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#FirstontheFirst- Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

1 May Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

It’s hard to believe that this is the final First on the First post!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to virtually cook with such fabulous ladies each month and I’ve definitely been inspired to try things in my kitchen I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  When we set our cooking calendar for this year, the crew agreed to do mille feuilles in May in honor of a little Parisian jaunt I was hoping to take this month- and how exciting that we have finally arrived at our grande finale de joie!

I have to admit that I am secretly also excited to have a momentary platform to address my second greatest pastry pet peeve (behind the “Macaroon” vs “Macaron” debacle… QUIT CALLING THE FRENCH COOKIE A MACAROOOOON!  A macaroon is a Southern ball of coconut.  Not close to the same thing.) and that is simply that a “Napoleon” is not a pastry.  It’s called a mille feuille.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two- far easier even that deciphering a macaroon/macaron.  I’ve included a guide below:

This is a "Napoleon." *

This is a “Napoleon.” *

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille (Napoleon)

This is a “Mille Feuille”

I hope that helps.

As I set out on this months challenge, I wanted to stray away from the traditional mille feuille… I’ll enjoy the purist version in a proper Parisian patisserie soon enough.  Instead I set out to create a version that was a happy medium between a gussied up banana pudding married to my new favorite way to enjoy a banana- smeared with Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter.

As always, I cheated and bought pre-prepared puff pastry dough- Whole Foods and Durfour still do I better job than I do!  I also made my pastry cream with a combination of granulated white sugar and coconut palm sugar to give it a caramelized depth with no added work.  In the end, it turns out that mille feuilles are insanely simple.

That is… once you master the icing situation…

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Although I’m a total Salvador Dali fanatic, this wasn’t truly my intention. C’est pas mon trip!

This recipe makes two full sheets of mille feuille (the hot mess pictured above is one sheet) so just cut the recipe in half to reduce.

Or make both… so you can practice your pattern skills.  If not, c’est kif-kif- declare it le surrealiste and just dive right in with a fork!


Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Banane Noisette Mille Feuille

  • 2 prepared puff pastry sheet
  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 large banana, cut into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk with the corn starch and set aside.

Combine the remaining milk and sugar in a saucepan.  Whisk to dissolve sugar and slowly bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.  Remove from heat.

Beat two eggs into the milk and cornstarch mixture.  Separate the remaining four egg yolks- reserving two egg whites for the icing- and beat the egg yolks into the mixture.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the heated milk and add to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from cooking.

Return the heated milk in the saucepan to the stove and return to a simmer.  Pour in the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.  Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and whisk pastry cream until smooth.  Whisk in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.

Pour into a glass bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and chill in fridge for at least six hours.

Once pastry cream has fully cooled and thickened, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out prepared puff pastry sheets  and cut each one into three equal portions.

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lay the first portion of pastry on the baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.  Cover with parchment and top with a glass baking dish to keep the pastry from rising.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden around the edges and remove to a cooling rack.

Repeat with the five other pieces.

Once pastry sheets have cooled, construct the mille feuille.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille


  1. Puff pastry sheet
  2. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  3. Sliced bananas
  4. Pastry cream
  5. Puff Pastry sheet
  6. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  7. Sliced bananas
  8. Pastry Cream
  9. Puff pastry sheet

Place mille feuille in the fridge as you prepare the icing.

Melt chocolate and 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter in a baine marie.  Once melting and thoroughly stirred, transfer to a piping bag and place in a cup until ready to use.

Whisk two egg whites with lemon juice until light and frothy.  Whisk in two cups of powdered sugar, adding more to reach desired consistency.

Pour royal icing over the mille feuille.  Working quickly, pipe stripes of chocolate across the top of the icing and use a toothpick to trace trails through the surface to provide a classic finish.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille


More mille feuille madness:

*Napoleon image used under the Fair Use Doctrine from

#FirstontheFirst- Stuffed Naan with Candied Red Onion

1 Apr #FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Last month’s First on the First (lobster wellington, anyone?!) gave my wallet fits.  And while his month wasn’t a budget buster, it provided challenges of a different kind.  We’re tackling naan which is 1) made with refined white flour, and 2) something I make with some frequency.  Let me expand…

If you are even an infrequent reader you’ve probably gathered that we aren’t a gluten free (or flour free) household at this point, so the “refined white flour” challenge might be slightly confusing.  The Hubs is currently battling an achilles injury less than a month away from Boston Marathon, so we are being very careful about his diet and ensuring that he not put on weight during this change in activity level.  So white flour/white sugar are no-no’s for him right now.  Given his lack of self control when it comes to home-baked goods, it also means it’s a big fat no-no in our kitchen if he is at home.

#FirstontheFirst- Homemade Naan

The thing is, I really didn’t want to explore naan baking with alt-flours.  It just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So I needed to bake naan in our house when The Hubs was gone but there was someone other than just me and Baby Bird around to eat it.

The other problem that presented, however, was that good ol’ white flour naan wouldn’t be a real First on the First for me since it’s a pretty common menu item in our house.  Tikka masala, Indian slaw, and garlic naan fresh off the griddle stand as a pretty satisfying meal around these parts so trying something new would mean moving beyond my beloved basic garlic naan, brushed with butter and topped with parsley.

Since I wasn’t going to waiver on the flour type, I decided to make a stuffed naan… during a playdate so someone would be around to help with the consumption issue.  I originally wanted to stuff it with ground lamb, candied red onions, currants, and cilantro… but our playdate guests were vegetarians so the lamb had to go.  I also decided that I wanted to bake it in the oven instead of on the stovetop grill as usual because it seemed like a safer option with extra sets of tiny hands roaming about.

The mix of daytime guests and vegetarian stuffing ended up being the right mix, because there wasn’t a tray full of baked goods poised to taunt The Hubs when he returned from work.  And the filling was darn good!

When push comes to shove, my preference will still be the standard garlic naan grilled hot and fluffy on the stovetop- somewhere between oven-baking and stuffing the texture changes just a bit- but this was a nice, substantial treat to now have in my repertoire.

#FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

Naan Stuffed with Candied Red Onions, Currants, Garlic and Cilantro

  • half a red onion, minced
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs local honey
  • 2 tbs + 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • salt

Directions:  Place a pizza stone in oven.  Preheat oven to 550 degrees F (convection).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt 3 tbs of butter.  Add onions and saute until beginning to soften.  Add vinegar, honey, and 2 tbs sugar.  Over low heat, cook for about15 minutes until syrup is thick and condensed and resembles a chunky jam.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbs of butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and remaining sugar. Pour egg mixture into the flour and stir to combine.  Pour half of the warm water into the flour mixture, using a spatula to combine.  Add the melted butter and mix again to combine.  Using your hands to knead within the bowl, slowly add the remaining water until the dough becomes well incorporated but not sticky.

Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

In a clean bowl, combine candied onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro leaves.  Stir to combine.

Melt remaining butter.

Divide dough into 4 portions.

Working with the first portion of dough, roll out slightly into a circle on parchment paper.  Place 1/4 of the filling mixture into the center, allowing at least a 1/2 inch boarder around the outside.  Dampen the edges of the dough with water and pinch together in the center to seal as though you are drawing up a purse.

Invert the dough, seal side down, and roll out once again to flatten gently.  Brush top with butter and place directly on pizza stone for 4-6 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough portions.


These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:


#FirstontheFirst: Steamed Pork Buns

1 Feb #firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Unbelievably, it’s First on the First time yet again!  This month I was super-dee-duper excited about our cooking task because it allowed me to indulge in a little chefcentric excitement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get really excited about.  If you know me personally you might say this is an overwhelming understatement.  There are a few people’s cuisine that I get totally jazzed about and can carry on about for hours.  Literally hours.

At least it’s a short list.  And a respectable one at that:

  1. Rick Bayless- Given his theory on food and sustainability, this one should come as no surprise.  Full disclosure- I have a foodie crush on him.  Further important detail, I once stayed up super late making custom “Bayless Babies” onesies for Baby Bird and her infant friends complete with labels like “sustainable eater” and “locally grown” so we could dress our nuggets full on baby groupie style to watch his demo at the Green Market.  And RICK BAYLESS TWEETED A PICTURE OF THEM!  That’s right, Rick Bayless tweeted a photo a Baby Bird.  (Okay, when I read that it seems like a weird thing to be excited about.  That’s that strangest one, I promise!)

    Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    But seriously, what celebrity chef WOULDN’T tweet this photo!?!

  2. Gordon Ramsey- The American television persona has no effect on me.  I don’t watch TV anyway.  Ramsey is responsible for the single best dining experience of my life at Maze in Prague.  We were fortunate enough to do the tasting menu.  I was unfortunate enough to do the wine pairings.  I cannot recall the very minutia of this meal, which irks me because I can normally remember every nuance of the meals I consider the best I’ve ever had.  Even with that, it was still undeniably the best meal I’ve ever eaten.  There was some sort of corn bisque… and a tiny muffin… and savory jam… and then it fades into foie gras course… Ommmmmm.  Nirvana.  I’m satisfied with this one remaining a blissfully euphoric haze and great wine and stellar food.

    Steamed Buns- Go Running, Mama!

    On our rooftop in Prague before heading out to dinner at Maze. And before the wine pairings.

  3. Eric Ripert- Ripert uses a holistic approach to food and cooking and truly believes it is a spiritual experience.  Like Bayless, he shares anecdotes and and expiences that prove food connects us.  How can you not be drawn to that.  Especially with that accent… and those eyes… (Okay, this one is getting weird too).  Plus, he provides the perfect counter balance to all the things I love about the dredge that is Anthony Bourdain.
  4. David Chang- And we’ve reached the enigma.  Chang majored in religion, taught English in Japan, and made a major career shift based on his love for the humble ramen noodle.  He is fully invested in food cultures and puts out a pretty sweet publication- Lucky Peach- with is my go-to in-flight reading (which is basically the only time I manage periodical reading).  And he does irreverent things with food sometimes.  And it’s awesome.

With that said, this post could have simply started with me highlighting my my interest in David Chang’s food but then I would have had no reason to share a pic of Baby Bird with Rick Bayless or The Hubs dressed like Heisenberg.

Back to those steamed buns…

When The Hubs and I were in NYC on a little business trip several months ago, we of course spent our first meal at the temple of Chang.  For steamed buns!  And after our meal we of course ran back to the apartment we were renting because The Hubs was on a streak… and our flight had gotten in late… and if we didn’t run back- with me in a dress- he wouldn’t have gotten his run in for the day and the streak would be over (Runners…shesh!).  While I do not recommend going for a run afterwards, I do wholeheartedly recommend experiencing David Chang’s steamed bun with pork belly.

So this, of course, is what I knew I just had to attempt to make for this challenge.

Luckily for me, Chang did a video tutorial with Martha Stewart on his humble, iconic pork bun!  Ummm, hello!? Martha and Chang in the same frame?  Someone come revive me, please!

Normally when we do these challenges, I get creative and push things.  I strike out with my own recipe.  I did not do that here.  I’m not going to make David Chang’s signature dish better in some way, so I’m not even going to pretend.  I basically used the recipe Chang provided for Martha Stewart.

I did make a few changes to adjust for portion, ease of preparation in a house governed by a toddler schedule (not really… but sort of), and because I made a measuring error.

I didn’t want enough pork belly for 30 servings because in a house of 2.5 full sized humans I knew 30 servings of pork belly would mean pork belly for lunch everyday for the week (which would have scale shattering, artery clogging consequences by week end).  I didn’t want to make the pork early to have the rendered fat on hand to make the buns only to have to bother with reheating the pork to serve for dinner… so I rendered bacon fat for my buns.  Oh, and I added a quarter cup too much flour because… Ooops!… so I had to counter the mistake with a tad more liquid.

But guess what y’all?  These are flipping delicious!

But remember, DO NOT go running right after you eat them.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

#firstonthefirst Steamed Pork Buns- Go Running, Mama!

Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

Steamed Bun Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbs warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
  • 4 cups bread flour
  •  1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Pork Belly Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 sup coarse kosher salt
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless pork belly

For serving:

  • hoisin sauce (if you want to keep it soy-free, find a soy free sauce)
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • green onions

Directions:  To dry brine the pork, mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the pork in a shallow dish.  Cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours.

Cook the bacon slices in a pan to render the fat.  Once cook, remove bacon and reserve for other uses and pour fat through a mesh sieve into a small glass container to use in buns.

In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and bacon fat until yeast is dissolved. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together both flours, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add yeast mixture and mix until dough comes together. Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To begin cooking the pork, preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Rinse brined pork to remove salt mixture and pat dry; transfer to a roasting pan on a sheet or parchment. Roast pork until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, cut out 30 square pieces of parchment paper (about 4×4).

Return to the dough and punch down. Roll dough into a log about 30 inches long. Cut dough into 30 golf ball-sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3-inch oval. Repeat process with remaining dough. Brush each piece of dough lightly with olive oil and fold in half. Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly.

Once the pork has cooked for 2 1/2 hours at 300, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Continue roasting pork until fat is golden, about 10 minutes more.   Slice pork across the grain and return to baking dish with its juices.

Set a large bamboo steamer in a large skillet with water about 1/2 inch up the sides of the steamer basket; bring to a boil. Working with 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer basket; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked though, about 10 minutes.

Brush hoisin sauce on the bottom half of each bun. Top with pork, cucumbers, and green onions. Serve immediately.

#firstonthefirst Steamed Buns

Looking for another steamed buns recipe?  Check these out:

Top 13 in 2013

2 Jan My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

This blog has been a new adventure for me and, even though it only covered the second half of the year, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my 13 most popular posts of 2013.

It’s been a lot of fun sharing, and I’m excited about another year with y’all!

Top 13 posts in 2013- Go Running, Mama!

13. Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick Me Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors (September)- Forgetting water during a high altitude half marathon, finding out I had mono, and the smoothies that got me through the ordeal!

12. Carrot Top Tacos (July)- Spiced carrots and beans with carrot top chimichurri.  Never, ever waste your carrot tops again.

11. Maple Bacon Biscuits (September)-  Maple.  Bacon. Biscuit.  Trifecta.

10. Gifts from the Heart: Apple Cinnamon Ornaments (December)- An ultra non-toxic clay that makes heavenly scented ornaments or an amazing material for sensory play.

9.  #FirstontheFirst Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Penuche Frosting (October)- We were supposed to make candy, but I cheated and frosted a very yummy cake with this praline-esque frosting.

8. #FirstontheFirst Gateau Larsson (September)- My Scandinavian twist on a traditional Basque dessert.

7.  Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments (December)- These smooth ornaments are an inexpensive (and toddler friendly) alternative to a trip to a ceramics studio.

6. Creamy Garlic Kefir Pasta (July)- A probiotic packed easy meal.

5. Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars (August)- Lunchbox snacks don’t get much healthier.

4. Meeska… Mooska… Mouseka Cakes: Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties (August)- Healthy food tastes even better in Mickey Mouse form.

3. #FirstontheFirst Candy Canes for Cheaters (December)- Once again, we were supposed to make candy.  And I didn’t.  But I think you’ll forgive me when you taste these cookies.

2. Frosty the Cheese Man: Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Tortilla Chips (December)- The most adorable, toddler friendly appetizer you’ll ever bring to a gathering.

1. Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments– Salt dough ornaments are a classic go-to holiday activity.

Looking for even more fun?  Here are my five favorite posts you may have missed this year…

My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

#FirstontheFirst: Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 Jan Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

It’s a new year, y’all!  And thanks to our First on the First subject du jour, I’m kicking the year off by baking with an entire twelve months worth of richness- Sticky Toffee Pudding!

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

I can remember the first time I had sticky toffee pudding- I was at at Rose & Crown Pub at Epcot’s British Pavilion trying to hold custody of an amazing  waterfront table long enough to see Illuminations so I was slowly and systematically ordering my way down the appetizer menu when things looked appealing… which left me with limited options as Americanized traditional British pub grub just isn’t my cuppa tea. After exhausting all of my appetizer options, I decided to make friends with the dessert menu just in time for fireworks which is where I happened upon sticky toffee pudding.  By name it doesn’t seem very appealing but my patient yet slightly exasperated waitress recommended it so I decided to give it a go… and it was amazing!  Tender and moist, sweet but not cloying, with a depth of flavor I had never experienced in dessert.  Fireworks! An A+ to my young palate.

In the years since, I’ve tried sticky toffee pudding elsewhere and never really enjoyed it.  It always seems too sweet, excessively dense, and pointlessly rich.  I’ve not had it again at WDW though, so maybe there is a bit a ever present Disney magic in their recipe.  Or maybe it’s the fact that without the accompaniment of spectacular fireworks, sticky toffee pudding is just another dessert worthy of critique.

Either way, when I set out to make sticky toffee pudding my own I knew I wouldn’t be serving it next to fireworks and a spherical video display globe so I would probably notice if I produced a dessert with cloying sweetness- talk about pressure!

A little googling taught me that the cake portion of most sticky toffee pudding is usually made with Guiness.  First problem.  We aren’t Guiness drinkers outside of Ireland.  Just like we aren’t Pilsner Urquell drinkers outside of the Czech Republic.  We like our food at its best and freshest, so we apply the same rule to our beer in this household.  The Hubs seemed convinced that his current favorite beer, Founders Breakfast Stout, would be the ideal ingredient for sticky toffee pudding and I was inclined to agree.  It’s brewed with flaked oats, bitter chocolate, and Sumatra and Kona coffee.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Given that it’s my husband’s favorite beer right now I also decided I wanted it to have a decent presence in the toffee sauce, which would also help to temper the sweetness.  The flavor profile of the beer also seemed to be begging for an extra espresso kick in the sauce, and who am I to deny anyone a little extra caffeine?

As a final solution to the richness/sweetness/density overload I find in sticky toffee pudding, I decided to pour the sauce over the cake just as it is served.  But feel free to pour half of the toffee sauce on the cake immediately to let to soak in should you prefer.

Oats… coffee… maybe we should just call this Breakfast Sticky Toffee Pudding.  That works, right?

And yes, in case you are wondering, the toffee sauce is killer in a latte.

You’ve been warned.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding Ingredients:

  • 6 large dates, pitted
  • 1 cup room temperature breakfast stout carefully poured
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour minus 1 tbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Espresso StoutToffee Sauce Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbs breakfast stout

Directions: Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper covering bottom and sides.

Place the pitted dates in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the beer to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. (It will fizz up a lot.) Pour the beer mixture over the dates. Let cool to room temperature.

Transfer the dates to a food processor using a slotted spoon. Add a little of the beer mixture and process until a paste forms. Continue to process, gradually adding the rest of the beer mixture, until the mixture is very smooth. Scrape the date paste into a bowl and keep it covered until ready to use.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half the date mixture and mix just until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining date mixture, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the batter is uniform in color and no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and continue to bake for another 12 to 18 minutes, until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. using the parchment, lift cake out of pan onto a cutting board.  Remove crusts and cut into 2×2 square slices to serve. Serve at once, smothered in Espresso Stour Toffee Sauce, or reheat for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven if serving later.

Bring sugar, cream, espresso powder, beer and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow boiling to subside before spooning over cake slices. Store in refrigerator and rewarm gently before using.

#FirstontheFirst: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Check out some other fabulous Sticky Toffee Pudding Options from our other First on the First bakers:

#FirstontheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters

1 Dec

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Wow… It’s been exactly two months since I managed a post.  Yikes!

In my defense, it’s been a busy period.  One of the drawbacks of being a “just for fun” mommy blogger is that- regardless of how awesome a post idea is in you mind- ideas don’t always make it to the blog when things get busy or hectic or busy or fun or busy or scary or busy or deliberately relaxed.  So in the past two months half-started blogs about why ACL is far more awesome with a toddler, a child-free NYC trip, turning 33, letting mono dominate my training schedule (or lack thereof), incredibly amazing two ingredient (for real) cookies, great uses for leftover champagne (yes… sometimes there are leftovers!), and what to do should your child have a febrile seizure have stacked up in the queue.  And each one seemed like a weird place to pick back up after a hiatus, so I abandoned them one by one with plans to “get back to them when things calm down.”

So be anxiously awaiting my post about why ACL is better with a toddler when Baby Bird goes off to college.

Sometimes it’s hard to just pick back up with a project that you’ve stepped away from- it feels a little foreign at first.  Where to begin…

With a First on the First post, right!?

It seems like the perfect place.

Except I’m totally cheating this round.  You know, because of the holiday season and toddler life and that whole febrile seizure thing mentioned above.

We were supposed to make candy canes.  Real ones.  Candy.  Copper pans, thermometers, and such.

My patience has been worn to the minimum over the past two weeks- I’m using my carefully rationed daily dose for my toddler and husband and NOT for a candy experiment that would undoubtedly mock me relentlessly on the first three trials in my last minute attempts at perfection.  So in the true spirit of First on the First pushing us to pursue something we haven’t before tried in the kitchen, I’m making my candy canes in the form of a cookie.

Not just cookies shaped to look like candy canes, but designed to taste like them as well.  Peppermint… or chocolate peppermint should you so desire.  Plus, they are far more conducive to tiny helping hands then boiling hot sugar (little hands might make them less “pretty” than they would be if just Mama made them, but I’ll take a happy toddler over flawless cookies any day!).

My first on the first buddies will forgive me.  I just know it.  We’re connected by the compassionate spirit of all holiday bakers.

We know that sometimes kitchen adventures just aren’t meant to pan out on that attempt.  The kitchen gods can be cruel.

And we know the healing power of a good cookie.

Cheers to that, dear friends!


#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Canes for Cheaters- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

For these cookies, you only need to pick two dough options to pair together.  Mix and match to suit your fancy!

Red Peppermint Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  • red food coloring

White Almond Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Start with your first dough option.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Add eggs and extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture while mixing on low speed.  If making peppermint dough, once mixed slowly add red food coloring to achieve desired color intensity.

Roll dough into a ball, cover with a damp towel and set aside.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Pick two… or go all out and double up on the peppermint so you can make both kinds!

Prepare your second dough option following the same procedures.

Portion both doughs into 24 balls of each color.  Roll each ball into a rope about 6 inches in length.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Place two ropes of differing colors together and press together gently without altering the shape.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Carefully twist and transfer to a baking sheet or cutting board, shaping into a hooked candy cane shape.  Place in the freezer for ten minutes to firm while working with the remaining dough.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Bake for about 9 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Makes two dozen cookies.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Eager to try your hand at legitimate candy canes?  Check out the other #FirstontheFirst posts this month:

#FirstontheFirst- Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

1 Oct #firstonthefirst: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

We’ve reached the first of the month once again- another opportunity to join some fabulously talented food bloggers as we try something new in the kitchen during First on the First.

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

But I’m sort of cheating this month.

This month should have been penuche fudge, but exhaustion from mono + a busy schedule + a toddler DO NOT equal candy-making success so I made the (wise) decision to forego candy making for the time being, especially a candy that is new to me.  Granted, I know my way around a pan of fudge but I’m not familiar with penuche or penuche fudge.

Shhh… here’s a secret (Northerner ladies- cover your ears for a second): All my research into penuche makes it seem pretty similar to pralines.  Pralines, on the other hand, are something that any proper Southern gal- such as myself- has pretty well mastered.   I know plenty of pecan praline purists here in the South, but I’m inclined to believe that a good thing can always get better… like when Martha Stewart dolloped pecan pralines atop brown sugar cookies in Aunt Mary Dillon’s Praline Cookies.  And can I add how much better pralines are when married to a cookie?!

#firstonthefirst: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

When a toddler plans a party, things can get interesting.

This weekend I was committed to making cakes (yep… that’s plural) for Baby Bird’s self-styled “Fall Football Princess” party for her Grandpa so I decided that in true Martha style I’d frost one of the cakes with my own nod to penuche in frosting form.  Grandpa’s birthday necessitated dark chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream so the penuche was married to the pumpkin spice cake.

#firstonthefirst: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

The single pompon Baby Bird wanted… perfectly placed to ruin photos and stifle table conversations.

Oh what a marriage it is!  Moist and spicy meets pralinesque sweetness.

The pictures are a wreck (the cakes were half eaten before I could snag one) and the frosting finishing job is aesthetically half hearted (it’s what happens when you say to your husband “Frost this cake while I hang the Princess banner!”) but it the end what does it all come down to?

#firstonthefirst: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

Taste buds, my friends.  Taste buds.

That’s what really matters.

And my taste buds were oh so happy!

#firstonthefirst: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Penuche Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cake:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups organic canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 generous tsp freshly grated peeled ginger root
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Penuche Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • about 4 cups confectioners sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with parchment rounds.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together sugars and butter until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in pumpkin then add vanilla and ginger. Mix in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat on low until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake until cakes are golden brown, about 35 minutes. Allow cakes to cool on wire rack for 15 minutes then turn out to cool completely.

To make frosting, melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, stirring constantly for two minutes. Stir in milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly as it reaches boiling. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Whisk in confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Frosting will begin to set quickly- fill and frost cake before frosting hardens.

Check out a few more fabulous penuche recipes:

#FirstontheFirst: Gateau Larsson

1 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

If you cook, it’s pretty safe to say that you probably have a few favorite food bloggers that you now follow.  Most likely, along with discovering their personal brands of kitchen genius, you’ve also been drawn in by their adorable personalities or hilarious outlook on life.   One of the pretty awesome things about being a quasi-food blogger is that I now have an excuse to interact with some of those personalities I’ve enjoyed so much beyond the comment line of their blogs.

Recently I’ve joined Kate from Food Babbles– one of my own personal favorite food bloggers- and the rest of the First on the First crew to challenge myself to make something I’ve never tried each month.  This month we committed to making Gateau Basque.

Gateau Basque is a traditional pastry in the Pays Basque region of France- for you non-Francophiles that’s a region that borders Spain’s Basque County and Navarre- made from an almond pastry crust filled with custard.  There seems to be some disagreement over the authenticity of the often added brandied cherries.  The more I read, the more I began to feel the addition of fruit made it decidedly non-Basque and more of a mainstream French pastry.  But the truth is, fruit flavors perk up what would otherwise be a rather plain pastry.  It’s the reason in life that the cheese Danish is never the first to go.  So I decided that my Gateau Basque would have to have fruit.

Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

In honesty, my Gateau Basque began to take shape immediately after returning from vacation which is my nice way of saying I was feeling a bit lazy and cut some corners.  My crust pays homage to Daniel Boulud’s Gateau Basque crust without being as complex or fussy (Forgive me! Fussy in the best way, Daniel… I just couldn’t hack it this week!)… and without five eggs.  My custard is simply the same tried and true custard I’ve used for many kitchen applications gussied up with vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract or another flavoring.  I baked mine in a cake pan  and left it in the pan to serve instead of using a spring form pan because I just didn’t feel like searching again for the spring form pan that I’m pretty sure was left at a holiday gathering last year (My kitchen is crazy organized, so if it’s missing it must truly be missing!).

And I opted for lingonberry jam in place of the brandied cherries because I was far too busy unpacking to fuss with drunken fruit- but if you’ll allow some posturing on my part I’m going to say I selected the lingonberries to honor our family’s Scandinavian roots.  Thus the Gateau Larsson was born!

Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

Gateau Larsson

For the Crust:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c almond flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp pure lemon oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the Custard:

  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For Assembly:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • water
  • 1 c Lingonberry jam
  • vanilla infused sugar

Directions for Dough:  Whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, lemon oil, and almond extract; mix until smooth.  While mixing on low, slowly add flour mixture.  Beat until mixture is thoroughly combined.

Divide into two portions- one slightly larger than the other.  Flatten each portion into a disk, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least three hours up to one day.

To prepare the custard:  Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan on medium-low heat.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch.  When milk mixture is hot, slowly pour it into the yolk mixture while whisking continuously.

Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until custard becomes very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla bean paste.

Transfer custard to a medium bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease the sides of a 9 inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Roll larger half of dough into a 10 1/2 inch round.  Place dough in the bottom of the pan, pressing against the edges of the pan.

Add custard, spreading evenly.  Dollop the Lingonberry jam on top of the custard and spread to smooth.

Roll remaining dough into a 9 inch round.  Place on top of filling, crimping down edges of dough to seal.

Whisk together egg yolk and 1 tbsp water to form an egg wash.  Brush egg wash over entire crust, including crimped edges.  Sprinkle edges with vanilla sugar.

Using a fork, lightly drag the tines across the surface area of the crust to create a crosshatch pattern.

Bake of 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Reduce heat to 350 a bake 15 minutes more or until cake id golden brown.  If crimped crust edges are browning too fast, cover edges with foil.

Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Don’t forget to check out all the other #FirstOnTheFirst bakers’ Gâteau Basque this month!