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Our cookbook for October 2010 is the BAREFOOT CONTESSA COOKBOOK.

Please use this thread to discuss recipes from the chapter Desserts. A list of each recipe contained in these chapters, along with a link to an online version if one exists, follows.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.


= = = Desserts = = =

outrageous brownies pg 172

coconut cupcakes pg 175

shortbread hearts pg 177

"linzer" cookies pg 178

pecan shortbread pg 181

-- raspberry tart --

-- fresh fruit tart --

lime curd tart pg 187
*online recipe includes a pastry recipe

pecan squares pg 188

peach and raspberry crisp pg 190

croissant bread pudding pg 192

-- chocolate buttercream cake --
online version is substantially different

-- pastry cream --

honey vanilla crème fraîche pg 198

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  1. I think I've made most of the dessert recipes from this cookbook, and some of them have become real favorites.

    The outgrageous brownies are very good, but the recipe makes A LOT. I usually halve it and end up with one 9x13 pan of incredibly rich, dense chocolatey brownies. They use A LOT of chocolate. Not that I'm complaining. If you've seen the episode of her tv show about these brownies, you might note that the indiv. bars she cuts are huge--I tend to make mine a bit more moderate.

    The chocolate cake and buttercream are fabulous -- very rich and intensely chocolatey, but that's the point, no? I've used the cake recipe (sometimes with Greek/reg. yogurt instead of sour cream) for cupcakes and big and little layer cakes. The buttercream has converted people who didn't think they liked buttercream.

    I made the shortbread every year at Christmas. The pecan version is the same recipe but with the addition of the nuts. It's very good, though it can be a bit dry when mixing up sometimes, so sometimes I add a little milk (1 Tbs or so) just to help it along. These recipes make a lot of rolled out cookies, but they're good, not-to-sweet cookies that don't get stale quickly. Oh, and dipping the shortbread in melted chocolate (one of her suggestions) is a very nice, elegant way of presenting them. People think you've worked really hard (or even bought them, lol.)

    The raspberry tart is deceptively quick and easy. It's just a tart shell spread with raspberry preserves and then decorated with fresh raspberries--that's the part that takes the longest. It's a very light dessert, but also very impressive with the rows of berries. The buttery crust compliments it nicely. (The pic is of half a recipe, as we only had a small group)

    As with the brownies, the pecan squares are really really rich, and this recipe uses more than 2 lbs of butter and 2 lbs of pecans. The end result is delicious, but they're not everyday kinds of bars. I make these around the holidays now as part of my cookie collection. I've never dipped them in chocolate, as suggested, because that just seems like too much. (shrug)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

      like the rest of the book (quantities focussed on entertaining) the dessert recipes produce very large quantities. The pecan squares are basically a slight tweak of the Pecan Squares Americana published by Maida Heatter with proper attribution to HER original source in "77. I recommend that recipe instead which is sized for a smaller pan and put the citrus flavor in the bar base (also a little less butter, I believe) I guess the recipe had become a catering staple by the time Ina went into the business, but none of the renditions I have eaten have been as good as the original.

    2. Not on this list, but I didn't have much success with her rum raisin rice pudding. I am sure it was my fault as I am not known for making dessert, but I would be eager to hear about any success with this recipe.

      Also not on this list (unless I overlooked something) is her lemon or orange pound cake, very good! Also her brownie pudding is very good.

      1. coconut cupcakes pg 175

        I haven't made these for COTM yet. But, these are showstopper cupcakes. The cupcake itself is delicious because of the flaked coconut that is incorporated into the batter. And, the frosting is forgiving - bc once you dip the frosting into the coconut, these look like a professional made them.

        I was on a cupcake baking phases a few years ago, and these were the most requested and repeated recipe.

        16 Replies
        1. re: beetlebug

          I have my eye on these. Thanks for the tip on the icing.

          1. re: beetlebug

            Made the coconut cupcakes with Lulu yesterday. Ours did not look very professional (probably due to the near fainting spell I had while Lulu was cracking the eggs for me), but my husband said "Ina Garten is my future ex-wife." (this meant as a compliment). He absolutely loves them. They are very tender, and the icing is pretty amazing too (although good lord it makes a lot - I must have tossed half of it, and I made 20 cupcakes). Myself, I could do without the almond flavoring, but I do like them very much. Below see Lulu in her very own apron with one of the fear-inducing eggs, and enjoying the final product.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Thanks for the report - I'm planning on making those this week & did wonder about the amount of icing - will start with a half recipe

              1. re: ctbrit

                I think you could easily cut the icing in half. There was soooo much, and I really over-iced them and still had tons left over. I guess it sort of depends on how much icing you like, but I still think you could cut this by a third even if you love lots of icing and still be fine.

                As for the almond extract (not that you asked), I might replace it next time with something like some cointreau. I make my carrot cake with a tiny bit of that in the icing, and it is wonderful. And I think coconut lends itself well to booze (think pina coladas - hey, maybe dark rum would be the way to go?).

              2. re: LulusMom

                Forget the cupcakes... LuLu is as cute as one. As for the "fear-inducing" egg cracking, she has to learn some time... and what a treat you both made. Did she remember Ina's method of cracking into a prep bowl first?

                1. re: Gio

                  Thanks Gio! (sorry to force kid pics on everyone - being a parent means you CANNOT HELP YOURSELF). She cracked them on the counter tops (concrete) and then brought up to the mixer. At one point she was crushing one egg with her hand and wouldn't let go of it - I was just sure the cupcakes would be crunchy (so far, not a bit of shell ...). And you're absolutely right - she has to learn sometime. She's already a whiz at pasta with butter and parmesan (with me watching over).

                2. re: LulusMom

                  Glad you enjoyed the cupcakes and great pics of Lulu. I forgot though, I always halve frosting recipes and I forgot to mention it up thread. Half the frosting recipe is more than enough for the cupcakes.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    What joy and happiness! Kids and baking. She is soooo adorable.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      Thanks to you both - we have so much fun together, and she loves cooking and eating. Helpful, given the things I like!

                      BB, glad it wasn't some aberration on my part about the icing. That is a HECK of a lot.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I'm not the biggest frosting person so I halve all my frosting recipes.

                    2. re: LulusMom

                      Thanks for this, I have a favorite coconut pie, now I might have a cake--
                      cakes--as well.
                      A question though--the book says 20 "large" cupcakes -- what does that mean? I have a tin that makes cupcakes 2 3/4" across and another that makes bigger cupcakes 3 1/4" across. Same depth for both. They make paper liners to fit both. The book says to fill the paper liners "to the top" with batter. We are usually advised to fill 2/3, right,? Or even 1/2? The picture in the book shows a cupcake that has obviously run over and spread out, hence could use some extra icing to cover its acreage!
                      Extra icing in my house is chilled in any smallish dish and called "vanilla fudge" or something.

                      Lulu's mom--this is from Life magazine 1951--
                      I thought of it because of your egg-fear. Scroll down to see whole article, it made me laugh.

                      1. re: blue room

                        I use regular size muffin tin. The recipe I use is printed off the internet and in my pile. I'll have to look it up and see what it says. But, I fill it up the standard way, 2/3 and I think I get a couple of dozen cupcakes out of the recipe. Once I find the printout, I'll repost.

                        1. re: blue room

                          Blue room, that is SO cute! And it reminds me of my first time cooking for my dad too - scrambled eggs! I burned the heck out of them, but he was so sweet and kind and ate them and said they were wonderful. Funnily enough, he doesn't remember this at all (the kindness of memory?). Thanks so much for that - it was great. Makes me think of how much I lucked out in the dad division.

                          About the cupcake size - I just used my usual (no idea what size) cupcake holders, and filled to the top. I got 20 cupcakes. And they ARE large.

                        2. re: LulusMom

                          I'm wondering when Lulu herself will start posting on here.

                          What will she want for a "handle"? (I regret now not thinking up a good one for myself but when I first signed up it was just to see what CH was all about -- did not know I'd love it so much -- merely picked my last name!!)

                          She's so lucky to have such a nice Mom to have fun with her cooking.

                          1. re: walker

                            Why thank you walker! I'm a little nervous about Lulu and the computer. Signed her up for a hotmail account, and now get very little time at my own computer. She's only 4, so the emails she sends are pretty simple, but they take for-ev-er to type. I keep telling myself it is helping her small motor skills and spelling.

                            She really does love helping out in the kitchen, and wants so much to make stuff on her own. I need to think of something she can do and call her very own creation.

                        3. re: beetlebug

                          coconut cupcakes pg 175'

                          I finally made these again and they were still a huge hit. I did a quick comparison from the book's version and the paper version that I had printed off the internet (and probably from CH) a few years ago. Basically, the recipe I've been using is half the amount in the book. It also uses large eggs v. extra large eggs.

                          But, in the interest of COTM, I followed the book's recipe for the cupcakes since I was bringing them to a party.

                          As for the cupcake size, my muffin tin is an regular size tin. It's probably significantly smaller than Ina Garten's tins. I got about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes using her recipe (her yield is 18-20 cupcakes). My first batch, I filled my standard 2/3 of the cup. These only rose to the top of the paper liner so they weren't as attractive as the next batches, where I filled them almost to the top. The almost to the top fill did have the cupcake puff over the liner, making it look more like a cupcake.

                          Also, for the frosting, I made half the frosting and it was the exact amount I needed. As for adding the coconut on top, I usually (and still did so), pour some on a plate and then dip the cupcakes, head first, into the coconut. This results in a lovely presentation.

                        4. The tart shell and the curd are both delicious. I have made both numerous times with great success. The curd I typically make with lemons, and this summer put in the tart shell topped with fresh blueberries.

                          1. The coconut cupcakes were really special. I made the recipe a few days ahead of party and froze them. Perfect when defrosted. Both children and adults loved them.

                            1. The pecan squares (pg 188) are nearly identical to what I know as ...pecan diamonds. A recipe from a magazine, from the White House pastry chef. It was many many years ago-- cannot remember which President! But I've made these many times, and they work, and they're delicious. The amounts I use are 1/3 of Ina's recipe--it fits into a 9x9x2 square pan, if you want diamonds rather than squares cut 8 strips down, 9 diagonal. Do this with a sharp knife so the edges stay nice and clean-lined.
                              Pecan toffee-like candy over a shortbread cookie, the two layers distinct, eye-catching even on a plate of fancies. (jen kalb posted above in this thread about these too.)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: blue room

                                We made the pecan squares and they came out really well. My church friends will have a really delicious coffee hour treat this morning. 3 sticks of butter oh my

                                Book is due at the library today and I do like Ina.

                                1. re: Berheenia

                                  Aren't they like little jeweIs? I don't dip them in chocolate though, as pictured on the Ina recipe, they're too amber and pretty as is.
                                  I'm planning to participate in some COTM baking this month-- I wonder
                                  how many sticks of *butter oh my* it will take!

                              2. Outrageous Brownies p.172

                                I made these tonight, my son thinks they're amazing. I am on the lookout for the perfect brownie recipe and I don't think this is it for me, though they are good. They are very soft and cakey in texture though may be different tomorrow after a night in the fridge. I like my brownies fudgy and dense but I suppose I could try reducing the baking time a bit next time. I did half-quantity - she really does go for catering-size recipes doesn't she?

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: JaneEYB

                                  If you have access to a book that is no longer in print, consider trying the brownie recipe from Abby Mandel's Cuisinart Classroom. OMG! These are amazing.... fudgy, chocolatey and here is the bonus... EASY! Since it was a book written to convince people to use a processor, almost the entire recipe can be created right in the bowl.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    Thank you smtucker. I going up to Vermont this weekend and there are some great second-hand bookstores near our house so I'm adding that to the (long) list of out-of-print cookbooks I'm always looking out for. Your description of the brownies sound like they could be the ones.

                                    1. re: JaneEYB

                                      Did you ever try the Nick Malgieri Supernatural Brownies from his chocolate book? I've tried many others since but always go back to that one.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        I didn't do very well on my book hunting this weekend - no Maida Heatter's and didn't see any Nick Malgieri either. Though I found that recipe on the Saveur website so that will have to be the next recipe in my quest for the perfect brownie. Thanks buttertart.

                                        1. re: JaneEYB

                                          I've been harping on these for ages (I'm sure people are sick of hearing about them) but they really are great. Have been making them since the book came out.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            I made them tonight and they are very good. I'll have to see how they age (not that there's much chance of them getting too old in my house). Texture is fudgy with a nice slightly crisp crust, good flavor. These may be the ones though I'm not sure I'm going to stop my quest for the perfect brownie - but these are as close as I've got. Thank you buttertart!

                                            1. re: JaneEYB

                                              You're welcome. They are best if you let them sit overnight, covered once fully cooled, before cutting. Then they're really something special.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                I sent these to school with my son. Inhaled.

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  How many times do I have to tell you girls (and guys), than these there is no other nor need be. Sorry, kattyeyes!

                                  2. re: JaneEYB

                                    Try the magic brownie recipe from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. I have the copycat recipe on my foodblog. I dont like brownies, but I love those. Very dense and fudgy. I swirl in Dulce De Leche.

                                  3. Peach and Raspberry Crisp - p. 190

                                    Returning from Niagara last weekend we were able to pick up what had to be the last of the season peaches from one of the farm stands there. I'm glad I didn't use all of them in this dessert because, for the first time ever, I was disappointed with the results of one of Ina's recipes. Here's why:

                                    The recipe calls for quickly immersing the peaches in boiling water to ease in the removal of their skin. Though I've done this with tomatoes on endless occasions, I've never done it w peaches. Not sure if it was because my fruit was "end of the season" or whether this is just not a great idea but I found, even after just 30 seconds, the outer flesh of the fruit was mushy so I lost some of it when removing the skins.

                                    That said, the biggest issue I had with this dish was the over-powering flavour of the orange zest. Instead of brightening the flavour of the peaches, it simply obliterated it. I think a teaspoon of orange zest would be more than enough but the recipe calls for the zest of an orange and in my case, there was likely a tbsp of zest.

                                    I would like to try this dish again (sadly, I'll have to wait until next year when peaches are fresh again!) I think I'd use a tsp of lemon zest next time and skip the orange all together.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      I agree with you that lemon zest would enhance these flavors much better than orange.
                                      As far as the peaches go, the water dip is the standard way to skin peaches for canning etc. they need to be ripe tho. I find that some of the peaches I buy late - and I mean end of August-Sept not October - have textural issues. I wonder whether your peaches hadnt been stored and whether than attfected their consistency. How were the peaches you didnt skin?

                                      In any event, I dont think its the fault of the technique, I think it is the particular peaches it is applied to.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        Late peaches (unless they're Elbertas, which have never been that easy to find) are often kind of scruffy. The last 2 batches we got in NJ were quite poor (mid-Sept). If a peach is absolutely perfectly ripe you can skin it even without blanching.

                                    2. Hey, I'm thinking about this carrot and pineapple cake recipe of Ina's. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                      I'm not sure which book it's from, but, I'm wondering if you all think I can just use more walnuts in place of the raisins, or simply omit the raisins... Or maybe used diced dried pineapple or candied ginger? (As some of you may know, I just can't abide raisins. One of my very few food aversions).


                                      26 Replies
                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I think any of your substitutions sound delicious in this recipe. Maybe half cup candied ginger and half cup of additional nuts?

                                        In other recipes (I'm not a raisin fan either), I've used dried blueberries or cherries. Usually from Trader Joe's.

                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                          Thanks, beetlebug. I think I might used candied ginger (and I like your idea of half a cup of additional nuts and only half a cup of the candied ginger. I don't want to overwhelm.) Some of the comments on the FN site they didn't think the cake had enough spice, which I think the candied ginger might help balance out.

                                          I'll let you know how it goes!


                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            Yeah, a cup of c. ginger might be too much if you want it to be a carrot-pineapple cake, but sure, any sweet or nut would be nice, I think. Don't like golden raisins either? I'd use those here, just for the color alone, to keep the cake pretty.

                                            1. re: blue room

                                              Sadly, not golden raisins, either. Or currants, which are just fake raisins in my mind. ;-). Dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries etc. are all fine, though. I'm sure it's just in my head, but it's wedged pretty firmly in there.


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I like currants better than raisins myself. Tarter.

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I only use currants for the bread salad that goes with the Zuni chicken. Although, now that I am thinking about it, I'm not sure I actually eat them or if they just lie there for C to eat.

                                                  The one raisin I do like is the kind that is dried right on the vine but I don't really seek those out either. If I do see them, I may by one little sprig and that's enough for me for the year. Those are plump and delicious though.

                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                    Hmmm, I don't know if I've ever had them dried right on the vine. Where does one get those?

                                                    Maybe I should give currants another chance. I do like tart!


                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I'll post my dad's favorite cookies recipe one of these days, they are great with currants in them.

                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        I live across the street from this amazing cheese store (cheese cave in the basement that is cooled from the rain floods). They also have a great produce section and the fruit guy likes unusual fruits. Every year, there is a short window when there is grapes dried on the vine aka raisin. These do taste so much better than conventional raisins.

                                                        I only eat them though and even then in limited quantities. They do taste like dried sunshine. C greatly enjoys these raisins as well.

                                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                                          WOW, that sounds pretty great.

                                                          buttertart, for you, oh baking goddess, I will try a currant recipe.


                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                            Nice. When I was a kid we used to get muscat raisins at Christmastime for fruitcake and puddings. You had to stone them before using them. They were great.

                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  You can simply omit the raisins. I've done it in recipes before, and never missed them at all.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    My cakes/ breads/ cookie sheets/ bread puddings often contain raisins on the left, no raisins on the right to save him the trouble of picking them out and putting them in a sad little pile on the side of the plate.

                                                    Buttertart-- English buttertarts contain currants traditionally, don't they?

                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                      Interesting. How do you keep track of which side is which? And the raisins don't migrate, the sneaky little things, during baking, across the boundary at all?


                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        Haha raisins are easy to see, like bugs on a clean floor. Even if they aren't right on the surface there's a small shadowy darkish discoloration visible that doesn't escape the eagle-eyed raisin hater.
                                                        And no, they don't move much--I use only dead bugs er I mean raisins..

                                                      2. re: blue room

                                                        They're Canadian actually - and yes, sometimes, sometimes people put in raisins, my mom used currants most of the time. Benighted people put in nuts and/or chocolate chips instead. Come on, not everything as to be chocolate, people!
                                                        I don't bake with raisins that much, if they're called for sometimes I leave them out. Most likely because they were relatively expensive when I was learning to bake with my mom (so I didn't get into the habit) and because my husband no likey raisins very much.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          Drives me crazy when people put chocolate in bread pudding.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            Thank you, correct and sensible lady. I don't think chocolate belongs in those nice soft pumpkin cookies either, or oatmeal cookies, or gingersnaps.

                                                            1. re: blue room

                                                              Personally I've never met an application of chocolate that I didn't like. You are all such purists. :). Seriously, chocolate and ginger are great together, but I agree that chocolate would seem wrong in a gingersnap!


                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                Behold page 23 Maida Heatter "Cookies"
                                                                "Chocolate Gingersnaps" !

                                                                However, later in the book I see "Mountain Honey Gingersnaps" which interest me. I'll try those for baking COTM.

                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                  HAHAHAHA! Well, if Maida says it's good, I'm sure she's right!


                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I'm really serious about my dislike of chocolate with most things - with raspberries? - yuck! as with most fruit, although I can abide bananas. All these fancy places that serve chocolate desserts with cherries just look at me like I'm nuts when I turn my nose up at their fancy dessert offerings.

                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                    If chocolate is *with* something, caramel is nice.

                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                      Oh yes, I'm with you on that one! And liquor. And nuts.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Just came from book club at my friend Julie's house and she served Ina's apple crostada - except she made it with pears - and it was outstanding. The crust has a perfect consistency.