I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Chocolate Chocolate Chess Pie

You may not forgive me for this one. It is the very definition of decadence. Chess pie, in all its forms, has always been a favorite of mine, from the traditional to my Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie. Add in some chocolate, and I am a really happy girl. I recently made a classic chocolate chess for a lake weekend with friends (and a traditional chess, just to be safe) and though I licked my plate, and got rave reviews, I couldn’t help but think what I could do to snazz up the original, as I am wont to do. And it came to me – chocolate overload. Swap out a standard pie crust for one made with a hit of cocoa, and you have got something special.

The crust can be a little ticky to work with, just be patient and patch any holes with scraps of dough when you fit it in the plate. You can, of course, pour this filling into a standard butter pie crust, but really. The center of the pie needs to be firm, but with a tiny little wiggle. It will fall a little on cooling and some cracks may appear, but those just reveal the gooey chocolate center. I think this pie is amazing on its own, but a little dollop of whipped cream is never a bad thing.

Chocolate Chocolate Chess Pie
Serves 6
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For the Chocolate Crust
  1. 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  2. 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  4. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  6. 3 – 4 Tablespoons ice water
For the Filling
  1. ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  2. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. a pinch of kosher salt
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 Tablespoon cornmeal
For the Crust
  1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend completely.  Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into the food processor. Process until you have a crumbly mixture with the butter distributed evenly. With the motor running, add the water a little at a time, just until the dough starts to come together. Dump the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and knead a few times into a cohesive ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is fine.
  2. When ready to assemble the pie, remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a round large enough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate (about 12 inches around). Spray the pie plate with cooking spray. Carefully drape the crust over the rolling pin and transfer it to the pie plate. Press the crust into the plate and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
For the Filling
  1. Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla and stir until completely combined and smooth. Stir in the cornmeal until combined. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pie is firm, with just a teeny jiggle and the top has formed a crust.  Cool the pie completely.  The pie can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept on the counter for one day, or refrigerated for two days, or wrapped in plastic and then foil and frozen for up to two months. Thaw in the fridge before serving.
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Simple Summer Peach Pie

Pie speaks so of summer to me, particularly ones bursting with the best of summer fruit. And when it easy to make, like this one, it is a real bonus. I pulled the original version of this recipe from a community cookbook years ago when I had some peaches sitting on the counter. Like most of the best of summer produce, I buy peaches in bulk when they are at their peak, some to eat but mostly to make jams and preserves. When I buy by the quart or the basket, I always end up with a few more than I need for a canning. The first time I made this, I chose it because it uses ingredients I always have on hand. Now I buy peaches just to make the pie. I have often thought of this as a peaches and cream pie, but there is no cream, and though it has a creamy filling, it isn’t really a custard pie either. Just a simple summer peach pie.

I leave the peels on the peaches, because I think it adds extra flavor and color and helps keep the peach slices intact (and because it is easiest), but you can peel them if you prefer. And get creative with filling – use almond extract instead of vanilla, or scrape in the seeds of a vanilla bean. Add some cinnamon or cardamom, or a little fresh ginger. Some orange or lemon zest would work nicely as well.

Simple Summer Peach Pie
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for on 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready rolled
  2. 3 large or four small peaches
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  6. 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a pie plate with the pastry and set aside.
  2. Slice the peaches into thin slices and layer in the pie crust. Fill the crust with peach slices right up to the top.
  3. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a bowl, then beat in the sugar until well combined. Stir in the melted butter, then pour over the peaches in the crust. It may not look like enough filling, but it will all come right in the end. Try to pour some over the surface of every exposed peach slice. Bake the pie for 45 minutes to an hour, until the center is firm with just a little bit of a wiggle. If the crust starts to brown more than you’d like, loosely cover the pie foil.
  4. Cool the pie completely, then refrigerate until chilled through.
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Blueberry Buttermilk Bread Pudding with Lemon Caramel Sauce

I have to say, this recipe involves a lot of words I like. Juicy fresh summer blueberries, rich buttermilk and caramel. Bread pudding has always been a favorite of mine and this fresh summer version bursting with berries is a great way to make the most of the farmers market fruit. Buttermilk adds a nice tang to the luscious custard. Top the whole with a silky caramel sauce freshened up with lemon juice for a lovely dessert, or brunch dish.

This recipe started life as a way to use up a basket of blueberries and an unused loaf of bread, but the idea was so solid that I set to work on a formal recipe. I added buttermilk because, well, I love buttermilk and always have some around. Challah is an airy, soft, eggy pairing for this summery version. I found a traditional caramel sauce a bit heavy for the fresh fruit, so lightened it up with a nice hint of fresh lemon. And, obviously, the sauce is delicious over ice cream or any variety of sweets.

Blueberry Buttermilk Bread Pudding with Lemon Caramel Sauce
Serves 6
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For the Caramel Sauce
  1. 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup boiling water
  4. Zest and juice of one lemon
  5. 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  6. Pinch of sea salt
For the Bread Pudding
  1. 1 pound loaf challah
  2. 2 cups fresh blueberries
  3. 3 whole large eggs
  4. 2 egg yolks
  5. ¾ cups packed light brown sugar
  6. 3 cups buttermilk
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. zest and juice of one lemon
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  10. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Caramel Sauce
  1. Whisk the brown sugar and flour together in a medium saucepan, then pour over the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat, and when it just begins to bubble, stir in the lemon zest and juice, then add the butter, whisking until melted. Bring to a low boil and cook for five minutes, watching carefully and stirring occasionally. The sauce will be just a little thicker than maple syrup. Stir in a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat. The sauce can be made a few hours ahead and served at room temperature or served warm.
For the Bread Pudding
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the challah into 1 inch cubes and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Don’t brown the bread, just let it crisp up slightly.
  2. Spray a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in a solid layer in the dish. You don’t want too much of the dish showing through, so use a little more than half of the bread if needed. Sprinkle over half of the blueberries, then repeat with the remaining bread and berries.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl, then whisk in the brown sugar. Add the buttermilk, cream, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and nutmeg and whisk until smooth. Pour the custard evenly over the bread in the dish. Press the bread cubes down into the custard to saturate. Leave to soak in for at least half an hour, but you can cover and refrigerated for several hours.
  4. When ready to serve, cook the bread pudding at 350 until set, golden and firm, about 30 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve drizzled with the caramel sauce.
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Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Recipes are born from many things. This one came one summer when I had promised to bring cookies to a gathering. When I volunteered, I was no doubt thinking it would be the easiest assignment – just whip up some chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies and go. But when it came down to it, I had this desire to make something lighter and more summery. I had some lemons on the counter, so I turned to an old recipe for a lemon poppy seed cookie and that seemed more like what I wanted. I opened the fridge to get out the butter, eggs and sour cream and found some blueberries I’d picked up in bulk at the farmers market. Why not, I thought. Thus this cookie was born.

These are a lightly sweet cookie in the old-fashioned Southern tea cake style. Pillowy and cakey with a simple glaze to sweeten things up. I love the burst of juicy berries this version has, and the poppy seeds add interest, and make them very pretty. By the way, they were a big hit at the event.

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 10 Tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter
  2. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¼ cup sour cream
  5. zest and juice of one lemon
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  8. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  11. 1 cup fresh blueberries
  12. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, most of the lemon zest (save a pinch for the glaze) and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (save the rest for the glaze), vanilla and poppy seeds. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is smooth and well combined and there are no dry ingredients visible in the bowl. Fold the blueberries into the batter with a spatula.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or large spoon to scoop mounds of dough an inch or so apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until firm and just lightly golden on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for a few minutes, the remove to a wire rack placed over paper to catch drips from the glaze. Cool completely.
  4. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and a little lemon zest together with enough lemon juice to make a glaze you can drizzle over the cookies. If you don’t have enough lemon juice, add a touch of milk. You can add a pinch of poppy seed to the glaze as well if you’d like. Drizzle the tops of the cookies with the glaze and leave to set.
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Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake

Summer fruit desserts are such a sunny joy. And whether you call this type of dish a cobbler, a slump or a pudding cake, it makes the perfect summer dessert. Sweet and juicy summer fruit melts into a saucy layer tucked beneath a tender cake. I’ve shared before my Saucy Peach and Bluebbery Cobbler version. Raspberries are a rare local treat and when I find them I make the most of them. If I find them in abundance, I freeze them, and can then use them throughout the year for this lovely dessert.

Part of the beauty of this recipe is its adaptability. I love the twist of using fresh orange to compliment the raspberries, but you could certainly use lemon, or even lime. Add some scraped vanilla beans to the cake to pump up that flavor, or a little raspberry liqueur to the berries. This dish is perfect on its own, but there is something special about hot pudding cake served with a scoop of cold ice cream. You could also top it with whipped cream, plain, sweetened or with a little liqueur. I love bring the dish to the table, and watching the looks of delight when the juicy raspberry layer is revealed on the first scoop.

Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Raspberry Orange Pudding Cake
  2. 2 cups fresh raspberries
  3. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  4. 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice (zest before squeezing for the cake)
For the Cake
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  3. zest of one orange
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 large egg
  6. 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  10. 1 Tablespoon orange juice
For the Topping
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  3. ¾ cup hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread the raspberries evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top, then sprinkle over the orange juice.
For the Cake
  1. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar, orange zest and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg until the batter is smooth. Beat the flour, baking powder and baking soda in two additions alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the batter is smooth. Dollop the batter evenly over the berries, then spread it out to cover the berries completely. I find lightly damp fingers the easiest way to do this.
For the Topping
  1. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan. Place the pan on the oven rack, then pour over the hot water evenly, making sure the entire surface is damp.
  2. Bake the cake for 50 minutes, until firm and golden. Serve warm
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Mexican Chocolate Chewies

As Cinco de Mayo approaches, thoughts often turn to tacos, queso and margaritas. But let us not forget the sweet side of life. Chocolate goes with everything and it’s nice to have a little sweet nibble at any fiesta.

These cookies are a classic recipe, one I have made since I was a kid. I pulled it out recently to make a batch to send to my niece in college, and as I was working, I thought a could jazz it up in some way. Then I had a thought – I bought a fancy, Tennessee-made chocolate bar in Mexican Chocolate flavor a few days before, and was really excited about the special treat. But I accidently threw it away when unpacking the huge load of groceries. I’d been kicking myself for the carelessness. So I decided to verve up these cookies to replace my lost candy bar. The rich chocolate cookies get a twist with cinnamon and just a dash of chili and cayenne. The cookies are soft and chewy and chocolate-y and perfect at any time.

Mexican Chocolate Chewies
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
  2. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  3. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  8. 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  9. 1 cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter in a large saucepan and melt over medium heat, strirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Add the flour, and stir well to make sure the flour is completely blended in to the batter. Pull the pot of the heat and let the cool for a few minutes.
  3. Scoop the dough by Tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. I like to use a medium cookie scoop. Press the dough lightly with your fingers to slightly flatten, then bake the cookies for 12 – 13 minutes until firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
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Strawberry Basil Chiffon Cake with Strawberry Basil Sauce

Chiffon Cake always sounds so delightfully old-fashioned to me. Maybe because chiffon just sounds like a frilly, girly, poufy tea-party dress. I always see chiffon cake recipes in older community cookbooks, in all sorts of flavor combinations. I don’t think people make chiffon cakes much anymore, but the light, foamy sponge is a treat that shouldn’t be missed. Add some fresh in-season strawberries for a lovely light and and airy spring treat. I like to up the berry flavor with a sweet sauce and complement the whole with pillows of sweetened whipped cream.

Strawberries and basil work together beautifully, adding a lovely herbaceous note. And the fragrance is mouth-watering. The cake itself is such a pretty pink with little speckles of green, like a berry itself. This is a break-out the crystal cake plate dessert, colorful and bright on any spring table.

Strawberry Basil Chiffon Cake with Strawberry Basil Sauce
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ¼ cup cake flour, sifted
  2. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. Roughly 1 cup of hulled strawberries
  6. 7 egg yolks
  7. 7 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  8. 5- 6 large basil leaves
  9. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. a drop or two of red or pink food coloring (optional)
  11. 7 egg whites
For the sauce
  1. 3 cups hulled, quartered strawberries
  2. ½ cup granulated sugar
  3. 6 large basil leaves on the stem
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Sift the flour, 1¼ cups of the sugar, the baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Drop the strawberries into a blender and puree. You will need ¾ cups, so measure it out and add more berries if needed. Put the puree back into the blender and add the egg yolks, vegetable oil, basil leaves, vanilla and food coloring, if using. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir to mix well, making sure there are no dry ingredients visible.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. Slowly drizzle in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites in three additions. Make sure there are no streaks of white visible. Scrape the batter into a 10 – inch angel food cake pan and bake for 50 – 6o minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back at a light touch. Immediately invert the pan, centering the hole over the neck of a bottle, or over a rack if your pan has “feet” the raise it from the surface. Cool completely.
For the Sauce
  1. Put the quartered berries and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir. Pluck the basil leaves off the stem and tuck the stem into the berries. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 - 7 minutes. Pick out he stem. Use an immersion blender to roughly puree the sauce – it’s nice to have a few pieces of berries in there, but do give it a whirl with the blender. Cook for a further five minutes or so to reduce the sauce slightly. Take the pan of the heat. Finely chop the basil leaves and immediately stir them into the sauce. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate. The sauce can be made up to two days ahead.
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Lemon Lovely Bars

The story I was going to write here was about the joys of bright citrus in the gray and gloomy weather of winter. A nice tale about citrus fruits being the sunshine in season during the bleak midwinter. But we’ve had a spring likeFebruary with 75 degree days this year and lovely sunny weather. I ate lunch on a patio. In February. I thought about putting off this post, but the truth is, sweet and tangy lemon treats are perfect for any time of year, no matter the weather, so why wait? Whatever the weather, whatever the mood a sweet, tart and tangy lemon treat always lifts my spitits.

These bars make a nice little change of pace from chocolate brownies or cookie bars for a party, and they really do take on this fresh, lovely yellow tint that makes them stand out. The tart lemon glaze makes all the difference, adding the tart note to the sweet bars. I find these a little simpler to make than a classic lemon bar, (not that lemon bars are all that difficult) and I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make a quick treat. You could also use Meyer lemons, which won’t be quite as tart but still have a lovely citrus note.

Lemon Lovely Bars
Serves 16
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For the Bars
  1. Zest of two lemons
  2. Juice of one lemon (4 Tablespoons total)
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  4. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  5. ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  6. ¼ teaspoon salt
  7. 2 large eggs
For the Glaze
  1. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  3. lemon zest
For the Bars
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8-inch square pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add 1 Tablespoon lemon zest and the sugar. Beat until fluffy then add the flour and salt and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 2 Tablespoons lemon juice until the batter is smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out into an even layer. Bake until firm and lightly golden at the edges and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.
For the Glaze
  1. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and the remaining lemon zest together in a small bowl. Pour the glaze evenly over the cooled bars and tilt the pan to create and even layer. Leave to set, then remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the foil liner. Open the edges of the liner and allow any pooled glaze to set, then cut the bars into small squares.
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Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Red Wine Rosemary Pears

I love taking classic dishes and adding a little twist, without adding a whole lot of work. Cheesecake topped with syrupy fruit is definitely a classic. In my younger years, cheesecake with strawberries, or later the more fanciful raspberry coulis, was the go to dessert for romantic dinner menus. With this recipe, you get the brilliant, creamy sweetness of a classic cheesecake, but the goat cheese adds this lovely tang. Pears poached in red wine are another cool-weather dessert stand-by, but add a little rosemary and it reaches a whole new dimension. So a simple classic becomes a sophisticated new dessert, perfect for a party or a romantic dinner. And I have to say, leftovers make a pretty good breakfast as well.

Use a wine you would want to drink to poach the pears, but don’t sacrifice your best bottle. I have also made this cheesecake with a crust made of gingersnaps which adds a little spice. The rosemary in the poaching liquid is such a special and unique twist, but you could swap it out for a cinnamon stick and a few pods of star anise for a spiced version. The presentation of this dish is striking, with the creamy cake and ruby-tinted pears. A little sprig of rosemary on top adds flair and a hint of the tastes to come.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Red Wine Rosemary Pears
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Pears
  2. 1 ½ cups red wine
  3. ¾ cup sugar
  4. 3 sprigs rosemary
  5. 4 pears, forelle, Anjou or bosc
For the Crust
  1. 15 graham crackers (the whole sheet)
  2. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake
  1. 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  2. 12 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
  3. zest of 1 lemon
  4. 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  7. 4 large eggs
For the Pears
  1. Peel the pears and cut into small chunks. Pour the red wine into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Heat over medium high heat until just boiling and drop in the rosemary, pressing it down to submerge it in the liquid. Add the pears and stir gently to cover with the wine and cook until the pears are soft and tender and the wine is reduced to a syrup about the consistency of maple syrup. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and for the wine to soak in and tint the pears red. Remove the rosemary stems and any stray needles before serving. The pears can be prepared a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated.
For the Crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. Break the graham crackers into small pieces and drop into a food processor. Pulse until broken up into crumbs, then add the sugar and process until very fine. With the motor running, drizzle in the melted butter and process until the crumbs are all moist. Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press into an even tight layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325.
For the Cheesecake
  1. Beat the cream cheese and goat cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to break them up. Add the lemon zest, juice and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy and smooth. Beat the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Spread the filling over the crust in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until lightly golden and firm, but slightly jiggly in the very center. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack, then transfer to the refrigerator loosely covered and chill for several hours, but overnight is fine.
  2. Remove the springform ring, slice and serve topped with the pears and syrup.
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Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum IcingYou have to love a dessert that ticks all the holiday entertaining boxes – feeds a crowd, can be made ahead and is full of festive flavor. And this dish does that in spades. Not to mention that is easy to prepare, but impressive in taste and presentation. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to mess this up. I made it once thinking I’d be so smart and set the oven to a timed cook while I was off opening presents with family so it would be perfectly ready for its icing and transport to the Christmas brunch. But I set the oven timer wrong and it didn’t cook in time for the festivities. So I let it cook later in the day, iced it and stuck it in the fridge. The next day I heated it up and it was still delicious. I wouldn’t recommend doing that though. But if you cook the bread pudding, pour over the icing and let it sit while you eat the main meal, it will be nice and warm and saucy for dessert.

All that being said, I also like it on the buffet with a large brunch spread, not just as a dessert. It is not cloyingly sweet, just a nice hint of rum and spice and that perfectly Christmas taste of egg nog. While I prefer it warm, I can assure you it is equally good at room temperature, so it can hang around while everyone makes their way through the buffet. The icing could be served as a sauce to pour over, but I find it so much easier to during the hectic holiday cooking to serve it all in one dish with no sauce boat or ladle hanging around.

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Bread Pudding
  2. 1 (1 pound) loaf of soft crust Italian bread or challah
  3. ½ cup dried cranberries
  4. 5 eggs
  5. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  6. ¾ teaspoons nutmeg
  7. 1 quart (4 cups) dairy egg nog
For the Icing
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  3. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  4. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  5. dash of ground cloves
  6. dash of allspice
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. ¼ cup dark rum
For the Bread Pudding
  1. Cut the loaf of bread into small chinks and spread on a baking sheet. Cover lightly with a clean tea towel and leave dry out for several hours, or overnight.
  2. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread cubes evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the cranberries between the bread, doing your best to distribute them evenly. Whisk the eggs, sugar and nutmeg together in a large bowl, until well combined, then whisk in the egg nog. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and press down the cubes of bread so they are submerged in the liquid. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  3. When you are ready to cook the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 350. Take the dish out of the refrigerator and leave it to take the chill off for about 15 – 20 minutes, then put in the oven, still covered with foil, and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove the foil cover and cook for a further 5 -10 minutes until the bread turns a lovely golden brown. Take the bread pudding from the oven and immediately prepare the icing.
For the Icing
  1. Put the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat to melt. Sift the powdered sugar and spices together in a bowl, and when the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar. Add the cream slowly, whisking until the icing is smooth, then whisk in the rum. While the bread pudding is still warm, pour the icing evenly over the top, making sure to cover it all. Leave the icing to soak in for a few minutes, then serve the bread pudding. The icing does not totally soak into the pudding, but the remainder forms a nice puddle of sauce for each serving.
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