Thursday, Aug 25, 2016
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Don't be a turkey, try something different for dessert


Rum Cake, Chocolate Pie and Lemon pie.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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The turkey has been eaten, the sweet potatoes devoured, the cranberry sauce but a bright red memory on the plate.

Your guests are stuffed and happy and already looking forward to a nap. But they would push themselves away from the table as disappointed as they are sleepy if you did not give them one last little sweet treat, one last bit to remember.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a dessert. Or better still, desserts.

The traditional ending, of course, is pumpkin pie. And while we rather like pumpkin pie and its cousin, sweet-potato pie, we’ve been there, eaten that.

We started to think in terms of alternative desserts during a recent visit to Atlantic City, N.J., to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The birthday dinner was held at one of our favorite restaurants in America, Chef Vola’s. It’s a tiny Italian place in the basement of a house just steps from the beach, yet the food is so good that Providence smiled upon it and kept it completely dry during Hurricane Sandy. That’s how good it is.

It is so good that you can’t get in without reservations and their phone number is unlisted — you have to know somebody who knows somebody (it’s the Jersey way). It is so good that whenever Frank Sinatra performed at one of the nearby casinos, he had their banana cream pie delivered to his dressing room after the show.

But we didn’t get the banana cream pie on this trip, and we did not even go for the butterscotch rum ricotta pie, which some cite as indisputable proof that there is a God and He wants us to be happy. This time we decided to try the limoncello cream pie.

Clearly, Frank Sinatra never tried the limoncello cream pie. And God knows more than one dessert.

It’s so effervescently light, so delicately flavored. It is the perfect ending to the type of humongous meals that they specialize in at Chef Vola’s. Or, as it occurred to us during the next three days of digestion, the perfect ending to an equally huge Thanksgiving dinner.

Obviously, we couldn’t get the recipe from the restaurant itself — a place like that does not divulge any of its culinary secrets, and we wouldn’t even know a number to call them to ask for one. So we decided to use a little Internet and a little intuition.

The problem is, there are not many recipes for limoncello cream pies even on the Internet. Most of the ones we could find called for a heavy custard with far too many egg yolks to produce the shimmeringly light dessert we were targeting. And then we saw a reference to a book called Not-So-Humble Pies by Kelley Jaggers, which contains a recipe for limoncello mousse pie.

Bingo. Or at least, so we thought. The picture we saw was the right color and seemed to have the proper airiness. So we made it with particular anticipation, remembering the great pie we had eaten in Atlantic City.

It never set up. All that work — we figure it is worth it for Thanksgiving — and the pie turned out to be more like soup in a crust.

But the taste was so good that we decided to try again. Though the filling had started to thicken while we cooked it, we decided to let it thicken a little more.

Success. And knowing that Chef Vola’s serves theirs with a crust made from lemon cookies, we fashioned one for ourselves with surprising ease. It added just the right crunchy, lemony zing to go with the creamy filling.

At the risk of feeling like we were living the life of pie, we tackled another favorite: chocolate fudge pie. It isn’t traditional for Thanksgiving but it should be — who doesn’t love chocolate fudge pie? Can’t you just taste it now, with the cool chocolate melting over the warmth of your tongue?

Our version came from Cindy Mushet’s fine cookbook The Art & Soul of Baking. This version is sort of healthier than others (but not really) because it cuts down on the typical amount of butter and cream, though it still contains generous amounts of each. On the other hand, it also contains considerably more chocolate. And because the filling isn’t baked, the flavor of the chocolate really comes through, so now is the time to shell out for the good stuff.

For a little bit of extra chocolate goodness, we made ours with what is generically called a chocolate sandwich cookie crust, but which the entire world knows as an Oreo cookie crust. It’s ridiculously easy to do make. Just crush a bunch of, uh, chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor (or pound them with a rolling pin if you have anger management problems), stir in melted butter, and press the sticky result into a pie pan.

We’re almost embarrassed to admit to our final dessert, a rum cake, and for a couple of reasons. First, it came from one of those self-published cookbooks put out as fundraisers for the Junior League or churches or the like (this one happens to have been The Patrons’ Association of The Collegiate Schools in Richmond, Va., a book called The Stuffed Cougar).

Secondly, and this goes entirely against our philosophy as a cook, it calls for pre-made mixes. And not just any such convenience items, it actually calls for a box of cake mix and a package of instant pudding.

Serious cooks shudder at the thought. But here’s the thing: In this recipe, at least, they actually taste great. Really, they do. It all comes together so well that your guests will never guess it is so easy it could have been made by a child.

But don’t let a child make it. This is a rum cake we are talking about here, one made with no small amount of rum. It has so much rum, 5 ounces, that we can guarantee at least one guest (and probably more) will make a joke about not being able to drive home. Don’t worry about it; they’ll be fine. It tastes stronger than it is, and according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about three-quarters of the alcohol will boil off during the cooking.

If you want less of a rum taste, by all means use less rum. But it’s hard to get better than this recipe as it stands — cake mix, instant pudding, and all.

Contact Daniel Neman at: or 419-724-6155.


Limoncello Mousse Pie

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Limoncello Mousse Pie


1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) finely ground lemon cookies

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted


1 1/4 cups milk

1/4 cup limoncello liqueur

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin

1 tablespoon cold water

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350° and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place cookie crumbs in a medium bowl and add melted butter. Stir until all the crumbs are evenly moistened. Pour into a 9-inch round pie pan. Use the heel of your hand, a tart tamper or the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs from the center outward into an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Use your thumbs to press the crumbs up the side of the pan and level them at the rim.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly colored and fragrant. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. This crust may be stored at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap.

For the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, limoncello, lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and salt and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to simmer and thicken, about 8 minutes. Once it simmers, continue cooking and stirring for about 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and add the butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir until melted. Pour through a strainer into a separate bowl. Place a layer of cling plastic wrap on the custard surface and chill for 1 hour. Meanwhile, place a medium bowl and your mixer's whisk or whisks in the freezer.

In a small bowl, mix the powdered gelatin with the cold water. Let stand for 10 minutes, then melt in the microwave for 10 seconds. Allow the liquid to become cool to the touch, but do not let it re-solidify.

In the cold bowl, add the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. With the cold whisk or whisks, whip on medium-high speed until it starts to thicken, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the cooled gelatin and whip until the cream forms medium peaks, about 1 minute. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Add 1/2 of the whipped cream to the limoncello mixture and gently fold to incorporate. Pour into the prepared crust and garnish the top with the remaining whipped cream. Chill for 4 hours before serving.

Yield: 1 pie

Source: Crust adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet; filling from Not-So-Humble Pies by Kelley Jaggers



Chocolate Fudge Pie

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Chocolate Fudge Pie


1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) finely ground Oreo cookies

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter


3 large eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) heavy whipping cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (up to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350° and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place cookie crumbs in a medium bowl and add melted butter. Stir until all the crumbs are evenly moistened. Pour into a 9-inch round pie pan. Use the heel of your hand, a tart tamper or the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs from the center outward into an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Use your thumbs to press the crumbs up the side of the pan and level them at the rim.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. This crust may be stored at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap.

For the filling: Bring 2 inches of water to a low boil over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk by hand to blend. Place the bowl over the simmering water (the bottom of the bowl must not touch the water) and whisk constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Heat until the mixture reaches 160° on an instant-read thermometer and the eggs look light in color and texture. To check the temperature, remove the bowl from the heat so the mixture doesn't overcook while you're waiting for the thermometer to register. If the mixture has not yet reached 160°, wash the thermometer (to prevent contamination from bacteria the next time you take the temperature), dry it, and then put the bowl back over the water and continue to whisk. This step can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, so be patient. Each time you check the temperature it will take longer to heat.

When the eggs reach 160°, remove the bowl from the saucepan (keep burner on) and beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

While the eggs are beating, place the butter, cream, and chocolate in a medium bowl and set the bowl in the saucepan over the simmering water. Let it sit for 1 minute, then gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and wipe the bottom of the bowl dry. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs, lower the speed to medium, and beat until there are no streaks of egg visible. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl, making sure that any streaks of egg are blended into the chocolate. Scrape the filling into the prepared pie crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

For the topping: Whip the cream and sugar into firm peaks. Spread evenly over the top of the pie.

Yield: 1 pie

Source: The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet


Rum Cake

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Rum Cake

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 package Duncan Hines Classic Butter Golden Cake Mix (no substitutions)

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding

1/4 cup PLUS 3 tablespoons light rum

1/4 cup PLUS 3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup PLUS 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 eggs


1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons rum

2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 325°. Sprinkle pecans in bottom of small greased (with butter) and floured tube pan. Put cake mix and pudding into bowl and add rum, water, and oil. Mix well. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing well as each is added. Crack the fourth egg into a separate small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add about half of this egg into the batter, and mix thoroughly. Pour batter over nuts in pan. Bake 1 hour or until done. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Turn onto plate.

To make glaze, mix all ingredients and simmer 3 minutes. Pour slowly over top of cake.

Yield: 1 cake

Source: The Stuffed Cougar, by the Patrons' Association of The Collegiate Schools, Richmond


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