chocolate cake slices

Brownie Dessert

These homemade brownies are rich, fudgy, and filled with a trio of decadent chocolate.

This is legit the best brownie ever! I know everyone who has ever posted a brownie recipe says that, but this is the one. Typically, I am not a fan of brownies. They are either too dry, or too gooey, leaving a chunk of chocolate to somehow swallow down. These brownies bake up almost cake-like. They are light and airy, packed with flavor, and keep their shape making them perfect for cutting into various shapes and dessert plating.

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Gingerbread Layer Cake

Nothing celebrates the holidays like Gingerbread and a festive cake brings the party to the table. This gingerbread cake combines the two, bakes up moist and delicious, and is frosted with a whipped cream frosting and topped with a gingerbread man. It is a dessert that will impress.


Candy canes, mistletoe, and gingerbread are all synonymous with Christmas and take on many forms during the holidays. Its unique flavor comes from ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and typically molasses. If you are not building with it, you are probably making cookies, loafs, or cake. Oddly enough, not bread.

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Ginger Panna Cotta

Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita. All those wonderful Fall flavors we look forward to ever season.

I only recently found, and fell in love, with panna cotta. Just the name alone, panna cotta, sounded complicated enough for me to avoid it. I’m not much of a dessert person to start with and I defiantly am not a baker of any sort. Give me a stock pot and a garden I’ll come away with someone wonderful. Sit down some flour, baking soda, and a copious amount of randomness and I’m like, uhmmm, what am I supposed to do now? So, yes, panna cotta made me shiver in complicated fear. I was wrong!

What is Panna Cotta?

Panna Cotta is Italian Pudding. Basically, it is simmered sweetened dairy, in this recipe I used heavy cream, thickened with gelatin. That’s it! You can add flavors and spices to the dairy and let it simmer into the milk, but it couldn’t be easier. The only thing you want to watch out for is splitting the cream. I avoid that my dissolving the gelatin separately and adding it to the simmered dairy off the heat. Do not let the dairy come to a boil. Boiling destroys gelatin’s thickening power and will split the panna cotta for sure.

Since Fall is in the air I choose to bring all those wonderful fall spices and fruits into the dessert. What could be better than ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and apple cider frozen into an apple cider granita.

What is Granita?

Granita is fresh fruit simmered in water, blended and frozen until icy, flaked with a fork and frozen again. By using apple cider, half the work is already completed. Since granita is basically flavored shaved iced I was generous with the spices to really boost those flavors.

Ginger Panna Cotta

Cedar Oak Farms
Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Freeze/Refrigerate 12 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

For the Panna Cotta:

  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the granita:

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions
 

For the Panna Cotta:

  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and set aside. Place the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin milk. (This might look like a paste at this point, but not to worry. It is the perfect consistency.) Pour into 4 cocktail or wine glasses, filling halfway up. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 4 hours.

For the granita:

  • Mix all the ingredients together, and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Place in a bowl and freeze for 2 hours. After two hours, mix with a fork and freeze overnight. When ready to serve scrape with a fork to resemble graham cracker crumbs. Reserve any unused granita in the freezer.

To Serve:

  • Serve the panna cotta in the glass, top with some freshly made whipped cream. Add the granita. The granita will melt quickly; serve immediately.
Keyword Custard

Gingered Cantaloupe with Sage Honey.

Fresh fruit makes the simplest dessert and is that perfect sweet ending to any meal.

We always look forward to the early summer garden with fresh corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes bursting in bright vivid colors. But there’s really something to be said about the early fall garden. For us here in Central Illinois that’s when our “orange” fruits and vegetables ripen giving us big beautiful pumpkins, the sweetest sweet potatoes, plump carrots, and a personal favorite, juicy sweet fruits like redhaven peaches and cantaloupe. It’s the cantaloupe that is highlighted in this fruit dessert.

Cantaloupe is perfect sliced in wedges and eaten plain, but if you want to elevate the flavors cut the fruit into melon balls and mix them with freshly grated ginger and a drizzle of sage honey. That peppery tang in the fresh ginger just hits the tongue in the most delightful way and changes the cantaloupe giving it a more dynamic flavor. Then the sage honey comes in with a sweet, clover-like flavor and tames the ginger. But what really brings it all together is the floral undertones in all three of the ingredients. The flavors explode in your mouth and then come together in a gentle swaying dance.

Just use a light hand with both the ginger and honey. Fresh ginger can be very potent and can overtake the more mellow cantaloupe. You know the rule: you can always add more, but you cannot take it away.

Bread Pudding

Bread pudding, once known as poor man’s pudding, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It evolved as a use for stale bread. Today’s bread puddings, however, take advantage of fresh, gourmet breads, such as brioche, and include expensive ingredients, such as vanilla beans, flavored liquors, gourmet cheese, or pecans. It has shaken its modest origins and now shows up on the dessert menus of upscale restaurants and creative home cooks.

For us it is the ultimate comfort food and we love how versatility it is. The dish is made by layering bits of bread (or leftover muffins, croissants, buns, you get the idea) with any imaginable addition from fruit, to liquor, to spices, to leftover chocolate, in a dish and soaking it in a custard sauce before baking. It bakes up golden and fluffy and as if that isn’t enough it is often drizzled in creamy flavorful sauces. Seriously, what’s not to love?

The Basic:

Start with a basic bread pudding. I usually tear a loaf of challah bread into a large bowl. In a medium saucepan heat 3 cups milk (or half and half, or 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream) with 3 tablespoons butter just until butter is melted. Pour over bread and let sit 15 minutes to cool. In a small bowl whisk 3 eggs with 1/2 cup sugar until it is smooth ad thick. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla (or vanilla bean). Gently mix into the bread mixture. Let the bread sit and soak, making sure that the bread is sufficiently moist before it goes into the oven. Pour the mixture into a greased pan or casserole. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, or until puffy and no liquid is visible when a knife is inserted. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Add Some Yum:

Serve with fresh berries and a basic vanilla sauce.

Raspberry Bread Pudding:

Bread Pudding with raspberries

Follow the basic recipe but add 1/2 pint fresh raspberries when adding the vanilla. While the bread is cooling make the white chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup half and half with the beans from a 1-inch slice of vanilla pod. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Add 2 teaspoons unsalted butter and 8 ounces white chocolate that has been chopped into small pieces. Whisk until smooth. Spoon the white chocolate sauce onto a serving dish. Set a slice of raspberry bread pudding in the center. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Caramel Whiskey Bread Pudding:

Combine 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup caramel whiskey in a small saucepan. Heat just to a simmer, cover and set aside. Make the basic bread pudding as listed above, but add 1/2 pint of blueberries, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the drunken raisins when adding the vanilla. While the bread pudding is baking make the pudding sauce: Melt 1 stick unsalted butter; stir in 1 cup brown sugar and 1 beaten egg. Simmer to thicken. Stir in 1/4 cup caramel whiskey, 1/4 cup milk and keep warm until ready to use. Serve with bread.