HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


A recipe you have made that was worth the effort?

Hello chowhounds. I am in a dinner group and was assigned to make Martha Stewart's chocolate pumpkin tart. It was extremely time consuming, caused me 1st degree burns that if they were 3 inches higher on my arms would look like I was suicidal, made me curse and cry and, I feel, should have been accompanied by both a bottle of wine and a ticket to Bellevue.

At the dinner I was anticipating eating a chocolate pumpkin bliss and that all the anguish would be worth it but, after tasting it, it was just good. Everyone there liked it, but they RAVED about the mashed potatoes and the cabbage that both took so much less effort.

I don't mind going the extra mile for a dessert, spending lots on ingredients, or learning new techniques, but this was so not worth it.

Do you have an involved recipe that is actually Bellevue worthy?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. One winter's day I decided to make homemade tamales. It was a huge effort since I had to first prepare the pork meat filling, Then, I made the tamale dough, with masa harina purchased from a real Mexican grocery. It literally took me about 5 hours to finish making all the tamales. I feel it was worth it. Yes, tamales aren't fancy, and might not earn respect from some, but it was satisfying to make something from scratch.

    1. thomas keller's pig trotters with sauce gribiche

      very time consuming and so worth it!


      1. Marcella Hazan's Ragu alla Bolonese is worth it!http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

        I use sherry instead of dry white wine and I use a 5 oz can of evvaporated milk instead of a cup of whole milk. Delicious!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ora

          I second this. I've been making it for years and people swoon when i serve it.

          1. re: lulubelle

            agree as well...easy but long ( 4 1/2 hours on the stove). The best bologese i've ever tasted.

        2. Grammercy Tavern Gingerbread is worth the effort IMO.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Joebob

            But it's not much effort - such an easy recipe to pu together for a big payoff.

          2. As soon as I read your post title I thought of this dessert. Engadiner Nusstorte. Actually, I got the recipe when I was a teenager and called it Enga ding Nut Torte. My recipe is slightly different than this one I found online and when I get home from work, I will post it as well. Because I was an inexperienced chef at the time, this was challenging because you had to make pastry, use a springform and make caramel. My original recipe uses slivered blanched almonds in addition to the walnuts. It is delicious and worth the work.


            • 350 g flour
            • 250 g butter
            • 200 g sugar
            • 1 pinch salt
            • 1 lemon, rind of
            • 1 egg
            • 500 g sugar
            • 500 g walnuts
            • 500 g cream
            • 50 g tbsps honey
            • 1 egg yolk
            1. Cream butter and sugar.
            2. Mix flour, rind, salt and egg on high speed until a dough is formed.
            3. Divide the dough into 1/3 and 2/3 parts, wrap well in foil and chill for minimum 1/2 hour.
            4. In the meantime, heat the sugar for the filling until it caramelises to a very light brown.
            5. Heat the cream (can be in microwave) and add it to the caramel, stirring rapidly.
            6. Add the honey, heat until it reaches a rolling boil.
            7. Add nuts and stir well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
            8. Mix well and allow to cool.
            9. Roll out the larger of the pastry dough rolls and fit into a greased 24cm springform pan to cover the base and sides.
            10. Pour in the cooled filling.
            11. Roll out the remaining dough to form a lid for the cake. Put on top of the filling and join the edges well.
            12. Paint the top of the cake lightly with whisked egg yolk.
            13. Cook the cake at about 180 degrees centigrade for 50-60 minutes.
            14. Take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool. Do not remove outside of tin until cool! The cake should be totally cold before serving- I put mine in the fridge on the base, and only take it off the base once it's cold and the filling has set. Otherwise if the filling is still hot the bottom will sag when you pick it up.

            6 Replies
            1. re: janetms383

              Most Germanic pastries are well worth the effort. For my birthday dinner, I made my own dobostorte: 7 ultra-thin layer of sponge cake interlaced with chocolate buttercream, decorated with crushed nuts and topped with a delicate layer of crunchy caramel. The oohs were nice, but the flavor really made it well-worth the effort.

              1. re: JungMann

                Someone after my own heart. Never made this, but would love a hunk right now :-)
                My father's family immigrated from Austria and I guess it's just in the blood

                1. re: janetms383

                  You should try it! I had been missing them ever since I left my Konditorei back home and it was far easier than I expected. The achievement, once you display the beautiful thing, is a big boost to your houndish self-esteem.

                2. re: JungMann

                  Along those lines, the 18 varieties of Christmas cookies we make. I counted.

                  Several of those are candidates for payoff/massive effort ratio:

                  The pfeffernusse, which have to be individually cut out, small rounds, hundreds from one recipe. Then lay them all out raw on baking trays. Then they sit in a cold oven overnight. Then they all get turned over. Then a dab of flavorful liquid (kirsch, coffee, or tabasco) is dabbed on the damp spot. Then they are baked. After cooling, they live in a tin in the basement with a sliced apple for several weeks. Only THEN can you eat them. But they're good.

                  The other candidate are vanilla sticks which seem to be unique to Columbus, Ohio. You make a meringue with powdered sugar, about twice the sugar ratio of most meringues, so it's f***ing impossible to beat by hand. Take out half, then mix a lot of ground almonds with the other half. Grinding the almonds was originally done by hand, too. Thank G-d for kitchenaid. Then you roll out the nut 'dough', and cut into strips. Then frost with the remaining meringue. Then bake. Then shower to get rid of the sticky dried meringue snot that you are wearing from the elbows down. Then the cookies get the cut apple treatment too.

                  Yes, they are German treats.

                  1. re: Louise

                    Louise, could you pretty please post the recipe for the vanilla sticks? Your description made me giggle--I'd like to experience the sticky nightmare! And they sound like they might be gluten free, and I need more GF treats! :o)

                    1. re: Vetter

                      Vetter, I actually found some recipes online that sound like ours. One is here:


                      I would add the note, after you add the powdered sugar, keep beating til stiff again. You will be using part of the meringue for icing so it needs to hold its shape. If it's runny, it won't work, save yourself the frustration.

                      Second note, you may want to cut the recipe in half as it makes a lot.

                      Third note, they are certainly eatable right out of the oven but do try softening them in a tin for several weeks with several slices of apple. Place the apple in a small bowl and set inside the tin on top of the cookies. It's Grandma's trick and it really works.

                      Another note, powdered/confectioner's sugar often has a small amount of cornstarch added, I'm not sure why. Don't know whether it would be an issue for you but something to be aware of.


              2. I hear you....I am not much of a baker because I have mastered making perfect cupcakes from a box :-)

                Honestly, the best dessert in my arsenal is a strawberry shortcake from Martha Stewart. I made it in the summer for a party and everyone LOVED it. So, I decided to keep making it, because it's fairly easy, presents well (I love things that don't have to look "perfect") and I just swap out the fruit depending on the season.

                1. Your post takes me back to the days when I actually DID involved recipes. And yes, Julia Child's Reine de Saba chocolate cake (Mastering, I) is really worth it! I might even tackle it again, thanks for jogging the memories.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                    Another of her cakes, a Cambridge Cake I believe it is called. Wonderful, but a lot of steps...baking and cutting the layers, the fillings, making the chocolate sheets that you fasten around the cake plus the chocolate sheets for making the ribbon on top. A lot of effort, but a fabulous look and taste. Something you make to take when someone else is cooking the dinner.

                  2. I can tell you what's not worth the effort: croissants. Just go find a good bakery. Any bakery.

                    I don't make it often because it takes 2 days of my time, but when I do, I'm tempted to eat the whole thing and not tell anyone. A good German Chocolate cake is worth the effort. You have to make the custard filling and then let it cool. You bake the cake layers and let them cool. You chop up pecans, slice and frost the whole thing, then let it set up in the fridge. But, oh, when you take a bite it's just heaven.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: leanneabe

                      French pastries never seem to be worth the work that goes into them. I love profiteroles, but the 2-day long effort to make pâte à choux, creme anglaise and then fill my pastry puffs is just not worth it when I can get an equally good profiterole at any reputable patisserie. I can only imagine how frustrated I would've been had I spent all that time attempting a croquembouche.

                      1. re: JungMann

                        Ive baked professionally and Ive never seen a profiterole recipe that cannot be produced in under 4 hours. Puff pastry might take a whole day, but 95% of the time is resting the dough.

                        I agree that making croqenbouche is a PITA, but you only do it once a year. You might be relived to learn that a croq' is easier to fabricate then a Buche du Noel.

                    2. Julia Child's Boeuf a la Catalane is superb and worth the effort (MAFC I)

                      1. Bummer about the pumpkin tart. I hate that when you put so much work into something that is just "okay." It's good to share that on the board to save the rest of us from the same fate!

                        I made Rick Bayless' Mole Poblano from Authentic Mexican. It looked like a bomb went off in my kitchen and took me forever from buying the chiles to toasting them to pureeing in the blender, but the sauce was really delicious and I felt pretty proud of the final product. The technique wasn't hard, but it was probably the messiest dish I've ever made.

                        I also agree that pork tamales are a lot of time and work, but sooooo good.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bear

                          I would agree with Bayless' Mole Poblano. Any of his moles are well worth the effort. Just don't try it during really cold weather because toasting the chiles will fill your house with smoke!!!

                        2. The Cooks Illustrated Beef Bourguignon, esp if you start with fresh, not frozen, pearl onions and have to peel the little buggers yourself.

                          The most recent somewhat fussy recipe I made was a wonderful Concord Grape Jam Tart from the Halloween issue of Martha Stewart Living. It was really, really good.

                          Martha Stewart's Pot pie and her mac and cheese are both fussy (I'm sensing a theme here!) but very, very good, though I actually like the CI stovetop mac'n'cheese more.

                          1. Emeril's Banana Foster Ice Cream Pie - took every cooking vessel in the house, multiple shifts washing dishes, and that was with a store-bought graham-cracker crust. Served it at a small dinner party and it was DELISH!

                            1. Here is the link to the tart that I made. It turns out that she has a few chocolate pumpkin tarts. From the review here, the blogger who made this felt the same way about the results. http://michellephant.blogspot.com/200...

                              1. Buche de Noel. Every time I'm in the middle of making it, I ask myself why the hell am I doing this, but when I see the beautiful buche on the silver platter, festooned with sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs, decorated with mushrooms, some cocoa sprinkled on for dirt and icing sugar for snow, well, then, I think it's worth it.

                                1. Anything from the French Laundry cookbook.

                                  homemade stock.

                                  1. Homemade filled pasta of any type--potstickers, pierogi, tortellini, canneloni--they're all worth the effort of making dough, rolling it out, cutting, filling, shaping and sealing carefully. Not difficult, but if you're doing it alone, it's so tedious. When I taste that first one, I know I made the right call, though, as they're just so much better than anything you can buy. Even local shops that make pasta roll the dough just a little thicker to ensure the filling doesn't leak.

                                    1. I recently made the Cooks Illustrated Mole recipe and it is defiantly worth the effort. It is not as detailed as the recipe I got from a immigrant friend but it is much faster and has 97% of the taste.

                                      They also have a great tagine recipe that is very adaptable.