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September 16, 2015

Autumn-spiced sour cream coffee cake

An easy autumn spiced make-ahead-and-freeze coffee cake.

Although I'm not a big tea drinker, I love the ritual of afternoon tea. Working at home can be isolating, and inviting a friend for tea punctuates my work day, which begins very early in the morning and often ends in mid- to late-afternoon. With tea, you should serve something sweet: fruit is nice, but let's face it -- cake is better. This sour cream coffee cake contains a hint of apple, plus all of the warm autumn spices like cinnamon and ginger. Though I'm not a good spur-of-the-moment baker, I love to make a few of these easy coffee cakes when the mood strikes, and stash them in the freezer (hint: cut the cakes in half before freezing, so you can defrost just enough for a tea party). Instead of frosting the cake, serve it with a big dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. According to the calendar, autumn begins a week from today. Why not be prepared, with a cake in the freezer?

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August 5, 2015

Sweet mocha ricotta cream phyllo shells

Sweet mocha ricotta cream phyllo shells, topped with bits of chocolate.

In my house, we're not big on dessert. Cold grapes, frozen blueberries, the occasional ice cream (yes, from the supermarket, or from the very good pizza and ice cream place across the street), a few cookies: that's the extent of our after-dinner sweet treats. Still, on occasion, we want something more, a perfect bite to close out a more formal dinner. As I'm not well versed in the ways of dessert, frozen mini phyllo cups often save the day. On their own, they look fancy -- the little black dress in my freezer -- and you can snazz them up with just about any sweet filling, from berries to custard to gelato. My grandsons and I loved this creamy cheese, yogurt and chocolate filling, which came together with nothing more than a bowl and a whisk. They added their own styling with bits of chopped chocolate on top. I had just a minute or two to snap some photos for you, before the "taste testing" began in earnest. There were no leftovers. Note: you'll want to use whole milk ricotta and low-fat or full-fat Greek yogurt here. The recipe doesn't call for very much of each, and you need the fat to get great "mouth feel".

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December 21, 2014

Last-minute chocolate gingerbread cake

Chocolate gingerbread cake: less than an hour, start to finish!

It's that time of year, the time when everyone is out and about, braving the crowded stores and getting prepared for the holidays. It's crazy-busy, and exhausting, and if you live on the flight path between your friends and the local shopping center, you will probably get some spontaneous drop-in visitors in search of a restorative cup of tea, a supportive hug, and a rest room with no waiting line. Even if you didn't get more than a quick text message saying, "I'm coming over in a few minutes", you can throw together a cake that's sure to cure the shopping blues. This last-minute from-the-pantry chocolate gingerbread cake comes together in less time than it takes to preheat the oven, and in an hour, start-to-finish, it's baked and cooled and ready for visitors. Even better, if you have a few minutes at the end of the day, throw one of these cakes in the oven. When it's cooled, cut it into four pieces and freeze. Each piece will serve 3-4 tired friends. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, or top it with ice cream, right before serving.

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October 31, 2013

Powdered buttermilk (Recipe: apple spice bread)

First published in August 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I think I've made this apple spice bread more than any other quick bread, ever. My family loves it, so I try to keep one in the freezer at all times. (Doesn't everyone keep an emergency apple bread on hand?)

Apple spice bread (make ahead and freeze).

When most people think of Rhode Island, they think of Newport mansions. Jazz festivals. Clambakes on the beach. Rhode Island Red chickens. (Okay, not everyone thinks of chickens....)

Until I moved here, I was one of those people. If you'd told me I was moving to apple country — that, in fact, I'd be buying my Macouns at an orchard named Apple Land — I would have said "hah!". But here I am, smack dab in apple land, where I can buy Jonagolds and Cortlands, Mutsu and Macintosh, from August until March.

The thing about apple land is that it's miles from here to anything like a grocery store. So I always keep powdered buttermilk, an essential ingredient in my favorite apple spice bread and other baked goodies, in my pantry.

What is buttermilk? And what makes it cultured

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October 29, 2013

Recipe for spinach and feta phyllo cups {vegetarian}

Spinach and feta phyllo cups, a quick and easy appetizer.

Mini phyllo cups just might be the best thing that ever happened to appetizers. To be honest, apps aren't really my thing; give me a bowl of hummus or salsa and something to dip, and I'm all set. However, every now and then, especially during the holiday season, I like to present my guests with something a bit more, well... polished, and that's when I turn to phyllo cups. I always have a few boxes stashed in the freezer; each box contains fifteen little cups, which means you don't need a lot of filling, and you can make multiple batches without much more effort. These spinach and feta phyllo cups are one-bite treats (or, for the very dainty, two bites), and offer a burst of flavor without a heavy filling. It takes less time to put them together than it takes to preheat the oven. How easy is that?

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Welcome to The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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