Sophie’s Fourth Of July Napoleons With Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream And Lemon Berries

A beautiful summery layered dessert filled with homemade vanilla bean pastry cream and lemon berries perfect for the Fourth Of July.  Enjoy.

1 Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheet, Thawed

1 Cup Milk

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar, Divided Use

1/4 Cup Cornstarch or All Purpose Flour

4 Egg Yolks

1 Madagascar Vanilla Bean, Caviar Scraped

1/4 Stick Butter or Margarine, Softened

Strawberries, Washed, Hulled, And Finely Chopped

Raspberries, Washed And Finely Chopped

Blueberries, Washed And Halved

Lemon Zest

Confectioners Sugar

For the original napoleons:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Unfold the puff pastry sheet from the package, and place it on a well greased baking sheet. Dock it to prevent it from puffing up too much by pricking it all over with a fork, and cut into thirds widthwise along the fold lines.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes. It should be slightly golden and puffed up.

4. Remove from oven, and let cool. Do not worry if they puff up too much even after you dock them because they will deflate slightly as they cool. Hold your hand over the top of one of the baked puff pastry pieces, slice it in half horizontally (parallel to that hand), and flip the top one over so that it looks like an open sandwich. Repeat with the rest of the baked puff pastry pieces, and set aside.

For the vanilla bean pastry cream:

1. In a saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and caviar from vanilla bean and vanilla bean pod, and bring to a boil.

2. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks, remaining granulated sugar, and cornstarch until thick and pale yellow in color.

3. Pour some of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper them, and add the milk-egg mixture to the rest of the hot milk mixture so that the eggs do not scramble, stirring the mixture until everything is incorporated.

4. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until thick, and it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F, turn off the heat, and stir in butter. Let cool, and strain into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly over the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming, and chill in the refrigerator until cold.

5. Remove from refrigerator, unwrap, and set aside.

For the lemon berries:

1. In a small bowl, combine strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and lemon zest, and set aside.

For the finished napoleons:

1. Stack the napoleons. Spread some of the chilled pastry cream on a piece of puff pastry, and spoon some of the lemon berries over it. Put a second piece of puff pastry on top, making sure that both pieces are facing up, and layer a third piece of puff pastry on top facing down to close the “sandwich”. Repeat the process again, creating a separate stack, and sift Confectioners’ sugar over them. Cut each widthwise into four rectangles, and enjoy.

Yields: 8 Fourth Of July napoleons with vanilla bean pastry cream and lemon berries

My Latest Dessert Craze

20-something year old Dani Beckerman has taken the dessert world by storm with her simple, delicious layered cakes, brownies, and more, better known as jars.  Sold in Mason jars, these yummy confections have consumed the streets of Manhattan, and ever since my mom discovered these through Instagram, I’ve grabbed a jar or two whenever I went into NYC.  So far, the only flavors I’ve tried are white chocolate and cake batter (I was going to have a cookie dough jar, but I left it at my cousin’s apartment), and I’m hoping to try more soon because they’re sooooo good!!!!!  Jars by Dani ships nationally, so if you’d like to try one, just go to to order one (or six) now.

Confident Cooking For Teens: Day 5: Sur La Table Restaurant Skills

Today, we made corn soup, which was really more of a corn bisque, with basil foam, which was really just basil (whipped) cream as opposed to the kind of cooking foam made with chemicals, farmers market risotto, seared chicken with bistro pan sauce, which was just velouté, which is essentially a fancy gravy, and deconstructed summer berry mousse, which was just a regular mousse made without raw egg yolks.  For the mousse, we attempted to make chocolate cups to serve it in and eat it out of by using a pastry brush to paint melted chocolate all around the inside of paper cupcake liners and putting them in the freezer to set, but they didn’t work out; the chocolate broke off from the sides when we peeled away the liners, but it created cool little chocolate shards, so we just sprinkled the pieces over the mousse for decoration.  All the food was sooooo good!!!!!  This has been such a fun one-week class, and I can’t wait to do another either at the end of August (when I’m finished with camp) or next summer!!!!!

Sophie’s Spiced Toasted Coconut Tres Leches Sheet Cake With Dulce De Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

A heavenly, yet light cake with over-the-top frosting perfect for eating with a friend, celebrating a birthday, or both.  Enjoy.

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

2 Cups Granulated Sugar, Divided Use

3/4 tsp Salt, Divided Use

1 tsp Baking Soda

Ground Cinnamon, to taste

Ground Nutmeg, to taste

1/4 Cup Ground Coconut

1/2 Cup Whole Milk or Half And Half or Heavy Cream, Divided Use

3 Egg Yolks

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

6 Egg Whites, Divided Use

1 tsp Cream Of Tartar, Divided Use

1/2 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 can Evaporated Milk

2 Sticks Butter or Margarine, Softened And Cut Into Cubes

1/4 Cup Dulce De Leche

Confectioners’ Sugar

For the original cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until thick and pale yellow in color.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla.

4. Sift flour, 1/4 tsp of salt, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg over the mixture, and fold it in.

5. Pour ground coconut onto a baking sheet, shake into a single layer, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

6. Remove from oven, and set aside.

7. In an electric mixer, whip 3 egg whites, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar until frothy and foamy, slowly add 3/4 cup of granulated sugar and toasted ground coconut, and continue until stiff peaks form.

8. Fold it into mixture in three additions.

9. Pour the cake onto a well greased baking sheet, and bake for about 25 minutes, rotating it about halfway through. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when the cake is done.

10. Remove from oven, let cool, and use a spatula to transfer it onto a rectangular platter.

For the dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream frosting:

1. Set up a double boiler to kill the salmonella in the meringue. On the bottom, place a saucepan filled with water over the stove. On the top, place a bowl filled with remaining egg whites, remaining granulated sugar, remaining salt, and remaining cream of tartar.

2. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, and it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F.

3. Transfer the cooked meringue to the bowl of an electric mixer, and whip it until stiff peaks form.

4. In the same bowl with the mixer, cream together Swiss meringue and butter, adding one cube at a time, on medium-low speed until everything is incorporated, and the frosting is light and fluffy. Slowly pour in dulce de leche one spoonful at a time, and let the mixer go until everything is incorporated.

For the tres leches mixture:

1. In a small bowl, combine remaining whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk.

For the finished cake:

1. Use a fork to poke holes in the cake, pour tres leches mixture over it, and let sit for a few minutes. The cake should absorb the mixture.

2. Spread the dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream frosting all over it including the top and the sides, smoothing it out as you go, and sift Confectioners’ sugar over it. Cut, and enjoy.

Yields: 1 spiced toasted coconut tres leches sheet cake with dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream frosting

Sophie’s Italian Breaded Pan-Fried Calamari And Baby Octopus Salad With Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

A balanced light seafood salad with a beautiful Italian vinaigrette to keep with the dish’s cuisine.  Enjoy.

2/3 Ib Calamari, Washed And Sliced Into Rings

2/3 Ib Baby Octopus, Washed And Cut Into Bite Sized Pieces

All Purpose Flour

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Dried Oregano, to taste

Dried Parsley Flakes, to taste

Baby Spinach, Washed

Arugula, Washed

a few spoonfuls Diced Tomatoes With The Juice, Drained

1 Tbsp Capers, Chopped

Olive Oil

Lemon Juice

Red Wine Vinegar

1 Tbsp Honey

1/2 Shallot, Peeled And Thinly Sliced

2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced

Dried Basil, to taste

1. On a plate, combine flour, salt and pepper, dried oregano, and dried parsley flakes, and stir.

2. Dredge calamari and baby octopus in the flour mixture, and let the excess drip off.

3. Heat oil in a pan, and pan-fry the calamari and baby octopus until golden brown, making sure the inside is cooked through. Drain on a paper towel, and set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, arugula, diced tomatoes, and capers, and add the calamari and baby octopus.

5. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, honey, thinly sliced shallot, minced garlic, and dried basil.

6. Pour over salad, and toss to coat. Pile some into a bowl, and enjoy.

Yields: 2 servings

Confident Cooking For Teens: Day 4: Pasta!

Today, we made fresh pasta dough that we used to make fettuccine with two sauces (summer basil pesto and tomato marinara).  We also make Caesar salad with croutons, and it was all sooooo good!!!!!  I can’t wait for tomorrow; it might be the last day, but I couldn’t be more excited!!!!!

Confident Cooking For Teens: Day 3: Sweet & Savory Sauces

Today, we made zucchini fritters with smoked tomato sauce, sweet corn and bacon soufflé, and chocolate ice cream with torched homemade marshmallow crème.  For the ice cream, we couldn’t make it in the 2-hour time frame we had, so we ate some that was already made, but we made the chocolate crème anglaise just to learn how to make it.  I already knew how to make it, but I didn’t mind.  It all tasted amazing, and now, I’m definitely going to make a soufflé at home one day, but I’m going to make a sweet one as opposed to savory!!!!!  Today was so much fun, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!!

Sophie’s Deviled Eggs

A Southern staple turned from appetizer to delicious dinner with capers and vinegar used as a substitute for pickles and pickle juice.  Enjoy.

2 Whole Eggs

Salted Water

Cold Water

2 Tbsp Mayonnaise

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

Worcestershire Sauce, to taste

1 Tbsp Capers, Chopped

White Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tbsp Honey

1. In a saucepan, boil eggs in the water, turn off heat, and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Remove from pan, and rinse under cold water. Peel eggs, halve lengthwise, and scoop the yolks into a bowl, reserving the whites.

3. Stir mayo, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, capers, white balsamic vinegar, and honey into the bowl with the yolks, scoop the mixture back into the whites, and enjoy.

Yields: 4 deviled eggs

Confident Cooking For Teens: Day 2: Measuring & Baking

Today, we made perfect pizza dough.  There was also pizza dough that was made in advance for us to use as well.  We used the pizza dough that was already made to make pizza margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil, and we used the pizza dough that we made to make barbecue chicken pizza.  They were both really good!!!!!  I mean, who doesn’t love pizza, right?  Veronica came back today, and I was glad to see her again.  I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!!

Confident Cooking For Teens: Day 1: Knife Skills

Today, we made summer rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce, grilled ginger chicken skewers, veggie yakisoba, and pineapple and lime sorbet with fresh mint.  I actually tried the sorbet, and it was pretty good, just like everything else!!!!!  Veronica wasn’t feeling well, so that was unfortunate, but I’m hoping that she’ll be able to come tomorrow.  Even though she wasn’t there, I still had a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!!