small nondescript fishing village in Jalisco, suddenly shot to international prominence at the end of the nineteenth century as one of North America’s earliest tourist resorts,” writes Burton. “Within twenty years, Chapala, tucked up against the hills embracing the northern shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, was attracting the cream of Mexican and foreign society. Thus began Lake Chapala’s astonishing transformation into the vibrant international community it is now, so beloved of authors, artists and retirees.”

The book, organized as a walking tour, covers not only existing buildings but also pinpoints the spots where significant early buildings no longer stand but their histories still weave a story of the town. It’s only a partial guide, explains Burton, noting that an inventory prepared by the National Institute of Anthropology and History identified more than eighty such buildings in Chapala including many not easily visible from the road but hidden behind high walls and better viewed from the lake.

Among the famous people who lived in Chapala at some point in their careers was author D.H. Lawrence, probably best remembered for his risqué (at the time) novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In 1923, Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, rented Casa de las Cuentas (House of Rosary Beads), a house that dates back to the 1800s. At the time, a one-story abode with a half-moon entrance and heavy wooden gates, it was located at 307 Calle Zaragoza, a street formerly known as Calle de la Pesquería (“Fishing street”) so named as it was where the local fishermen repaired their nets and hung them out to dry. It was while living on Calle Zaragoza that Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, published in 1926. The novel is described asthe story of a European woman’s self-annihilating plunge into the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico.”

Over the decades, after the Lawrences moved out, subsequent changes were made to Casa de las Cuentas including  the addition of a swimming pool in the mid-1950s when artist Roy MacNicol and his wife, Mary, owned the home.

While Lawrence’s writings were considered by some as scandalous, MacNicol’s life had its scandals as well. Burton describes him as “colorful” in that he was married multiple times and was involved in many escapades as well as lawsuits.

Mary, embracing the local culinary traditions including the use of flowers in cooking, authored Flower Cookery: The Art of Cooking With Flowers.

It wasn’t the work of a dilettante as reviews of her book such as this one on Amazon shows.

“Flower Cookery is recipes, but far more than recipes,” writes one reviewer. “The book is organized by the popular name of the flower in question. Each section is introduced with quotations from literature, philosophy, and poetry that feature the blossom. This is followed by the recipes, interwoven with mythology, stories, and aphorisms about the flower, the plant from which it grows, its symbolism, and the culture or society in which humans discovered the value of the plant or blossom. The recipes include original favorites as well as recipes collected from historical sources and contemporary sources around the world. Here is just the tiniest sampling of the riches in the book.”

Burton shares her Christmas Cheer recipe from when she lived at Casa de las Cuentas.

Christmas Cheer

10-12 squash blossoms with stems removed

2 eggs, beaten

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Flour, enough to thicken mixture about one tablespoon

Salt and pepper

1 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or safflower

Wash and dry squash blossoms on paper towels, making sure to remove all the water. Mix remaining ingredients except oil to make a smooth batter. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350-375°F. Dip blossoms in batter and fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

As for the house, it was renovated again in the early 1980s and is now Quinta Quetzalcoatl, a lovely boutique hotel.

If Walls Could Talk is one of four books that Burton has written on the Lake Chapala region. The other three are Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican Village; Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales  (2008), and the recent Lake Chapala: A Postcard history. All are available as print and ebooks on Amazon.

The above maps, both copyrighted, show Chapala 1915 [lower map] and 1951 [upper map].

In all, he’s planning on adding several more to what he currently calls the Lake Chapala Quartet, these focusing on the writers and artists associated with the area.  I asked him  to describe the region so readers who have never been there can get an idea of what it is like, but it turns out the Burton is NOT a traveler who meticulously plots every moment of a trip before he arrives. Instead, he tells me that part of the fun when traveling is to not know in advance what places are like and instead to see and experience them for yourself.

“That said,” he continues, “the various villages and towns on the shores of Lake Chapala are all quite different in character. The town of Chapala, specifically, is a pretty large and bustling town. It is growing quite rapidly and has added several small high end boutique hotels in recent years, as well as some fine dining options to complement the more traditional shoreline ‘fish’ restaurants. The many old–100 years plus–buildings in Chapala give the town a historic ‘air’ where it is relatively easy to conjure up images of what it was like decades ago. By comparison, Ajijic, now the center of the foreign community on Lake Chapala, has virtually no old buildings and more of a village and artsy feel to it, though it also has very high quality accommodations and more fine restaurants than you can count.”

Other structures still standing include the Villa Tlalocan, completed in 1896 and described by a contemporary journalist as “the largest, costliest and most complete in Chapala… a happy minglement of the Swiss chalet, the Southern verandahed house of a prosperous planter and withal having an Italian suggestion. It is tastefully planned and is set amid grounds cultivated and adorned with flowers so easily grown in this paradisiacal climate where Frost touches not with his withering finger…”

Also still part of the landscape is Villa Niza. One of many buildings designed by Guillermo de Alba, the house, according to Burton, was built in 1919 and looks more American than European in style. Located at Hidalgo 250, it takes advantage of its setting on Lake Chapala and has a mirador (look out) atop the central tower of the structure, which affords sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and lake. De Alba’s strong geometric design boasts only minimal exterior ornamentation.

Burton, who specializes in non-fiction about Mexico, related to geography, history, travel, economics, ecology and natural history, has written several fascinating books about the history of the Lake Chapala region.

In If Walls Could Talk, Burton invites you to walk with him through time as you explore the city.

118 Regional Favorites from The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook

              Summer cottages conjure up images of restful days by the lake or in the woods, a time of family gatherings, reading a book, watching the sunset and spending time in the kitchen (at least for those of us who like to cook) preparing dishes using local and seasonal ingredients to serve at dinner time.

              For Amelia Levin, who grew up in Chicago and spent several weeks each year with her  family at a cottage in Door County, Wisconsin, those days are to be treasured. Even now she still visits and then later visited her brother who has a place near New Buffalo, takes the essence of those summer memories, distilling the experiences in The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook: Door County Cherry Pie, Sheboygan Bratwursts, Traverse City Trout and 115 More Regional Favorites (Storey Publishing).

              Taking us on a culinary road trip along the Lake Michigan coastline, Levin shows us her favorite places to eat or shop for food, collecting recipes along the way. She shares recipes for Wood Smoked Barbecue Ribs and Sweet Potato and Pineapple Salad  provided by Bill Reynolds, owner of New Buffalo Bill’s in New Buffalo and a Korean Pork Bao Sandwich from Ryan Thornburg, the former culinary director for Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery.

              She was also inspired by local ingredients such as the spicy fennel sausage made by Pat Mullins, who with his wife Ellie, owns Patellie’s Pizza in Three Oaks and formerly owned Local, an artisan butcher shop in New Buffalo, Levin created her recipe Spicy Fennel Sausage and Peppers with Garlicky Heirloom Tomato Sauce which is a homage to a favorite popular at old school Italian restaurants in Chicago. A fan of Froehlich’s Deli, also in Three Oaks, she devised a deviled egg recipe reminiscent of the ones sold there. These she tops with caviar made by Rachel Collins, owner of Flagship Specialty Foods & Fish Market in Lakeside Michigan.

              “I have a soft spot for New Buffalo and Harbor Country because I have family there,” says Levin who graduated from the University of Michigan. “I also fell in love with Fennville which is a really strong artisan food and farming area and I have recipes in the book from Kismet Cheese and Bakery, Salt of the Earth restaurant and Virtue Cider.”

              She was also inspired to invent her recipe for Rustic Apple Gallette with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Thyme using cheese produced by Evergreen  Lane Artisan Cheese in Fennville.

              Starting her book—and her trip where she wandered counter-clockwise around Lake Michigan—in Door County, we learn about fish boils, those classic throw everything—chunks of red potatoes, freshly caught white fish or lake trout and sliced onions–in a pot set on coals above an open fire and Friday night perch fries.

              “I have a recipe for a fish boil you can easily do at home,” says Levin, a Chicago-based food writer and chef who also works as a food consultant and recipe developer. Serve with Bavarian Dark Rye Bread, reflective of the German heritage in Door County, and Creamy Coleslaw.

              There is, of course, Door County-style cherry pie though Levin points out that Northern Michigan, including Traverse City, grows the same kind of Montmorency cherries that are perfect for using in all things cherry such as the Door County Cherry French Toast served at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, Wilson Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor’s Vanilla Sundaes with Seaquist Orchard’s Cherry Topping, Cherry Poached Pears with the Mascarpone Cream in Ephraim, Wisconsin, crossing into Michigan, Levin’s take on the many recipes for cherry chicken salad found in the Traverse City area–Grilled Chicken Salad with Greens and Cherry Vinaigrette.

Spicy Fennel Sausage and Peppers with Garlicky Heirloom Tomato Sauce

For the sauce:

  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes
  • Four garlic cloves, unpeeled  

For the sausage:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One pound Italian-style or fennel sausage, links or cut into four links style
  • One medium or sweet onion, halved and sliced
  • Two medium red bell peppers, halved, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of thinly sliced fresh basil

For the sauce, preheat the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Bro the tomatoes and garlic on the baking sheet until partially blocking, turning occasionally. Remove the garlic cloves. Peel the skins from the tomatoes and transfer the tomatoes and juices to a blender by lifting the foil. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of the blackened peels into the blender. Puree until smooth.

For the sausage, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about five minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onions, and cook until soft and translucent, about two minutes.

Add the peppers and cook until the onions begin to brown and the peppers begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until reduced by half, about one minutes, stirring frequently to deglaze the pan.

Return the sausages to the pan and pour the tomato pepper sauce over them. Simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve top with Parmesan and basil.

Door County Cherry Pie

Serves 6–8

For the Pastry:

  • 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, cold
  • 3–5 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups well-drained bottled tart Montmorency cherries in unsweetened cherry juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the butter until it is the size of coarse crumbs.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the ice water over the top and stir with a fork. Gently knead the mixture with your hands until the dough holds together. If it is dry, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until the dough holds together. Shape into two oval disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes.

  Roll one of the chilled dough disks on a lightly floured surface to ⅛-inch thickness and about 11 inches in diameter. Gently roll the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan or dish. Without stretching the dough, fit it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

  Preheat the oven to 325º F.

  For the filling, combine the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add the cherries and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and top with the butter.

  Roll out the remaining dough disk to ⅛ inch thick and about 11 inches in diameter. Drape the dough over the cherry filling. Fold the edges under the bottom crust and flute attractively or use a fork to press down the crust. Cut several slits in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape during baking.

  For the topping, brush the milk over the top and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the pie.

  Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

Cherry Streusel Muffins

For the muffin batter:

  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 cup pitted tart fresh cherries or well-drained bottled cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

For the streusel topping:

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the muffin batter, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners or butter the cups. Combine the flour, granulated and brown sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg, butter, and milk. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cherries and lemon zest. Spoon a level ¼ cup of the batter into each muffin cup.

For the streusel, combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a medium bowl, mixing well. Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the streusel over each muffin.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and the topping is golden brown. Transfer the pan with the muffins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Any extra muffins may be ¬frozen for up to 3 months.

Prep time: 40 minutes

Baking time: 25 minutes

Makes 12 muffin

Recipes and photos from The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook by © Amelia Levin. Photography by © Johnny Autry. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

Dorie Greenspan: Marveling at the petites merveilles on a Paris street corner

Bonjour! Bonjour!

I love getting Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful newsletters which read like an email from a special friend (I wish) and this one from November is a marvel. Enjoy!

From Dorie:

“I always say that I’m best self when I’m home in Paris, but if that’s true, then my best self can be pretty grumpy. The other morning, I woke up, looked out the window and grumbled and railed against what I had no control over: The weather. It was raining. Again. It was also 7-something in the morning, so it was dark — the autumn sun comes up late and even though I’ve lived here a long time, it still surprises me. (Soon it won’t get light until almost 9 am.)

“Yet early morning is one of my favorite times to get out — despite the rumble of delivery trucks and the swish of street cleaners’ brooms, it feels quiet, like the city’s stretching and getting in shape for the day. The other morning, out for a croissant run, I turned down the boulevard Saint Germain and into the rue l’Ancienne Comédie, which was mostly dark and quite dreary in the rain. But there, at the end of the short street, as though lowered to earth by some extra-planetary architect, was a spot of brilliance, a twinkle in the morning’s twilight: the bright-as-a-beacon Aux Merveilleux de Fred, a pastry shop that’s new to Saint Germain des Pres.

Sugar Plum Central

“When we moved to Saint Germain des Pres 25 years ago, I dubbed it Sugar Plum Central because everywhere I’d turn, I’d come to a patisserie. Today, I’d have to call it Sugar Plum Universe or Explosion or Abundance. Or maybe just Paradise. I’ve written about some of the shops before and I’ll be writing a lot more about Paris while I’m here for the next month, but here are the names — off the top of my head (and not even in alphabetical order) – of some of the shops that came here after I settled in: Pierre Hermé, Hugo & Victor, Angelina, Ladurée, Arnaud Lahrer, Alain Ducasse (chocolate), Pierre Marcolini (chocolate), Patrick Roger (chocolate), Fou de Patisserie and the shop at the end of the street.

What’s a Merveilleux, Other Than Marvelous?

“A merveilleux is layers of meringue spread with whipped cream, covered with more whipped cream and then rolled around in things delicious and decorative, like chocolate shavings, coconut flakes, cookie bits, coffee crystals or even more meringue. It’s one of those sweets that raises the possibility of alchemy, because nothing else explains why something so basic tastes so good.

The pastry has its roots in Belgium and northern France, but it’s mostly thanks to Frédéric Vaucamps and his beautiful shops that Parisians love them. Also, that they know how they’re made — every shop has a marble counter in the window where the meringues are stacked and covered with swirls of whipped cream and then coated.

From Merveilleux to Little Marvels

“Watching the merveilleux being made in the window is like seeing a recipe come to life. And for someone like me, it’s an irresistible invitation to go home and play around. I made the small cakes with all kinds of fillings, among them peanut butter (not a French favorite) and jam and cookie spread. I covered them in chopped cookies and toasted nuts and even sprinkles. And I renamed them when I put them in BAKING WITH DORIE — I called them Little Marvels and liked that, although the name doesn’t sound nearly as sophisticated as les merveilleux, it does inspire wonder. Also, it’s easier to pronounce!

Marvel away and I’ll see you back here soon.

Little Marvels

GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START

The egg whites: While eggs separate most easily when they’re cold, the whites whip to their most voluptuous volume when they’re at room temperature, so plan ahead: Separate the eggs at least 1 hour before you’ll need them. Also, make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are clean, dry and free of grease – any kind of fat will keep the whites from rising.

Shaping the meringue: It’s best to use the meringue as soon as it’s made, so have your pans ready to go. You can spoon out the meringue for the disks and flatten them with a knife or you can pipe them. Piping’s faster and neater. No matter how you shape the disks, you’ll find it easier to get them even if you make a template.

Size: I’m a miniaturist at heart, so I make individual marvels, but you can use the recipe to make more traditionally sized cakes just as they do at Aux Merveilleux de Fred — think birthday cakes!

Makes 10 cakes

For the meringue

  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 1⁄2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature (see above)
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (optional)

For the cream

  • 2 cups (480 ml) very cold heavy cream
  • 1⁄4 cup (30 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

For the spread – choose one

  • Cookie spread, such as Lotus Biscoff
  • Peanut butter
  • Melted chocolate
  • Thick jam

For the outer coating (figure about 2 cups [3 or 4 handfuls] of whichever one you choose)

  • Chocolate shavings (any kind of chocolate)
  • Chopped cookies
  • Coconut, shredded or flaked, sweetened or unsweetened, toasted or not
  • Chopped toasted nuts
  • Chopped meringue
  • Sprinkles

To make the meringues: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 250 degrees F. Using a pencil, draw ten 3-inch circles on each of two sheets of parchment paper; leaving about 2 inches between the circles. Turn the sheets over and use them to line two baking sheets.

Strain the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and the confectioners’ sugar through a fine-mesh sieve; set aside.

Working in the (clean, dry, grease-free) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the whites and vinegar on medium-high speed until they form soft peaks, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the remaining 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting a few seconds after each addition. It will take about 5 minutes, maybe even longer, to get all the sugar into the whites, but it’s this slow process that makes pristine meringue.

Once all the sugar is in, beat for 2 minutes or so, until you have stiff, glossy, beautifully white peaks. If you want to add the vanilla, beat it in now.

Switch to a flexible spatula and fold in the reserved sugar mix.

You can spoon the meringues out or shape them with a small icing spatula, but it’s faster and easier to pipe them. Use a pastry bag without a tip, or cut a 1⁄2-to-3⁄4-inch-wide opening in the tip of a disposable piping bag or a bottom corner of a large ziplock bag.

Fill the bag with the meringue and dab a little of it on the four corners of each baking sheet to secure the parchment. Using the circles as your guide, aim to pipe disks that are between 1⁄4 and 1⁄2 inch high, but don’t get nutty about it—the diameter is more important than the height.

Bake the meringues for about 50 minutes. You don’t want the meringues to take on (much) color; they’re properly baked when they peel off the paper easily. Turn off the oven and open the oven door a crack to let out whatever steam may have developed, then close the door and leave the meringues in the turned-off oven for another hour. (You can make the meringues at least a week ahead; just keep them covered and dry.)

To make the whipped cream: Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream just until it begins to thicken a bit. Gradually add the sugar and then the cinnamon, if you’re using it, and beat until the cream is thick enough to use as a frosting. If you’re using vanilla, whip it in now. (The cream can be covered and refrigerated for up to an hour or so.)

To assemble the cakes: If you want to add a spread, coat the top side of half of the meringues with whatever you’ve chosen. Top with whipped cream—you can use a spoon or a cookie scoop to portion out the cream—see what you like, but 2 tablespoons of cream should do it for each cake— then cap each cake with another disk of meringue, flat side up. Using a small icing spatula, frost the tops and sides of the cakes with the remaining whipped cream. The layer doesn’t have to be very thick, just generous enough to capture the crunchies you’ll cover it with. Pop the cakes into the freezer for 10 minutes or the refrigerator for about 1 hour before coating them. (The cakes can stay in the refrigerator for about 5 hours; cover them lightly and keep them away from anything with a strong odor.)

To coat the cakes: Put whatever you’ve chosen as your coating in a shallow bowl or a small tray. One by one, roll the cakes in the coating, getting some of the crunchies around the sides and on the tops. If it’s easier for you, use a spoon—I roll them and use a spoon to help me get a good coating. Refill the bowl as needed. Refrigerate the cakes for an hour, or until you need them. (The cakes can also be frozen for up to 2 months; see Storing.)

Storing: The cakes should be eaten cold, straight from the refrigerator, and preferably on the day that they’re made. However, you can freeze them: Freeze on a tray until solid, then wrap each one well and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. You can put them in the refrigerator for an hour to defrost, but I think they’re wonderfully delicious—like mini ice cream cakes—still frozen.

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Delicious Poke Cakes: 80 Super Simple Desserts with an Extra Flavor Punch in Each Bite

In their book, Delicious Poke Cakes: 80 Super Simple Desserts with an Extra Flavor Punch in Each Bite, authors Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore show us how easy it is to make poke cakes. And what is a poke cake? It’s basically a cake where you poke holes in the baked cake and add some extra ingredients.

How easy is that? Super easy.

About the Authors

Roxanne Wyss with Kathy Moore, The Electrified Cooks, are cookbook authors, food consultants, food writers, cooking teachers, and food bloggers, who share their test-kitchen expertise through creative recipes and tips that make cooking easier and more fun. This is their sixteenth cookbook, previous titles include Rice Cooker Revival and The Easy Air Fryer Cookbook for The American Diabetes AssociationThey teach cooking classes, consult with food and appliance companies, write feature articles and appear on television, including appearances on QVC. Their professional careers in food, spanning over thirty years, now include a popular blog, PluggedintoCooking.com.

Tequila Sunrise Poke Cake

Sunrise paints a graduated array of colors as the deep orange and red fade into yellow. That beautiful view is what gave this historic drink its name. While the drink is as old as the Prohibition era, it became popular in the 1970s when a bar in Sausalito, near San Francisco, reinvented it and traveling musicians from famous rock bands tasted it and helped seal its place in pop culture. The current drink is made of orange juice, grenadine, and tequila—and this cake captures those wonder[1]ful flavors and the striking colors.

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 (15.25- to 18-ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • Eggs, oil, and water as directed on the cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (3-ounce) box orange gelatin
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 3 tablespoons grenadine syrup
  • 1 (8-ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish

with nonstick cooking spray.

Prepare and bake the cake according to the package directions for a 9 x 13-inch cake. Place cake on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Poke holes evenly over the baked cake using the tines of a fork.

Place the water in a 4-cup microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on High (100%) power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the water comes to a boil. Stir the gelatin into the water until it is dissolved. Stir in the tequila. Pour the gelatin mixture evenly over the cake.

Slowly and evenly drizzle the cake with the grenadine, making a striped design across the cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for 1 hour. Frost the cake with the whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or up overnight before serving.

Variations

If you prefer to omit the tequila, prepare the gelatin as directed. Stir in ¼ cup cold water and proceed as the recipe directs. If desired, instead of using all water to prepare the cake mix, substitute ¼ cup tequila and ½ cup orange juice for part of the water. Add water, as needed, to equal the required amount of liquid specified on the cake mix box. Proceed as the recipe directs.

Tips

Grenadine is a sweet, red syrup that is often used to flavor cocktails. While it is not a liquor, you will often find it in the grocery store shelved with mixers and supplies for cocktails.

Chocolate and Vanilla Poke ’n’ Tote Cakes

Neat and portable, these luscious chocolate cakes are ready to take to the park, soccer field, or office, or any time you want a dessert to go. They are a winner, and the chocolate cake, topped with a creamy vanilla pudding and then a chocolate glaze, just may remind you of a cream-filled snack cake!

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1⁄3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) box vanilla instant pudding mix

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Spray 12 (8-ounce) canning jars with nonstick cooking spray. Set the lids and rings aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking pow[1]der, baking soda, and salt. Using a handheld mixer on low speed, beat in the egg, ½ cup of the milk, the oil, vanilla, and cocoa mixture.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl well and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Spoon about ¼ cup of the batter into each prepared jar. Do not cover.

Arrange the jars in a shallow baking pan, leaving about 1 inch between the jars.

Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (Do not overbake.)

Place the baking pan with the jars in it on a wire rack and let the cakes cool completely. Poke holes evenly over the baked cakes in the jars using a drinking straw.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pudding mix and the remaining 2 cups of milk until the pudding is blended. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the pudding over each cake.

Seal each jar with its lid and ring and refrigerate the cakes for 1 hour.

MAKE THE CHOCOLATE GLAZE: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the cocoa powder. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla and stir until smooth. The glaze should be thin enough to drizzle off the tip of a spoon.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the Chocolate Glaze over the pudding in each jar. Gently, using the back of a spoon, spread the glaze to cover the pudding completely.

Seal each jar again and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight before serving.

Variations

Poke Cupcakes: Line muffin pans with paper liners. Prepare the batter as directed and spoon it into the pre[1]pared pan, filling each cup about halfway full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Proceed as the recipe di[1]rects, poking the cakes with a drinking straw, topping with pudding, and spreading the pudding to the edge of the cupcakes. Top with the glaze, gently covering the pudding. Individual Poke Cakes: Instead of canning jars, prepare the individual poke cakes in 8-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Spray the ramekins with nonstick cooking spray, then spoon in the batter, filling ramekins about halfway. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Proceed as the recipe di[1]rects, poking the cakes with a drinking straw, topping with pudding, and spreading the pudding to the edge of the cakes. Top with the glaze, gently covering the pudding.

Crunchy Toffee Poke Cake

Do you need to bring a dessert to the office party, potluck, or bunko night? No wor[1]ries! Bake Crunchy Toffee Poke Cake the day ahead, and you’ve got it covered. This will make the gathering memorable to many, and there won’t be one piece left to carry home. That’s a good thing, right?

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 (15.25- to 18-ounce) German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (3.9-ounce) box chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2⁄3 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (12.25-ounce) jar caramel ice cream topping
  • 1 (8-ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 4 (1.4-ounce) milk chocolate English toffee candy bars

      Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish  with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer on low speed, beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl well and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Place the cake on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Poke holes evenly over the baked cake using the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the cake cool completely.

Drizzle three-quarters of the caramel topping into the holes on the cake.

Frost the cake with the whipped topping.

Place the candy bars in a zip-top bag and coarsely crush with a rolling pin or mallet. Sprinkle the candy bars evenly over the cake.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, drizzle the top of the cake with the remaining caramel topping.

Variations

You can substitute caramels and milk for the caramel ice-cream topping.

Combine 1 (14-ounce) package caramels, unwrapped, and ¼ cup whole milk in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on High (100%) power in 30-second intervals, stirring well after each, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth, making sure not to overcook the caramels.

Pour three-quarters of the caramel mixture into the poked holes in the cake.

Warm the remaining caramel mixture in the microwave on high power for 10 to 15 seconds or until warm.

Drizzle over the cake just before serving.

TIP

If you want to reduce the amount of chocolate, use a white or yellow cake mix in place of the German chocolate cake mix.