Treat yourself and kids with Custom Confections

Custom Confections
Custom Confections

Available September 1st from Capstone Young Readers, this book is perfect for budding young pastry chefs or families that just want to have some fun in the kitchen.

If you’re looking for some sweet treats to make up with your kids this holiday season and beyond, don’t miss Custom Confections, by Jen Besel.

While it’s targeted for readers ages 9-13, I’ve found more than a few of the techniques outlined in this book helpful and easily applicable to other recipes and projects for my adult sensibilities as well. In fact, many of the recipes call for playing and adapting and inspiring some delicious spin-offs. (Don’t miss the checkerboard cake and the marshmallow fondant recipes.)

Sugared flower cupcakes
Sugared flower cupcakes

So grab the kids, apron-up, and prepare for some sweet fun.

Dulce de leche and strawberry ice cream cake

You could really use this technique with any combination of ice creams and cookies, but try this one—it is very refreshing and unique.

Dulce de leche and Strawberry Ice Cream cake


12-15 dulce de leche cookies
6-8 shortbread cookies
3 T. butter, melted


2 pints strawberry sorbet (Haagen-Daz recommended)
2 pints Dulce le Leche ice cream (also Haagen-Daz)

1 springform pan

What to do with those leftover cookies. (If you had any.)
What to do with those leftover cookies. (If you had any.)

1.) Pulse cookies in a food processor. While running, drizzle in butter. Take out 1 pint of the dulce de leche cream to soften—leave the rest in the freezer.

2.) Press crust into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake in a 350℉ oven for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden brown on the edges. Cool completely.

3.)  Spread the first layer of softened ice cream on top of the cool crust, making as smooth and even as possible. Put back in freezer and take out sorbet to soften.

4.) Alternate freezing the cake between layers and softening the next pint of ice cream until all 4 layers are frozen—about 45 minutes per layer but can be more or less depending on how you want to do it.

Notes: Start this cake the morning of the day before you want to serve it. If you’re making this outside of cookie season, you can make a simple graham cracker crust instead.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Scott’s Biscotti

Lately I’ve been making a lot of healthy brain food that doesn’t taste like salmon.

Here’s a biscotti recipe that I adapted from Ann Burrell that incorporates whole nuts, berries and dark chocolate in a not-so-sweet cookie for breakfast or dessert. She dips hers into a chocolate ganache, but I like the chocolate on the inside. It’s decadent enough without the dipped and extras.

And it’s a long way from lox and better than a bagel.

Scott’s Biscotti

1 stick of room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 white for brushing on the top
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup toasted almonds, rough chopped
4-6 oz package of dried cherries
2-4 oz dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

A couple of tablespoons of raw or turbinado sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 300°. Beat together the sugar and eggs until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract until well combined.

2.) Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Fold in cherries, almonds and chocolate chunks until just combined.

3.) Divide the dough in half and shape two long, skinny logs on a piece of parchment paper about 12 inches long. You really don’t have to roll it out–it’s sticky but will shape nicely. Flatten the tops just slightly, and brush with the egg white until glossy and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

4.) Bake for 35 minutes until somewhat firm–they bake again so it will be on the soft side at this stage. Remove from oven and cool 10-20 minutes before slicing into thick slices on an angle.

5.) Arrange the slices back on the cookie sheet and bake for another 10-12 minutes until hard. Cool completely on a rack.

©2013 Tracey Henry

I don't know how good it is for your brain, but it's certainly good for the soul.
I don’t know how good it is for your brain, but it’s certainly good for the soul.

Raspberry Cream Pie

There’s a little farm stand on the North Fork of Long Island that is lined with the usual local produce; potatoes, peaches maybe some tomatoes and sweet corn. But if you look beyond the earthy wooden tables you’ll no doubt notice a line formed outside of an unassuming white door propped ajar by someone’s flip flop.

They’re not waiting for a secret stash of broccoli, they’re waiting for pie.

In exchange for a small fortune ($28-$36 per) pie nirvana awaits. Sure, you can choose the fresh-baked apple, cherry, or strawberry-rhubarb, but people are not paying premium prices for the usual, they’re there for something you can’t find anywhere else–the fruit cream pies.

Now, if you think you have any idea what I’m talking about and it includes a tub of Cool Whip or a package of cream cheese best suited for a bagel, then we might have to fight. No, it’s not a whipped topping dessert or a cheesecake with a can of fruit on top, it’s a delicate Chantilly-like cream with a body, filling and gravity-defying dome of fresh fruit that might cause you to weep at its exquisiteness.

The original cream pie in blueberry. Delish.
The original cream pie in blueberry. Delish.

What also may cause tears is if you happen to try to find the recipe. Google will mock you, message board posters will ridicule you, but your soul will beg you to find it. But you can’t because apparently the angels wrote the recipe with disappearing halo dust and all traces are gone, just a crumb trail back to the Mt. Olympus boulangerie.

So, for humanity’s sake and my attempt at World peace, here is my very best recreation of the greatest pie in the world. Rest assured I will continue my efforts to perfect it until I can charge you a couple of Jacksons, too.

Fresh Raspberry Cream Pie (like Rieremere-Bay)


2 cups fresh ricotta (or drained store bought)
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Raspberry topping

12-16 oz fresh raspberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cherry or raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord
1/4 c. tapioca

1 Deep dish pie crust shell, baked

1.) Prepare pie shell. The crust isn’t the star of the show here, so use something easy even it’s pre-made or frozen.

2.) Prepare the topping by bringing the raspberries, water, sugar, liqueur, to a gentle boil, just until the berries begin to break down, leaving some whole. Turn off the heat and stir in the tapioca. Let stand about 20 minutes. Chill.

3.) In a cold mixing bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar with the ricotta and vanilla until fluffy. Transfer to a large bowl. Rinse out the mixing bowl in COLD water, dry, and whip the cream with remaining 1/2 cup sugar until fairly stiff–about 3-5 minutes.

4.) Gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture just until combined, then fill the pie shell. Chill for at least an hour until firm.

5.) Top the chilled pie with the chilled fruit topping and then chill again. Chill, baby, chill.

6.) Invite your very best friends or someone in the position to give you a promotion or money and a neurosurgeon standing by because it will blow your mind.

My raspberry cream version of the original pie.
My raspberry cream version of the original pie.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Espresso Chocolate Chip Gelato

In my old liberal hippie escape fantasies, I used to want to run away to Vermont and start a lavender farm and make my own soap.

I’ve evolved since then.

Now, I want to run away to Tuscany to start a pine nut and basil farm and make my own gelato.

I’ll start with this one.

Espresso Chocolate Chip Gelato

(You need an ice cream maker of some sort for this recipe.)

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
4 egg yolks

1 cup mini chocolate chips, chocolate chips or chopped chocolate pieces

1.) Freeze or refrigerate chocolate chips until ready to use.

2.) Combine milk and cream in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Heat through until it foams around the edges. Whisk in espresso powder and vanilla until dissolved.

3.) Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and sugar is dissolved. Add about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the eggs–stir well, then add the rest and stir until combined. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and heat through until it coats the back of the spoon, about 3-5 minutes.

4.) Strain the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl or pitcher, cover and chill about 3 hours.

5.) Following your ice cream machine instructions, process the gelato for about 10-15 minutes or until just about done. Add the chocolate chips in the final minutes. Freeze until ready to serve.


6.) Search out Italian farmland and used gelato street carts on the Internet.


©2013 Tracey Henry

43 is the New 22. Or Something

There’s a certain inevitability on any given radio dial in the Year of Our Lord 2013, that at some point within a 3 minute time period, you will be subjected to a Taylor Swift song. Whether this entertains or tortures you is your business, but for me, it provided an unexpected birthday gift this year.

With just a little tweaking to her smash hit “22,” Taylor gets me. So, thanks, T-Swizzle for capturing exactly what it’s like to turn 42.

(Obviously sung to the tune of 22 )

It feels like a perfect night to pull up our hipsters
Way past our solar plexes uh uh uh uh
It feels like a perfect night for Pinterest at midnight
Errantly texting strangers uh uh uh uh
We’re savvy spent clever and jaded at the same time
It’s miserable and premenopausal oh yeah
Tonight’s the night we forget about the laugh lines, it’s time uh uh

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 42
everything will be alright if you keep my wineglass full
You don’t know about me and I can’t remember you
but everything will be alright if we just keep Spanxing like we’re 42, 42

It seems like one of those nights
Outback’s too crowded too many school kids
It seems like one of those nights
We ditch the sitter and end up sleeping instead of eating

We’re savvy spent jaded and clever in the best way
It’s juvenile and geriatrical oh yeah
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the backaches
It’s time

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 42
Everything will be alright if you keep my wineglass full
You don’t know about me and I can’t remember you
Everything will be alright if we just keep Spanxing like we’re 42

After I spent an insane amount of time rewriting this simple song, I realized that I didn’t even turn 42 this year–I’m effing 43 which is such a 42 year old thing to do that I could have added another refrain.

So here’s some damn sugar and chocolate with booze in it.

Happy @#$% birthday to me.


22, 42....Tiramisu
22, 42….Tiramisu


Tiramisu for 22 at 42

3 eggs, separated
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup strong coffee (because who has a cup of espresso laying around?), divided
1 cup sugar, divided
1 T. brandy
2 T. Kahlua or coffee liqueur

1 1/2 packages of lady fingers
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. cocoa and/or shaved chocolate

(If you’re a normal cook and not a Food Network star, you probably only have 1 hand or stand mixer in your kitchen, so included are some hints for that.)

Beat egg yolks, 1 tablespoon coffee, 1/2 cup sugar until well combined. Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from mixing bowl and give the bowl a wash and final rinse in cold water.

Whip egg whites and a pinch of sugar until fairly stiff; gently fold into your mascarpone mixture, just until combined. Don’t over mix.

Rinse the mixing bowl out in cold water again, dry, and whip the heavy cream with the remaining scant half cup of sugar. (You can adjust the sugar here to taste, and add a teaspoon of vanilla if desired.) Set aside.

Mix the last of the coffee with the Kahlua or brandy in a shallow bowl. Dip a lady finger quickly, and then line the bottom and then the sides of a 13×9 glass dish or trifle bowl with the cookies. Layer half of the mascarpone mixture, sprinkle with cocoa, then repeat with a layer of dipped ladyfingers. After two layers of cookies, cheese and cocoa, top the top with the whipped cream and cocoa. Drizzle with some Kahlua if desired and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill 4-5 hours, but it’s best overnight.

Sing “Happy Birthday” (or any Taylor Swift song) loud and proud.


©2013 Tracey Henry