Vanilla Pudding Parfaits with Salted Caramel, Cookie Crumbles & Peanuts


We are still in triple digits here in Arizona. I can feel the weather changing though as the days get shorter and the nights cooler.  l’m starting to welcome the idea of Fall and everything that comes with it. Fall is akin to comfort food. As Summer slips away, we start day dreaming of stews, hot dishes and firing up the oven again to bake. These parfaits are Snickers inspired in terms of flavor.

Pudding is the ultimate comfort food that you can still make when the weather is hot.  I have such a fond memory of my childhood and making homemade pudding. My Mother taught me how to stir the pudding gently in a figure 8 motion, being careful to get into the corners of the pot. When making pudding, I always succumb to a hypnotic dreamy state while I stir. I don’t know why, but it just happens organicly EVERY TIME. Pudding can be a great problem solving task for things that you have been pondering about or troubled over.  Stirring and zoning out, I can finally meditate over where the Husband left his keys that he’s lost for 3 days now. Oh yeah…stirring, meditating, day dreaming of Fall evenings sitting on the porch with creamy pudding parfaits.

These little jars have everything you need, creamy pudding with bits of crunchy chocolate cookie crumbles and smooth salted caramel topped with peanuts. Comfort food in any season. You’ll most likely have some salted caramel sauce leftover- store it in a glass jar in the fridge. Slip it into your morning coffee or sneak a spoonful now and then straight from the jar!


Salted Caramel Sauce

1 C sugar

1/4 C water

3/4 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. fleur de sel or kosher salt

In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then the salt. Let cool, then refrigerate.

Vanilla Bean Pudding 

yield: 4 servings

2  1/2 Cups whole milk, divided

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1 Vanilla Bean, scraped for seeds

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

For Parfait Assembly:

Purchased Famous brand chocolate cookies

Salted roasted peanuts 

1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.

2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of parchment circle directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding cool on counter for 30 minutes, then place in fridge.

Once the pudding is poured into the bowl, DO NOT STIR OR PUDDING CAN TURN WATERY!

Parfait assembly:

Layer a few tablespoons of vanilla pudding in the bottom of a 4 oz. glass container, then pour in a couple tablespoons of salted caramel, followed by sprinkling of coarse cookie crumbles and salted peanuts. Repeat with one more layer. Serve chilled.


It was 120 degrees in my part of Arizona here the other day. I actually don’t mind when it’s this hot (I’m one of the very few) because it heats our pool up to a nice soaking bed of liquid nirvana. One of my favorite things is to swim late at night when the moon is shining and the palm trees are swaying. I close my eyes and just float mindlessly, shutting out the world. We have three palm trees that line the back edge of our pool, and with the right amount of wind they lend a soft gentle breeze. I love this time of year. The only downside is that when it’s this hot the last thing you want is to turn on the oven. Enter one of the classic no bake desserts-Tiramisu. It’s super easy and comes together quickly. There is only one caution and that is you have to be careful and not over whip the mascarpone once you add it to the custard portion. I’ve actually made this twice; the first time with flatter softer lady fingers and it turned out too soggy for my liking. The second time I used hard, crunchy type savoiardi biscuits and I much prefer this version. This tiramisu is not 100 percent classic as I used whole eggs versus only egg yolks, and I also did a sifting of cocoa powder over the custard to help combat sogginess. There are two layers of biscuits, but it’s hard to see in the picture above as when I scooped out the piece for the picture I ended up leaving the bottom layer behind a bit, but rest assured there are two. If you don’t like the mouth feel of cocoa powder on the top you can use grated chocolate shavings, or chocolate curls instead.

                          I used cookie cutters to decorate the top of the cocoa powder


Soaking Syrup

2/3 Cup strong (hot) coffee or espresso

1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp. Kahlua

1/4 Cup Crème de Cacao liqueur

1  1/2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/4 Cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Valrhona) + more for assembly

Savoiardi biscuits (cookies) for assembly (Look for them in the cookie aisle)


5 whole eggs

1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt or a pinch of salt if regular salt

24 oz. mascarpone cream cheese


Prepare filling:

Assemble a double boiler using the bowl of a stand mixer to fit over a 3 quart saucepan. Place eggs, sugar and salt in bowl and continually whisk over simmering water until mixture measures 160° F on a candy thermometer. Place mixer bowl on stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whisk egg mixture on medium high speed until you reach ribbon stage. Ribbon stage  means when you stop the mixer and lift the whisk up out of the whipped eggs it should fall into ribbons that fall back and disappear into the foam.  The entire mixture will resemble loose shaving cream and will have quadrupled in size. Place the entire mixer bowl in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

Remove the mixer bowl from the fridge and use the same whisk (no need to wash) and turn mixer on medium speed. Take the mascarpone out of the fridge and add a serving spoon size (about 1/4 Cup) at a time while the mixer is running, stopping frequently to scrape the bottom of the bowl. DO NOT TURN THE MIXER TO HIGH. If you over whip the mascarpone with the egg mixture it can separate and your mixture will “break” and resemble cottage cheese. THIS CAN HAPPEN VERY EASILY. Continue to keep adding in the cheese and mix on medium speed until smooth. Note: I prefer to mix the filling until it appears almost smooth and then finish by inserting an immersion blender in and out several times until mixture is smooth-this prevents the filling from being over whipped, and the filling comes out super smooth.

Prepare soaking syrup:

Whisk ingredients together (except the biscuits) in a small bowl that is wide enough to allow dunking of biscuits.


Use a baking pan for assembling the dessert. I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan but a 9 x 9 pan has the same volume, so either one will work. With the 7 x 11 inch pan I ended up using 12 biscuits for each layer which ended up being one whole package of biscuits.  Dunk (submerge) each biscuit into the soaking syrup for a couple seconds and place in an even layer to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Measure out 2 cups of the custard and smooth out into an even layer over the biscuits. Sift a layer of cocoa powder over the custard using a fine mesh strainer. Repeat with a second (final) layer of dunked biscuits and the final layer of custard, followed by a sifting of cocoa powder. I used a varied size of cookie cutters to dip and lift into the cocoa powder for a designed effect. Chill the dessert (uncovered) in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up. Serve chilled.




Coffee & Cream Panna Cotta with Warm Chocolate Sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with choc sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with chocolate sauce and chocolate covered coffee beans

Who doesn’t like coffee. Yes, there are those who don’t. What is wrong with you people? Seriously. Please. Maybe I’m joking. Maybe not…To each his own. Coffee with cream, first thing in the morning- that first sip is like nirvana to me. I stumble over anything in my way, to make it to the coffee pot. I live for coffee. Right now in Arizona we are experiencing monsoon season and it’s a bit more humid than normal. You can’t really use that phrase- “It’s a DRY heat” right now, but that just means I have to find other ways to come up with treats without using the oven. Enter stage left- panna cotta. It’s the perfect summer dessert because it requires only turning on the burner for a few minutes. It’s cool, it’s creamy, and hits the spot.

Panna Cotta

yield: 6-8 servings depending on size of ramekins

1 package (1/4 oz.) unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)

2 Tbsp. cool water

2 Cups heavy cream

1 Cup whole milk

3/4 Cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (1 tsp. vanilla may be substituted also)

2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder

For Serving: chocolate sauce (recipe below) and purchased chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)

1. In a small custard cup or microwave safe bowl place 2 Tbsp. cool water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let sit about 5 minutes to bloom. Place 4.5 oz. – 6 oz. clean ramekins on a sheet pan or in a shallow pan that will fit in your fridge level.

Tip: If you don’t have or don’t want to purchase ramekins- save your (small) shallow yogurt containers and wash out and use in place of ramekins.

2. In a small saucepan place the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and espresso powder and whisk to combine. Heat GENTLY over medium heat until very hot but not boiling, whisking frequently. While mixture is heating microwave the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds until liquid. Once cream mixture is hot (but not boiling) stir in the liquid gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Pour mixture into each ramekin and place in fridge for several hours or overnight to firm up. Serve cold or cool panna cotta with warm chocolate sauce and chocolate espresso beans.

To turn out panna cotta’s: Fill a shallow pan or bowl with 1 inch of boiling water. Run a sharp thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta to loosen, then set each ramekin in the bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip over to unmold. Spoon a bit of warm chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with 2-3 chocolate covered espresso beans.

Chocolate Sauce

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about scant 3/4 Cup)

1/4 Cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

In a heat proof bowl (such as pyrex) place the chocolate. In a glass measuring cup place the cream, butter, and corn syrup and heat on high in microwave for about 1 minute until mixture is very hot- stopping half way to stir. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute then stir until smooth. If necessary you can return the bowl to the microwave and heat in 10 second intervals until mixture is smooth, stirring as you go along.

White Chocolate Raspberry Creme Brulee

Do you like to entertain but you don’t want to be cutting or scooping out any dessert at the last minute? Yep, me too. You can make these ahead of time a few hours before your event or party and if you want to have the fun and include your guests you can even wait to brulée the tops of the custards with your friends if you like. Summer is the perfect time to find ripe raspberries on sale.

raspberry white chocolate creme brulee

White Chocolate Crème Brulée with Raspberries

recipe: adapted from Ghirardelli

yield: 6-7 ramekins (depending on the size of your ramekins)

4 large egg yolks

1/3 Cup sugar + (4-6 tsp. more for brulee)

4 oz. white chocolate chopped fine

2 Cups heavy whipping cream

3/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste

fresh raspberries washed and dried

1. Preheat oven to 300° F.

2. Whisk egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth in a medium size mixing bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the chopped white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Temper the egg sugar mixture with the hot cream mixture by add in a little bit at a time while whisking until all the hot cream is added. Whisk in the vanilla bean paste. Place 4-5 raspberries in each individual ramekins and then pour the custard into each ramekin; filling almost all the way to the top. Place the ramekins in a baking pan with 2 inch sides. Pour enough hot tap water into the bottom of the baking pan so that the ramekins are sitting in enough water to cover at least 1/2 of the ramekin. Bake at 300° F for 50-60 minutes or until custard is set. Remove the pan from the oven and move the ramekins to a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

3. Sprinkle each ramekin with enough sugar (about 1 1/4 tsp) and brulée each with a bakers’ torch or under the broiler until sugar is caramelized. Chill the custards until ready to serve. Serve ideally within a few hours of making as raspberries tend to give off a bit of liquid.

Strawberry Tarts with White Chocolate Creme Patisserie

Summer means lighter desserts since the last thing you want on a hot day is something heavy. Imagine a nice warm summer evening sitting on the deck sipping chilled moscato wine, listening to jazz and tucking into one of these tarts. The beauty is you can make these ahead of time; like the day before and enjoy a nice relaxing evening dining al fresco.

Adapt this recipe to make it your own with different fresh fruit toppings if you like. I’ve made this tart with raspberries before and it’s amazing. If you like- you can make one large tart as well. If you really want to save time, you can make both your tart shells and the pastry cream a day or two ahead and assemble them on the day of your party. Make sure to buy your berries no longer than a day before assembly to ensure a very fresh taste.

strawberry tarts

white chocolate strawberry tarts

strawberry summer tarts

Strawberry Tarts


Shortbread tart Crust: (10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 1 9-10 inch tart)

1  1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1/3 C  confectioners sugar

1  1/2 C all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

(soft butter for brushing tart pan)

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed; cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste and combine briefly until smooth. In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt to combine. Add the flour mixture on medium low speed until the mixture is almost combined; there will be some bits at the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer and with your hands lightly  mix the dough together to incorporate any little bits until it is combined.

Prepare the tart pan by brushing with soft butter and flouring the pan; tap out any loose flour. This step is key if you want to actually remove the tart crust from the bottom part of the pan; such as if you are giving it for a gift or putting it in a box to take to a party. The flour will ensure you can slip a thin spatula in between the crust and the bottom portion of the removable tart pan. Hey, if you are having your own party and you don’t plan to transport that sucker,  then skip this step. There is enough butter in the tart crust that you will still be able to remove the ring without buttering or flouring the pan.

Press the dough into the tart pan until it looks fairly even. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes before you bake it. I chill mine an hour so it helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked. Once the crust has chilled, dock the bottom of the crust very well all over with the tines of a fork; being careful not to go all the way through. This will prevent the crust from puffing as much as possible when baked, or you can blind bake your shells. Set the tart shells on a cookie sheet and Bake at 350 º F for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust looks no longer wet. You are not really looking for color. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the bottom of the tart shells lightly with a beaten egg white. Note: if your crust(s) have puffed up I like to take a the back of a rounded measuring teaspoon to quickly smooth out the crusts flat (for mini tarts) or an offset spatula for one large tart; then I brush with the egg white. The egg white will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the tart crust cool completely on a wire rack.


White Chocolate Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)

yield: enough filling or 10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 9-10 inch tart

1  1/4 C whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

3 egg yolks

1/4 C sugar

2 Tbsp.  flour

2  1/2 Tbsp. corn starch

1 Tbsp. soft butter

4 oz. melted & cooled white chocolate

In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and whisk in the sugar until smooth. In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir to combine. Add this to your egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat.  Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat,  whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute until it looks like pudding.  Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter.  If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Whisk in the white chocolate. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

Note: If after chilling you find your pastry cream is not thick enough- you did not let it boil long enough. You can always rescue it by returning it to the pan and make a small slurry of cold water and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch and bring to boil while whisking mixture.

To assemble: Place cold pastry cream into each tart shell, smooth the filling. Top with your berries/fruit. Brush with warm glaze (recipe below) and keep tarts chilled until ready to serve.

Fruit Glaze:

1/4 Cup seedless strawberry, seedless raspberry or apricot Jam

2-3 tsp. water

Heat the jam and water over low heat until mixture is thin. If using apricot jam; strain the chunks of fruit out.