Feels good to be back among the living

Our weather, this fine November afternoon, is clear and sunny. With temperatures in the 70's. Birds are singing. And our president-elect is Barack Obama. So, unless I get hit by a truck today . . . it's . . . a . . . beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .

I would like to apologize for my absence these past few weeks. I was TKO'd by an unholy cold that ripped right through me like an F3 tornado. I'm not out of the woods yet, but, I had to breath a little life into this blog - which, btw, has been sanitized for your protection.

So, come my friends! Let us indulge in not one, but three delicious treats, which I infectionately offer here. The first one is just right for the season. Pumpkin Cheesecake. I omitted the crust in this rendition, but I'll include the recipe for that too, in case you're interested.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Sauce and Pumpkin Seed Brittle


1½ cups fine gingersnap crumbs (about ½ pound gingersnaps)
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


½ pound cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
5 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream

Maple Bourbon Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons bourbon

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

2 cups sugar
3 cups pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
½ cup corn syrup
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. CRUST: Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan that is 2 inches deep, and line bottom with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the gingersnaps crumbs, nuts and butter. Mix well. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

3. FILLING: In a bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add both sugars and spices. Beat until light in texture, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin purée and mix just until blended. Stir in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the cream.

4. Pour batter into the crust and put the cake pan in a roasting pan. Add hot water to the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until cheesecake is firm to the touch, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Allow cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When the cheesecake is completely chilled, lower the pan into a hot water bath for 2-3 minutes to loosen. Place a large plate on top of cheesecake, invert the pan and remove. Put a second plate (or cookie sheet without sides) on the bottom of the cheesecake and turn it right side up. Cut with a hot knife and serve with Maple Bourbon Sauce.

6. Cheesecake will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for several weeks.

MAPLE BOURBON SAUCE: In a saucepan over low heat, combine butter, sugar, maple syrup, dark corn syrup and heavy cream, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved (about 5 minutes). DO NOT bring this mixture to a boil. Stir in bourbon. Serve hot or cold.

PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE: Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a large heavy pan. Cook over medium heat, until candy thermometer registers 250° F. Add pumpkin seeds, stirring until candy registers about 300° F. Remove from heat. Quickly and vigorously, stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour candy onto a slightly buttered cookie sheet, spreading as thinly as possible. Allow to cool and break the brittle into serving pieces

And for those of you who are fed up with pumpkin desserts, I give you:

Gâteau Fondant au Chocolat

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 ounces (½ cup)unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 large eggs, separated
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows), melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10-inch Springform pan with no-stick spray and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

2. In a large, heat resistant bowl, set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up, and whisk into the chocolate mixture. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to High, and gradually add the sugar. Continue to whip to medium-firm peaks. The peaks will droop slightly when you lift up the whisk. Stir in the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture, until there are no white streaks visible. You need not be gentle, as this cake is best without a lot of air incorporated into it. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth it out, and pour 1 cup of the ganache on top. Using a spatula or the handle of a wooden spoon, marble the ganache into the cake batter.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (approximately ¾ cup)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approximately ¾ cup)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to the scalding point over medium-high heat. In a medium heat-resistant bowl, combine both chocolates and corn syrup. Pour the scalded cream over the chocolate mixture and gently whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

4. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of the cake no longer looks shiny. The cake will puff up, and set on the edges, but will be a little wobbly in the center. Run a knife around the edges and leave cake to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

5. Slice the cake with a knife which has been dipped in very hot water, and excess water wiped off. This cake can be kept 3 days at room temperature, or 5 days refrigerated.

This cake is somewhat similar to the 80's sensation Molten Lava Cake...

...in several ways, except aesthetically. For it is, without question, the ugliest chocolate cake you will ever bake. But, if you ever find yourself battling the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause (Itchy; Bitchy; Sweaty; Sleepy; Bloated; Forgetful and Psycho), this rich cake will whistle them menopausal demons right out of ya.

A reader requested more information on the butterfly topper for the chocolate cake.
You could use plain tuile batter for this, but since I had Pumpkin Seed Brittle, I decided to use it, as it yields delicate, gossamer decorations. Do not make these on a hot, humid day.

For 4 butterflies, break up two large shards of Pumpkin Seed Brittle (or use your favorite nut brittle) and run the pieces of candy through a food processor until finely ground. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay a plain stencil on top.
Put the ground nut brittle in a fine sieve and evenly sprinkle this mixture over the stencil. Carefully remove the stencil. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) for 7 to 10 minutes; watch it carefully after the first 7 minutes, to keep the tuiles from burning.

To serve this cake, you could slice it into 12 wedges, or try, as I did, an ice cream scoop to scoop out this sticky, chocolaty mess. If you like, warm individual servings in the microwave for a few seconds before serving to soften the ganache ribbons running through it. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Adapted from The American Boulangerie.

Any typos or slurring heretofore courtesy of cherry flavored NyQuil.


  1. Anonymous7/11/08

    Amiga, I love the way your new blog looks! The header is so cute:)

    Hope you are feeling better. My, my, you whipped up some nice things this time again. I loved both recipes, especially the chocolate dessert. Can't wait to try it! Great pics as always.

  2. great to see you back in action! love your flutterby's, they always wow me, well, ok all you do is pretty darn fun girl. never met a chocolate i didn't love. pass the fork please~

  3. Yea! I see you are not only back but in 'top form'! (Can't keep a good gal down). Count me in for these yummy treats. Have always used ginger cookies as my crust but you have kicked my pumpkin cheesecake up several notches!Appreciating your 'fine' palate, Gâteau Fondant au Chocolat sounds like it will become a favorite. I'm off to shop for ingredients (perhaps after a good night's sleep ... returned tonight after a week away then rushed to join children for son's birthday bash at a local Royal Oak haunt). Night dear one and stay well!

  4. Welcome back! I'll take both the cheesecake and the fondant! So scrumptious looking!



  5. Anonymous8/11/08

    My friend Jain alerted me to your offerings today..

    Always perfection Sol..

    That cold is nasty..Jacques is on his 7th week..It must be the same one..but yours will end sooner..

    I love the butterfly on the cake too..How did you make that one? The only butterfly I have been able to do is the chocolate one..This one is so light and airy:)
    PS I like the new look too..I remember making silhouettes..do you?

    Love the Dwarfs:)


  6. Thank you all! It feels good to have dropped 5 lbs. (5 pounds of cold meds I was carrying around with me, that is. This is no exageration, this is called survival!)

    Joey! I actually made a batch of ginger cookie dough the other day, but I just didn't have the get up and go to bake, so the dough is still in the fridge.
    And dear friend, please allow me to send a very happy belated birthday wish to your son!

    Monique, I hope you'll keep an eye on Jacques' cold. Thumper brought home that awful virus from school, almost two months ago, and his dry cough is finally winding down now.

    Btw, it never occurred to me to include instructions for the butterfly, but I'll be adding that for you next.

    Thanks again for the good wishes my foodiephernaliacs!

  7. I hope you are completely recovered soon. The crumbled brittle butterflies are stunning!

  8. Sol, Welcome back!! You've been missed. I hope you're 100% in no time.

    Wow, wow, wow ~ you never cease to amaze with your unlimited talent and creativity. I'm so happy I don't have to choose a favorite, as that would be impossible.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful world. ((Feel better soon!))

  9. I love your new header.. and sheesh, the Gâteau Fondant au Chocolat is just calling out to me. Hope u'll feel better soon.

  10. Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad cold, but I'm glad to hear you are on your way to recovery... take care and get well soon!

    You have definitely been missed! Loved all the desserts especially the pumpkin cheesecake ... everything looks so beautiful ^o^

  11. Thank you Maggie, Mari, Foodbox and NC; with such kind and sincere wishes, I'm sure I'll bounce back sooner rather than later.

    All I need now is more chocolate and maybe a bag of Doritos, to counterbalance the funk I'm in!

    I know, it'll be quite some time before I mature [G]

  12. Hey, aren't you supposed to be resting? LOVE the pumpkin cheesecake, and the pumpkin seed brittle, oh my!

    Glad you're back....we were worried!

  13. That pumpkin seed brittle is so great. Love it!

  14. Anonymous10/11/08

    You've been very missed, Sol! Glad you're ok, but I've been going through withdrawal! but WOW when you come back you do it with style! It all looks fantastic, but I am partial to the chocolate, I think! Must be the dwarfs :) I am a 6 ft dwarf. Bitchy :)

  15. Kathy, I have two kids. What is this word "rest" you speak of? ;-)

    Thank you Recipe Girl; the brittle is pretty good. I've been using some of that heavenly leftover powdery brittle over just about everything; gives a whole new meaning to angel dust.

    Carol, you're an Amazon woman!

    I'm only a 5'4, irascible dwarf. (That's the dwarf that was kicked out of the group). But I can tame the beasty in me with chocolate, preferably dark chocolate.

    Thank you guys for making my day!

  16. Anonymous11/11/08

    Amazon woman, LOL! I better not come visit you with that other 5 foot dwarf, AB, you'd be like bookends to me :)

  17. They both look wonderful, but I want the chocolate fondant please!

  18. Glad to hear you're feeling much better. I find chocolate cake helps during such times,.. menopause or no menopause :D

  19. Dear Carol, with my posture, I'd make a terrible bookend. But, if you act now, Annie and I will be the best pair of leg warmers you'll ever wear!

    Nicisme, I'd gladly share my chocolate fondant with you [G]

    Y, I can't think of anything that chocolate won't fix, especially when it comes wrapped in this package

  20. Wow! Such beautiful desserts! I am more partial to the pumpkin cheesecake (yum YUM), but I would swoon for the chocolate too. :) That is a beautiful cake stand.

  21. Marysol such wonderful desserts here. I love your blog! Now I know where to come when I need a fancy schmancy dessert to impress my guest!

  22. Irene, I'm thrilled you noticed the cake plate! I loved it too, the instant I laid my eyeballs on it.
    I'm an antiques dealer, who (sometimes) stumbles onto pretty cake stands, platters and such. And I always feel compelled to give them a good home.
    I'm beginning to think these little treasures, from a bygone era, may be the only motivation I'll need to stay in the business.

    Robin, some of these desserts are far from fancy schmancy, but they're good, so help yourself to any of them!

    Thank you Irene and Robin, and welcome!

  23. Hey there Sol...hope you are on the mend. We seem to have run into that cold/whatever while travelling and I'm doing lots of energy work on my immune system. I'd much rather eat a pumpkin cheesecake but I strongly suspect that an entire one would do me in rather than heal me. Dick doesn't like pumpkin but I do.

  24. hey sol, thanks for visiting my blog, i can't beleive you bailed on greece... all things would have looked so much better when you came back... next time, never say no! meanwhile come
    over to my blog, i got a little something for you

  25. That pumpkin cheesecake looks and sounds so good!

  26. Hi M, I hope you're back to your sweet self by the time you read this. And please, don't be intimidated by pumpkin cheesecake; think about all that beta-carotene you'll be missing out on ;-)

    PQ, I'm there.

    Hi there Kevin, and thank you!

  27. I'm poppin' in for a piece of Thumper's birthday cake ... is it all gone :0(

  28. I'm so glad to see you back in action, and to know you are feeling better.
    These creations are so beautiful, Marysol! I especially love those butterflies.

  29. hi sol, i just started a wfd blog, would love to have you as a contributor! i am going to send you an invite to yahoo, come post with us!

  30. Aw Joey, now don't pout. I'm sorry Thumper's cake is gone; if it's any consolation my friend, I didn't have any either.
    But I do have pictures, which will be up before the week's over. And if that ain't good enough, I'll be happy to make a cake for your birthday, I promise.

    Thanks Patricia! I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Btw, I love most winged critters (butterflies, dragonflies...even griffins!), and you'll find them in most things I make.

    PQ, I don't know how you find the time to successfully maintain two blogs when I can barely keep one afloat, but I'm glad you do. And I'm so there. Thanks pal.

    Thanks so much guys!

  31. Back to drool some more. :)

    Psst... Sol, please come see.
    I have a little something for you~


  32. That looks so insanely decadent and wonderful... I have to say that I admire your patience in baking. Is it too early for new year's resolutions? You have inspired me!

  33. Mari, thank you! I'll be over to take a look-see.

    Thanks Alexa! Truth be told, patience is not one of my virtues, but baking has always been therapeutic.

    Guys, I've been internet deprived for four days, and I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to finally have access to a computer; which, btw, it's another thing that keeps me out of trouble, sometimes.

    Thank you both very much!

  34. I'm back! Couldn't let the holiday go by without wishing you a very special day. Bet your kitchen is filled with great smells! Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving.

  35. Hugs right back at ya, my dear friend!

    And Happy Thanksgiving!

  36. Hi,

    Just a short note that you have been nominated to Inspiring Food Photography Poll:

    Have a nice day, Margot :)

  37. Margot, many thanks to you for the nomination! I'll be (giddily) biting off all ten nails.

  38. wow, your presentation is just phenomenal!!

  39. Thank you kindly Arfi!

  40. Anonymous2/12/08

    You have a fabulous place with awesome presentations and recipes..Loved the Butterfly effect ...
    will come here for more..
    hugs and smiles

  41. Thank you Anon! I've always had a soft spot for butterflies.
    Smiles right back at you. And don't be a stranger ;-)

  42. Hey Marysol
    I am enjoying your site as much as I would a slice of fondant au chocolat!
    Come and visit me in Beirut, where the cherimoyas are sweet and juicy like they should be!