chile spiked chocolate mousse

How about a little spice in your life?

Thought I’d best get a post up before I lose the last of my faithful readers. I’ve been busy working on a submission for a quilt exhibition and it’s taken all of my attention for the last couple of weeks. Or so it seems. I was able to take a little time to try a new dessert recipe that I’d like to share. It was a little fiddly to put together, but very tasty so I hope you’ll give it a try.  I found the recipe on the Eating Well website. I wanted to try it because I like chocolate mousse (which it is sort of like chocolate pudding), and I have chile powder from New Mexico in my cupboard. The bite from the chile is subtle but oh so interesting.

chile spiked chocolate mousse

Red Chile Pepper Spiked Chocolate Mousse


    • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    • 4 tablespoons water, divided
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons mild-to-medium New Mexican red chile powder, plus more for garnish
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 large egg
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


    1. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; set aside.
    2. Combine cocoa, granulated sugar, chile powder, espresso powder and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk in egg, then milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until steaming and just beginning to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the softened gelatin, chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
    3. Beat egg whites, brown sugar and cream of tartar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed just until firm peaks form.
    4. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Fold in the remaining egg whites until fully incorporated. Spoon the mousse into 8 dessert glasses or cups.
    5. Chill the mousse until set, at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with chile powder, if desired.

mango fool with blueberries

I made this dessert for lunch the other day. The recipe is from Gourmet Easy Dinners magazine. It is rich yet light and small portions are perfect. It is also quick and easy to prepare.

mango fool

Mango Blueberry Fool

1 lg. ripe mango, pitted, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 c. sugar, or to taste

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 c. chilled heavy cream

1 1/2 c. blueberries

grated lime zest to garnish

Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and a pinch of salt in a blender until very smooth. Add cream and blend until very thick. Blend in additional lime juice and sugar if desired. Transfer to a bowl, fold in most of the blueberries, then divide among 6 glasses. Top with remaining berries and zest. Chill.

Oops. Looks like I forgot to add the lime zest garnish. That happens to me way too often, even if I have the garnish ready and sitting right next to the dish. I usually find it when I’m cleaning up. Oh well, it’ll be like a new recipe next time!

cakes out of the oven


I have baked fruitcake every year for at least the last 30 years. I started with a recipe that my mother obtained from someone (she doesn’t remember who) many, many years ago.  Since my mother does not bake, she gave the recipe to her sisters. My aunts have baked this cake for as long as I can remember. It was the gold standard for wedding cake.  I like to find people who “don’t like fruitcake” because I think this is the cake to change their mind.  I used to bake about 150 pounds of cake annually, which translates to 70 cakes. The cakes were given to my husband’s clients as well as friends and family. As they are a time-consuming product, I have tried to cut back on the number of cakes I bake. Last year I cut back to 49 cakes, plus another 7 gluten-free ones. Wasn’t much of a time saver. So this year, I thought I should not bake at all, or cut back drastically. The drastic cut back won. I baked 14 full size cakes and one small one. It was (excuse the expression), a piece of cake!

The recipe I am using is one that has evolved over the years. I consider it very much my own now. My cake baking is an involved process, starting with shopping for ingredients (which are never all available at one place.) Then all the fruits are washed and sorted. People seem shocked when I show them all the bad raisins that can be found in every package. Believe me, they are there. I like the nuts sorted, as there are always some that don’t meet my standards. All the ingredients are carefully weighed and measured. The fruits are plumped with liquor before the actual baking begins. I have done this long enough to have established a system that guarantees a consistent, uniform product. Once baked the cakes are wrapped in liquor soaked cheesecloth. Then every 7 – 10 days the cloth is soaked again to infuse the liquor throughout the cake.

The packaging is important. I buy large rolls of printed cellophane and wrap the cakes with machine like precision. The ingredient labels are custom printed. I have cardboard boxes that fit the cakes perfectly to protect them from rough handling. I’ll admit it – I have control issues. But to me, the finished product is worth it.

cakes in the oven

Here are this year’s cakes baking and out of the oven. If anyone is interested in the recipe, please comment on this post. If there is enough interest, I’ll share the recipe. My usual rule is that if I give you the recipe, I don’t ever need to give you a cake again. The liquor I use for soaking the cakes is St. Hubertus from Hungary. This was part of the recipe when I started baking, and I wouldn’t think of doing the cakes if it wasn’t available. It’s that good. I will post photos of the cakes once they are wrapped and ready to leave home. Putting the wrap on is my favorite part, but possibly because that means I’m nearly done. At least this year I won’t have to spend too much time shipping cakes all over North America. Hooray for that!

cakes out of the oven

baked cakes cooling on the rack

bottle of St. Hubertus

wrapped Christmas cakes

giving thanks

beautiful table settingThis Thanksgiving we were fortunate to be invited to 2 holiday celebration dinners. Both were outstanding and I am thankful to have such wonderful friends and thankful that they are tremendously talented in the kitchen. I baked desserts for both meals and wanted to share the recipes. The first evening I baked a pumpkin cheesecake using a recipe that was given to me by my sister-in-law many years ago. It’s a variation of a recipe in a cookbook titled “I’ve Got to Have That Recipe” by Barbara Doell, Dianne Winsby and Pat Pollard. It’s easy to make this gluten-free by swapping gluten-free ginger snap crumbs for the graham cracker crumbs. Sorry but I forgot to take any photos at the first dinner.

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4  cup sugar

1/4  cup pecans, finely chopped

1/2  cup butter, melted

1 1/2  pounds cream cheese

3/4  cup brown sugar, packed

3/4  cup sugar

5  eggs

14  ounces canned pumpkin (398 ml. tin)

1  teaspoon cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ginger

1/4  teaspoon nutmeg

1/8  teaspoon cloves

1/4  cup whipping cream

6  tablespoons butter, melted

1  cup brown sugar, packed

1  cup pecans, coarsely chopped

whipping cream for garnish

Mix together graham crumbs, sugar, finely chopped pecans and melted butter and press into lightly greased  10″ spring form pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Cool.

In mixer bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add pumpkin and spices and mix well.  Beat in whipping cream at low speed.  Beat until smooth.  Pour into crust and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 35 minutes.

Combine 6 tbsp. butter, brown sugar and pecans.  When cake is barely firm to the touch, remove from oven and sprinkle on topping.  Bake 10 minutes more.  Cool and refrigerate overnight.  Garnish with whipped cream.

The second evening’s meal concluded with traditional pumpkin pie, which I garnished with tiny pastry oak leaves and whipping cream. I tried a different pastry recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School which I was very pleased with. Hopefully if you try it, you’ll like it as well. The pumpkin pie recipe is my own, arrived at after a few years of minor adjustments. I hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin pie slice

pie, pie plate & whipping cream

Pate Brisee

Makes two 8- to 10-inch single-crust pies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in pieces and  chilled

7 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the cold butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough starts to hold together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out on a work surface and press together. Knead 2 or 3 times to incorporate loose bits. Divide in two. Pat each piece on a sheet of plastic wrap to form a disk. Gather plastic wrap to flatten disk. Wrap well and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight) before using.

Take dough from fridge 30 minutes before rolling, and work on a lightly floured cool surface.

Pumpkin Pie

1  unbaked pie crust

400  ml. tin of pumpkin

3  eggs

1  cup brown sugar

2  teaspoons cinnamon

1  teaspoon ginger

1  teaspoon nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon salt

1 1/2  cups whipping cream

1  cup whipping cream for topping

3  tablespoons maple syrup or 2 tbsp. icing sugar

Beat eggs.  Add pumpkin, sugar, spices and cream.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 425 degrees (convection bake).  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees (convection bake). Bake until filling is set, about an hour.  Cover crust edges with foil if browning too quickly.  Cool completely before serving.

Garnish with whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup or icing sugar.

Notes: For regular oven, bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Keep chilled.