Fruit, Mascarpone Cream and Almond Crust


This year I will host Christmas. Enough of the back and forth divorced parent stuff. I’m going to get a massive tree, make an impossibly delicious breakfast casserole and we’re all going to sit down to do a puzzle.

On a shopping venture Hayley told me I couldn’t spend $90 on a Noble Fir. We walked up and down the pine laden columns looking for the perfect tree. After a moderate amount of huffing and puffing on my part, I decided on an economically-sized tree. The Christmas tree guy (yes, dressed in plaid) scooped my tree up. Hayley made a comment about how he must not need to lift weights because of his occupation. I rolled my eyes and shoved more complimentary candy into my pockets.

Once home, Hayley threw the tree over her shoulder and hauled it into my house. (She also hung all the pictures in my house when I moved in and wipes my unforgiving black counters after I cook.)


Later that night I made this pie, and we decorated the tree. Our friend Ashley, who gets a stomach ache after more than one bite of dessert, ate a whole piece of the pie. She was silent when she took a bite. I took this as a sign of distaste, but Hayley said, “Oh. Ashley likes it.”


I was unsure about the crust. I made my own almond meal by grinding up whole almonds in my food processor. I didn’t get it as fine as I would have liked. If possible, grind yours finely or buy it at the store. The mascarpone filling, however, was luscious with a touch of sweetness that sang amongst the tart berries.

Makes 1 pie//Inspired by Kate Lebo

For the crust

  • 2 cups almond flour or meal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten

In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and stir until the mixture is moist. Add the egg and stir. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Press the “dough” into a pie plate, going up the sides as well. Flatten and smooth the rim. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly toasted. Set it aside to cool.

For the filling

  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup good honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh marionberries
  • 1 pear
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Over medium-low heat, combine the marionberries, almond extract and cornstarch. If the fruit was frozen, allow it to completely thaw. After bringing to a simmer, set aside to cool.

With an electric mixer, whip the mascarpone and sour cream together. Add the honey, vanilla and salt. Spoon the filling into the cooled piecrust, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Lay thinly sliced pear across the top of the filling in any pattern you’d like. I went in a circle. Top with cooled marionberries and serve.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti


The moment I saw Ellen the baker, a fellow participant, pulling a tin of homemade biscotti from underneath her bed, I knew I was in the right place. Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Scholars program in Rensselaerville, New York—a place where food would be discussed all day long and where a group of people from all over the country could gush about their shared passion.

Normally when I think of biscotti, I imagine long, stale logs of cookie, which you inevitably slobber on it as it cuts the sides of your mouth. Ellen’s biscotti are something else, something special. They’re toothsome and soft, giving way to fudgy graceful bites.

Of course, I asked Ellen to teach me the craft of making biscotti.

Ellen reminded me I should always sift the dry ingredients—a step I usually skip over—and later when it seemed like the dough might crack, she said, “It’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s just a cookie.”

While chopping chocolate, Ellen told me about creating this recipe during years of working in restaurants and bakeries. She made it her personal mission to take the idea of a biscotti but make it more chocolaty. We melted butter with the chocolate in a double boiler. Her trick is to use melted chocolate, combined with an under baked approach for a richer flavor and texture.

While waiting for the biscotti to bake, we were sitting writing and heard a friendly neighbor through the window, “What’re you all making in there? Chocolate chip cookies?”

Ellen sprung from her chair and said, “When you smell the chocolate take them out!”

Makes 24 biscotti/Ellen Gray


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Ellen uses Dutch Process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white for a wash
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • 6-8 ounces coarsely chopped almonds (or your preferred nut)

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baker powder and salt. Set aside.

In a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave, melt the 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate with the butter.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs and almond extract with the sugar until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture. In three parts, slowly add the dry ingredients. Add the 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate pieces.

The dough will be sticky. Turn the dough onto parchment paper, form a ball and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, cover in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap, and slightly press the tops of the logs to form a flattened cylinder. Place the logs on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the tops.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The tops will still be soft to the touch. Let them cool.

IMG_1995 Slice the logs crosswise with a serrated knife into the size of biscotti you prefer. Then stand them up on a sheet tray again and bake at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them. I would do closer to five. Then let the biscotti cool again before eating.

Cherry Galette

photo 2

“You’re like my dog” is the phrase most directed at me on the 4th of July. I’ve never liked fireworks. While kids used to scatter with their arms in the air to catch the parachute man, which had just been launched in a fiery ball, I would run for cover, afraid it would fall on my head.

I found refuge helping whoever was in the kitchen, making a cake spread with thick white frosting and meticulously covered in red and blue berries.

I’m older, but I still cringe along with the neighborhood dogs when the festive fireworks begin. This year I tried to be a good sport and go to a party down the street, but when I walked up and saw they were blowing up a couch with fireworks I retreated to make a cherry galette.

I sat and pitted the most perfectly ripe cherries, which stained my fingers purple. My cohort, who looked stunningly like Rosie the Riveter, worked the delicate spelt dough.

The result was a thick, flaky dough sparkling with turbinado sugar and filled with oozing, bright cherries. The sky boomed with fireworks in time with the flavors of cherry and almond dancing on my tastebuds.

Makes 1 Galette/Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

For the dough

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt (we used plain)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 3 cups pitted cherries (about 1 lb.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For the top

  • 1 egg
  • Splash of water
  • Sprinkle of Turbinado sugar

*Vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream or more yogurt for serving

In a chilled bowl, combine the all purpose flour, spelt flour, salt and sugar. Working swiftly, use a pastry blender or your fingertips to combine the butter into the flour until it looks like small peas. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, yogurt, extract and water. Add the wet mixture into the flour-butter mixture, careful not to overmix. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve and pit the cherries, tossing them into a bowl with a pinch of salt, orange juice, flour, nutmeg and sugar, and stir to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle. (The dough is delicate and probably won’t be a real circle. It’s okay.) Transfer the circle to the parchment-lined baking sheet, and pile the cherry mixture in the center, leaving 2 inches around the edges. Pull the edges toward the middle, pleating the edges so they stick together. Julie’s looked a little crazy before going in the oven, but it turned out beautifully.

Mix the egg and water together, and brush it on the dough. Sprinkle the whole thing with turbinado sugar. Bake the galette on the middle rack for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.




Julie having a taste: the overflowing cherry juice is actually a blessing.
Julie having a taste: the overflowing cherry juice is actually a blessing.