new year's

Chestnut Mont Blanc Mousse


My friend Eva gave me a can of chestnut puree as a gift. She is a Hungarian-American and told me that she, like many other Hungarians, eats chestnut puree straight from the can or jar. 

But my thoughts went straight to "what can I do with this?"

My friend Susan, who is Swiss-American, told me that her favorite dessert is Chestnut Mont Blanc, which is basically sweetened chestnut puree mixed with whipped cream. 

That sounded like a good start.

Mont Blanc is usually served on top of a meringue or genoise. But I didn't feel like fussing, so I decided to go with buttered chocolate cookie crumbs on the bottom. I placed the crumbs in a bowl and spooned what I call Chestnut Mont Blanc Mousse on top.

Then added a blob of schlag.

Of course.

This will be New Year's dessert for us this year.

Btw, this would also do well as a pie or tart: spread the buttered crumbs in a 9-inch pie plate, tart tin or cake pan with removable bottom and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, remove from the oven, let cool and spoon the mousse inside the crust.

Some specialty stores cary chestnut puree and you can buy it online. If you can't find it, you can make your own: in a saucepan, cover a jarful of chestnuts (about 15 ounces) with milk and cook for about 15 minutes or until the chestnuts are soft. Drain the chestnuts but reserve the milk. Puree the chestnuts in a food processor or blender, gradually adding enough of the reserved cooking milk to make a smooth puree. If you make your own puree, be sure to add the sugar in the recipe.

Chestnut mont blanc Mousse

  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (or chocolate graham cracker crumbs)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups chestnut puree
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • chocolate shavings

Mix the chocolate crumbs and butter together, making sure all the crumbs are coated. Place the crumbs in a bowl or in a pie plate. (If using a pie plate, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crumb crust for 10 minutes; let cool before filling.) If the chestnut puree is unsweetened, mix in the 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in the rum if desired. Whip the cream with the one teaspoon of sugar. Remove half the whipped cream and fold it into the chestnut mixture. Spoon the mixture on top of the chocolate crumbs (or into the pie crust). Top with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

Makes 8 servings

Cream Puff Swans on the Lake


I love that my grandchildren love to cook and absolutely love that they like a challenge. My eldest makes perfectly shaped butter cookies; the next eldest recently cooked a vegetarian rice and beans dinner for her siblings. One of them once helped me bake a flourless chocolate roll for Passover.

Recently, my 9-year old grand daughter said she was bored and wanted to cook something really delicious, very pretty and also "hard." 

Be still my heart!

What better choice than cream puffs made into the shape of swans?!

I have taught baking classes on this particular recipe and have seen fully committed grown ups nervous about getting it right.

But off we went into the kitchen.

There are two really difficult challenges to making swan shape cream puffs. The first thing is mixing the eggs into the butter-flour dough, which is very stiff and therefore not easy to incorporate the liquidy eggs. Fortunately, this kid is athletic, with the kind of strong arms that come with spending hours doing chin-ups and stuff at the playground.

No problem! Stiff dough/eggs, perfectly mixed and blended. Check!

The second hard part is piping out small slivers of dough for the necks. There were lots of not-so-good ones (we just ate these as snacks after they were baked) but she did manage to create enough for us to use in the final product.

After that it was easy: we made some vanilla pudding but I told her that some other time you could also fill the swan bodies with whipped cream, sorbet or ice cream.

She said it would be really nice for the swans to have something to swim on.

Remember that old piano piece, Swans on the Lake? The music that so many of us learned as children taking our first year or so of piano lessons?

Well of course, there had to be a lake. We melted some chocolate. So easy. So lovely to look at when we put the swans down on each serving plate.

Wouldn't this be a beautiful finale to a lovely dinner for New Year's or someone's birthday or other special occasion?



  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or vanilla pudding
  • melted chocolate or chocolate sauce


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat the water and butter in a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. When the water comes to a boil, raise the heat and add the flour mixture, all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Spoon 12-18 mounds of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, shaping them into ovals with your fingers, and leaving some space between each oval for the dough to spread. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12-18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

To make the necks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow-holed tip. Pipe the dough into "S" shapes about 2-inches long onto the second baking sheet. Bake the necks for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

To assemble: Split the swan puffs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Cut the top portion in half lengthwise to use as wings. Spoon some whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or pudding into the swan bottoms. Arrange the split top wings on top of the filling. Spoon some melted chocolate or chocolate sauce onto dessert plates. Place the filled swan bottoms on top of the chocolate. Insert the necks into the front. If desired, use a toothpick to dip into some meted chocolate and make a dot as an eye on the top of the neck.

Makes 12-18


Cheddar Scones and Apple Butter



I'm still thinking about New Year breakfast/brunch ideas for when my cousins come for our annual sleepover. Shakshuka is a definite. But I am also going to make these cheddar cheese scones and serve them with butter and/or a really special apple butter condiment that I tasted at Kosherfest last November.

You can use any good, sharp cheddar for the recipe, but at Kosherfest I tasted The Cheese Guy’s Double Ale Cheddar Cheese, which won an award for Best Dairy/Cheese, and loved its boozy tang, so if you can find it, you can give it a try.

The company's Vermont Apple and Maple Syrup Butter also won for Best Jams/Preserves and Dried Fruit. I figured -- the sharp cheese and the sweet apple butter -- it's a good combo!

Cheese Scones                          

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add the butter in chunks and work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the cheese. Mix the egg and yogurt together and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a circle of 1/2" thickness. Cut the dough into eighths. Place the scones on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until scones are browned and well risen.

Makes 8