Better Than Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups


Peanut Butter CupsToday was TV day on KMOV TV’s Great Day St. Louis.  This was my 4 minute segment.

Every once in a while I get a hankering for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. So recently I had one. I don’t know if it was me or if the formula was changed but it seemed gritty and not at all smooth like I remembered it.

So I set out to capture the taste I remembered and low and behold, I think it’s better! And not only better, but really, really easy. For ingredients for the peanut butter and two for the chocolate. So there’s no excuse for not making these.

The small paper liner cups can be found in grocery stores, party stores, and kitchen stores. They need to be small and just fit the cups. It is ok if they rise slightly above the cups.

Helen’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
3/4 cup cream peanut butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, very, very soft but not runnky
1/2 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line 18 mini muffin cups with small paper liners. Set aside.

Place the peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until very smooth.

For each PB cup, take 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Place it in a cup and flatten it into the cup. Continue until all of the mixture is used.

Chocolate Topping
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon Crisco or like shortening (Do not use butter or oil)

Place in a small bowl and microwave at half power for about 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. If it won’t smooth out, microwave at half power for 5 to 10 seconds more. Wait for a minute and then stir again.

Using a coffee spoon and working fairly quickly, drop a heaping spoon of chocolate on 6 of the peanut butter candies. Pick up the pan and tilt it around slightly to fill the tops with the chocolate. Repeat for the rest of the candies.

Freeze until hard. Remove each of the candies from its mold and remove the papers. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 18 candies (if you don’t eat any of the peanut butter part while shaping!).

Writing Pastries Like a Pro


I have been asked on more than one occasion how I write Pastries Like a Pro. It’s so automatic, I have never really given it a lot of thought. So basically it goes like this.

There are several scenarios I follow. When I knew I would be moving from my house of 47 years late last year, I worked furiously to finish my blogs almost through the month of February. I knew the day of the move was the start of an intense period of change for us and we both looked forward to it. But Wow! did I ever under estimate the time to get settled in and unpacked. The good news is, we are comfortable and loving our new home. But now it’s time to get back to a normal life and that includes blogging.

I usually set up my list for 3 to 6 months ahead. This is for self defense. I don’t want to get to Monday or Tuesday of the week and realize I do not have a blog for that week. It also helps me organize the blogs so I am not doing chocolate, or cakes, cookies or anything else too many times in a row. It often takes a simple shifting of blogs around to make the list more interesting.

Inspiration comes from many sources. Some of the blogs are things about which I am very familiar having made them in the bakery or the restaurant. But sometimes a blog is about something that interests me, maybe something I’ve seen on another blog or read somewhere, sometimes a program I’ve seen on TV. I started watching The Great British Baking Show and absolutely love it. I came in during the middle of the season so missed a lot, but they really challenge the contestants. I will be blogging about one pastry in particular, the Povitica. It is from the former Yugoslavia and is an intricate version of one my mother made for years. But I never saw this method of shaping and it is fascinating.

When I first get an idea, whether for the blog or for the restaurant, I will map it out on a piece of paper and then start pulling all the component recipes together. One of the most important components for this is a Recipe Comparison Chart I made long before computers came into existence. I still use it today to take different versions of the same recipe and compare the ingredients. It allows me to quickly see what is the same and what is different.  I am sure it can be duplicated on the computer – I just like the pen and paper.Comparison Chart

If it is something new, I will map out the recipe and test it. If it doesn’t come out and I believe in the recipe, I will work it until I get it right. Currently for Tony’s, I am working on pears poached in a red wine syrup to be served with vanilla ice cream topped with a butterscotch sauce and a ginger crumble. I didn’t see this combination anywhere but thought it would work together for an upscale dessert. I researched the poached pears and butterscotch sauce. I already knew what I was going to make for the ginger crumble.

The first test was interesting. The pears were very sweet. So, the next time I will cut the sugar and introduce a hint of vinegar to sharpen the taste. The ginger crumble was from a recipe on David Lebovitz’ blog, Ginger Crunch at However, I only want the cookie part without the glaze. The first test on that yielded not enough ginger to make a statement without the glaze. The second test, I upped the ginger and it is perfect. But in the meantime, the cookie is so good as a shortbread, I have decided to use that and not crumble it. It has the consistency of a Walker’s shortbread which I love. It is dense and not too sweet and will be a great compliment to the rest of the dessert.

The butterscotch sauce is a work in progress. The common thinking is that brown sugar makes a butterscotch sauce. I believed this also but have since changed my mind. I found a recipe for “Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce” on the blog of Smitten Kitchen (see After testing it, it tasted so close to the easy salted caramel recipe making the rounds on the internet I couldn’t tell the difference. So off to the hunt again.

This time I googled homemade butterscotch candy on the theory that I could at least see what they were using. The majority of recipes do not use cream. They use water which is a fundamental difference between caramel and butterscotch.  They do use butter and some use all white sugar while others some white and some brown. You guessed it – more testing in my very near future. I also just discovered a whole cache of butterscotch sauces made with condensed milk – which is one of my guilty pleasures. I can eat it by the spoonful!

But the most important thing is that I test and re-test until I get a consistent recipe that should work for everyone. I feel that is my obligation and commitment to you as readers and it is also one of the things I like most about pastry and baking. While I like everything to turn out well the first time I make a recipe or try one I’ve created, I find the discovery part as interesting as everything else.

Once I have the recipe right it has to be put in correct order, which is ingredients listed as they are used. When I write I try to be as detailed as I can so anyone from an amateur to a professional can understand what I am doing and, more importantly, what they should be doing. That is why the photographs are taken from my perspective which is yours as you make the recipe. The photographs supplement the written word for clarity.

I blog on for the latitude it gives me. When I knew I wanted to write a blog, I researched the different kinds and went with the one I thought would give me the widest range of possibilities and the best chance to express myself with the photographs. Having known no other way, I am completely happy with my choice.

My husband, a retired professional photographer, provides the photographs. He hands me the card and I put it into Lightroom by Adobe to process the photos. The over 50,000 photos are stored in a Drobo offsite storage unit which is redundant so, hopefully, I can’t lose them.

One of the aspects of food blogging I feel most strongly about is crediting the work of others. As a writer all my professional life, I know too well people will take ideas as their own without sharing the source. To me this is just wrong. It diminishes no one to say that a recipe is so well thought of that someone also wants to share it but the source should also be mentioned. Generosity of spirit is the key to hospitality and hospitality always comes back to food….and to food blogs!

As you might be able to tell, I am very excited to be able to share what has taken me a lifetime to learn. In the end, it is the sharing I like the most.

Carrot Cake Cheesecake


Carrot Cake Cheesecake sliceOne of the constant challenges of owning a bakery is coming up with new items to entice the clientele.  This Carrot Cake Cheesecake was one of the more unusual cakes we featured from time to time.

It consists of two layers of carrot cake sandwiched with a creamy cheesecake and finished with the traditional cream cheese frosting.

When I made this for the blog, I forgot to water bath the cheesecake layer.  I thought you would enjoy seeing the difference between the water bathed layer and the one I forgot to water bath.  Not only did they look different, the texture of the cheesecakes differed.  The one on the left had no water bath.  The one on the right did.  As you can see, it is flat and even.two cheesecake layersI also found that making the cheesecake layer in a processor yielded a firmer cheesecake than if it is made in a mixer.  However, both ways work. Continue reading

Chocolate Chocolate Truffles


Box of trufflesAt the bakery, we were known for our chocolate.  Among the favorites were the Chocolate Chocolate Truffles.  We only offered these from October to May when the weather was cooler.  We had one client who was so funny.  I could count on her to be the first call to get these truffles.  She used to hide them in a purple box in the back of her refrigerator – until her boys got old enough to figure there was something special in the box.  Then she had to start sharing the truffles. She would tell me she ate truffles all over the world but these were the best.  I have always remembered her kind words.

The secret to these truffles is to freeze the centers before coating.  We had a chocolate tempering machine and I really miss it.  But there is a way to approximate the finish.  The truffles themselves are really easy to make and finish.  A bit of practice will make you an expert.  The first coat almost always goes out of temper, meaning they will be really dull with white streaks.   After dipping the first coat, let them come to room temperature. Continue reading

Triple Chocolate Heart Tarts


Triple Chocolate Heart TartTriple Chocolate Heart Tarts – gorgeous, sophisticated, stunningly flavorful and easy – what more could you want in a Valentines dessert?  When I had my bakery, we made so many of these both for Valentines day in these adorable tart shells and during the year when we made them in 12” European tarts it was amazing.  What’s “so many” you ask.  What about 1500 pieces which amounted to 125 tarts for banquet desserts usually with only a few days notice?  If you can’t find 4 1/4” heart shaped tart pans, use 4 1/4” round ones – the dessert will be just as gorgeous, sophisticated, stunningly flavorful and easy!

Because these tarts are very short, there is only a small amount of “crust” on the bottom to anchor the filling.  The majority of the filling is poured over the bottoms and allowed to set up in the cooler.  The remainder is heated just to loosen it and combined with whipped cream for a third layer of chocolate.  The finish I have used here is the one we used at the shop.  The rosette is piped on with a bit of buttercream which we always had around.  I have included a chocolate ganache if buttercream is not to be had. Continue reading