Sweets of Italy

Buon giorno! I just returned from 10 days in Italy which included 10 days worth of Italian sweets and amazing food! We had an unique opportunity to enjoy three cities in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice.

Italy has many exciting sites to see including: the Colosseum, Roman baths, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, canals in Venice or Duomo in Florence. However, the food and dining is an experience all in itself. Italians take their food seriously and dinner usually consists of multiple courses, laced with wine, and topped off with something sweet. Dinner starts at 8 or 9 pm, and don’t expect to eat and run! Enjoy a glass of wine or a spritz and take it all in.

Antipasto: This literally means before (anti) the meal (pasto). Common options for this course are cheese plates, meat plate, olives, bruschetta, or salads. Also small baskets of bread and/or bread sticks are served. The fresh mozzarella is out of this world!


Primo Piatto: This is the first (primo) course (piatto), and is almost always pasta but can also include risotto or gnocchi. The serving size is typically appropriate for a second course which leaves enough room for the other two.


Secondo Piatto: The second (secondo) course (piatto) is the protein course of meat or fish, sometimes with a small side of vegetables.


Dolce: The best course of all, dessert. Because of all the previous courses, Italian desserts are usually fairly light. After dinner, it’s common to enjoy a drink a digestif, like limoncello (lemon liquor), or an espresso to help digest the meal they just enjoyed.

Tiramisu: a classic dessert with ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese and dusted with coco powder.

Sfogliatella (lobster tail) and Cannoli:  Sfogliatella is an incredibly flaky, shell-shaped pastry, usually filled with cream (pictured below with strawberries on top). Sfogliatella means “small, thin leaf/layer”, as the pastry’s texture resembles stacked leaves. Cannoli are tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough and are filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta filling (pictured below with powdered sugar).


Torrone and Meringue: Torrone is a soft nougat confection that is typically made of honey, sugar and egg whites, with toasted almonds or other nuts. It’s usually shaped into either a rectangular or round cake (pictured on the left). We saw these all over sold in slices and in a variety of flavors. Meringue is a light, airy and sweet confections made from egg whites and sugar (pictured on the right). There were large piles of meringue sold in pastry shops in various flavors.


Gelato: The crown jewel (in my opinion) of Italian treats. Gelato started in Italy and can now be enjoyed all over the world. It is made with a base of milk, cream and sugar. It is lower in fat, but higher in sugar, than other types of ice cream. Gelato typically has less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a rich and dense flavor. This is why the serving sizes are typically smaller than what you would see in the US and they serve it with a tiny spoon. Common flavors are: Cioccolato (chocolate), pistacchio (pistachio), nocciola (hazelnut), crema (like vanilla), cocco (coconut) caffè (espresso), fragola (strawberry), limone (lemon).


If you are considering taking a trip overseas to Italy, I would highly recommend it. It’s worth the gelato alone. Save travels- ciao!



Strawberry Sorbet

As the summer heat comes to its peak, I get more cravings for something cold and sweet, like ice cream, popsicles, custard, sorbet… the list goes on and on! So I thought it would be fun to take a stab at making my own fruit sorbet.


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Strawberry Shortcake

It’s summertime in the Midwest and we’ve hit the high season for fresh, sweet strawberries. Farms in my area allow families to go out to the fields to pick their own berries. I wasn’t that adventurous this year, but I was inspired by others to get some fresh, pre-picked berries of my own.

Strawberry shortcake is a classic, summer dessert that is quick and a tasty use of fresh berries. Feel free to swap out the strawberries if a different fruit fits your fancy. The slightly sweet shortcakes have a wonderful, light texture and pair well with juicy berries and homemade whip cream. Give them a shot- enjoy!


Strawberry Shortcake

Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens

Yields: 8-10 individual cakes


  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 6 cups sliced, fresh strawberries
  • Whipped Cream


1.) Cut off tops of strawberries and slice into quarters. Add 1/4 cup of sugar to the berries and mix well. Set berries aside.

2.) Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, flour and baking powder in a medium size bowl. Cut in cold butter pieces using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles course crumbs.


3.) Add the milk and beaten egg to the flour mixture and combine just until moistened and all flour disappears.


4.) Use a cookie scoop, or spoon to drop 1/4 cup of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the dough in a circle that is about 3/4 inch thick. If desired, add a sprinkle of coarse sugar on top of each cake.


5.) Bake shortcakes at 450° F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. The tops will turn a very light brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

6.) To serve the shortcakes, cut each cake in half horizontally. Scoop a few spoonfuls of berries onto the cake and top with whip cream. Add the top layer of cake back on.

Notes & Tips:

  • For a real showcase dessert, you could use a 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan to make one large shortcake. Bake at 450° F for 15-18 minutes. To serve, cut the cake in half horizontally and layer with berries and whip cream; serve in wedges.
  • I found it easiest to use a cookie scoop for the dough to create evenly sized shortcakes.
  • If you are not a fan of strawberries, you could use other fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
  • For the whip cream, you can make your own or just get some right from the can. No judgement here!
  • Feel free to top the cakes with a sprinkle of coarse sugar for some extra sweetness and crunch. Also, who doesn’t love a little sparkle?




Apple Hand Pies

The holidays are quickly approaching which means lots of friends, family and good food. For every holiday gathering, there are the traditional standby dishes that you have each year. This year I would suggest adding in a new fav- these mini, hand-held pies. They are the perfect portion for one person, are less messy than a slice of pie, and they travel and store well.


Now making crusts has never been my strong suit so I “cheated” and used store bought crust. It speeds up the recipe but if you are a crust master, go for it! Also if apples aren’t your thing, you could use your favorite filling. Enjoy!


Apple Hand Pies

Makes: 12-14 hand pies

Ingredients for Pies:wp-1479140050830.jpg

  • 1 box of refrigerated pie crust or your favorite recipe for 2 pie crusts
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (about 2 large apples)
  • 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for Icing:wp-1479079564887.jpg

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk


1.) Peel, core and dice apples into small pieces. Combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon wp-1479517617613.jpgand nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside apples and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.) Roll out pie crust on floured surface. Using a 4 inch, round cookie cutter, cut out circles of pie crust. You will need to combine the dough scraps together and roll them out to get a few more circles.

3.) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place one circle of dough on the pan. Place a wp-1479080462485.jpgspoonful of apples in the center of the dough and fold in half. Seal edges together with a fork or fingers. Poke tops of pies with a fork to avoid explosions. Lastly, brush tops of pies with beaten egg.

4.) Bake pies at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

5.) While pies are baking, whisk together milk and powdered sugar in a bowl until glaze is runny.wp-1479079566014.jpg

6.) When pies are done baking, remove from oven and dip each hand pie into the glaze. You can use a spoon to help fully coat each pie in sweet glaze. Place pies on cooling rack or parchment paper to cool for 10 minutes. Pies can be stored loosely covered in wax paper.

Notes and Tips:

  • If you are not a fan of apples, you could fill the pies with cherries, rhubarb, or blueberries. Let you taste buds make the decision!
  • Do not overfill the pies with filling. I was tempted to fill each pie to the brim but it made it hard to seal the edges of the dough.
  • Be sure to seal the edges of the pies well so the insides don’t spill out while they are bakin’.
  • You can cut fun designs out of the pie dough scraps to adorn the tops of the pies. I used small cookie cutters to cut out shapes but you could free hand leaves or other shapes as well.





Sweets of Norway

I recently returned from a vacation abroad in Norway! The scenery was picturesque in every city and all the seafood was so fresh. Traditionally Norway is not known for gourmet food, however the basic flavors were a refreshing change from the norm.

One of my favorite sweet treats from the trip was “soft ice” that was sold in most ice cream shops and a few tourist areas. The soft serve ice cream could be eaten plain or dipped in one of three flavors: sweetened coco powder, rainbow sprinkles, or strawberry flavoring. I had my first cone rolled in coco powder and I was hooked. I had more of these cones throughout the 8 days in Norway than I care to admit!wp-1470361038226.jpg

Another favorite treat was a simple cake we discovered in a diner- it was a lemon cake with frosting that had the density of pound cake and the light flavor of angel food cake. But was so tasty I had to get a second piece for later. See below for all of the tasty treats of Norway! Enjoy!



 “Formkake Med Sitron” -Lemon Pound Cake with Vanilla Icing  (Oslo, Norway)


Chai Latte with cinnamon sprinkle (Voss, Norway)


Norwegian Cronut from the grocery store (cross between doughnut and croissant)


Apple Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream  (Bergen, Norway)


Strawberry Mousse with White Chocolate Ice Cream, garnished with dried raspberries (Grand Hotel- Oslo, Norway)


Cream Puff Cake filled with pastry cream and topped with icing (Bergen, Norway)


Soft Ice with Sweetened Coco Powder (Bergen, Norway)


Apple Roses

Once again Fall has moved into the Midwest and I found myself in the middle of apple picking season. After a few bouts of picking, the overabundance of apples had me searching for fun, new apple recipes. My brother sent me a video of these Apple Roses being created and I decided to give them a try!

The Apple Roses look complicated to make, but the recipe is very simple and the results are stunning. They would make a great addition to any party or an alternative to apple pie at Thanksgiving. Because they are so beautiful, you may be hesitant to take a bite. But don’t be shy- dig right in! They taste like a delicious, mini apple pie. Give them a try, enjoy!


Apple Roses

Yields: 10 Roses

Recipe adapted from: http://thelovenerds.com/2015/05/apple-rose-pastries-recipe.html


  • 3 medium appleswpid-20151010_180616.jpg
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Caramel
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions: wpid-20151010_181442.jpg

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the apples in half and remove the core and seeds. Using a mandolin or knife, slice apples into very thin slices.

2.) Place apple slices in a microwave safe bowl with the water and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help to keep the apples from browning. Microwave the apples for 4 minutes, or until slightly soft and pliable. You don’t want the apples to be too crisp when you roll them into the roses, or the slices will crack and break.

3.) Drain the water from the apple slices and let cool.

4.) Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the thawed puff pastry. Cut pastry into 4 to 5 strips (depending on the size of your apples) withwpid-20151010_190723.jpg a pizza cutter. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. For each pastry strip, sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and a smear of caramel.

5.) Place apple slices on the top half of the strip of puff pastry and overlap each slice. Be sure that some of the apple slice is sticking up over the top of the pastry. Fill the whole strip of puff pastry with apple slices and then fold up the bottom half of the pastry over the apples.wpid-20151010_191453.jpg

6.) Starting at one end, tightly roll up the pastry to create the rose and then seal the end of the pastry. Lightly grease a muffin tin and place each rose in the tin.

7.) Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until pastry is lightly brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes. Then remove roses from pan and cool on a rack. To serve, sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar and/or powdered sugar.

Notes and Tips:

  • Use a mandolin to slice apples very thinly or take your time to do it by hand. I was quick to slice the apples and they came out a little thick.
  • Feel free to get creative with the ingredients that you add to the inside of the puff pastry. You could add nutmeg as another spice or use apple butter, caramel, butterscotch…
  • Store completed Apples Roses in a covered container.



Lemon Swiss Meringue Tart

With the arrival of warm weather in Wisconsin, I’ve moved on to lighter, less filling desserts. These lemon tarts are an inspiration from a favorite French restaurant in my city. These lemon meringue tarts can be a time-intensive dessert project, but they are definitely worth the effort. If you are up to the challenge, you can make these tarts in stages, or over a day or two. The end result is a light, sweet and tangy tart. The buttery crust is the base for a creamy lemon curd, all topped off with marshmallow-like sweet, Swiss meringue. Give them a shot- enjoy!


Lemon Swiss Meringue Tart

Recipe adapted from: Lecole de la Maison

Yields: 12- 4 inch tarts or 2- 8 inch tarts

Ingredients for Tart Dough:wpid-20150614_190532.jpg

  • 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 lb all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Lemon Curd:wpid-20150614_200211.jpg

  • 125 grams of fresh lemon juice (approximately 4 lemons)
  • 75 grams granulated sugar
  • 95 grams unsalted butter
  • 75 grams sugar granulated
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature

Ingredients for Swiss Meringue:wpid-20150614_210805.jpg

  • 1 cup egg whites, at room temperature (save from making the lemon curd)
  • 10 oz of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions for Tart Shells:

1.) Combine butter, powdered sugar, wpid-20150614_191449.jpgsalt, egg, lemon zest and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.

2.) Next add in the flour and mix until well incorporated.

3.) Divide the dough evenly in half and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours until rolling out.

4.) To bake the shells, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Kneed the dough until it becomes pliable (but not too sticky).

5.) Sprinkle the work surface and rolling pin with a small amount of flour, and work quickly to roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Be sure to pick up the dough after a few rolls tart doughto ensure it’s not sticking to the work surface.

6.) Lay out the tart pans about 1 inch apart. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and lay out over the top of the tart pans. Push the dough and the molds inward towards the center of the pile (this helps to force the dough into the wpid-20150614_205232.jpgpans). Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pans to trim off extra dough from the pan edges.

7.) Lightly press the dough into the pans. Prick the bottom of the tarts with a fork to prevent the dough from bubbling when baking. Bake until the dough on the inside of the crust is lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Cool the tart shells in the pan and then remove when cool.

Directions for Lemon Curd:

1.) While the tart shells are cooling, start on the lemon curd. In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice, 75 grams of sugar, and 95 grams of butter. Bring this mixture to a boil.

2.) Next whisk together the second measure of sugar (75 grams) and the cornstarch.wpid-20150614_201843.jpg

3.) Add the eggs and egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture and beat until well combined and free of lumps.

4.) Whisk the egg mixture into the hot lemon juice mixture. Cook over low heat until thick. Cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature before filling the tart shells.

Directions for Swiss Meringue: wpid-20150614_213144.jpg

1.) While the lemon curd is cooling, start on the Swiss meringue. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl of stand mixer (or use electric hand mixer). Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.

2.) Cook the egg whites to 140 degrees, stirring often.wpid-20150614_214110.jpg

3.) Return the bowl to the stand mixer and add cream of tartar and whip on medium-high speed until mixture is light, shiny and holds a firm peak.

4.) Transfer the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip.

To Assemble the Tarts: curd and tarts

1.) Take the cooled tart shells and fill with lemon curd.

2.) Pipe the Swiss meringue onto the top of the filled tarts in tall peaks or rosettes if making a large tart.

3.) Place tarts under oven broiler for 30 seconds-1 minute or use a kitchen torch to brown the top of the meringue.

Notes and Tips:

  • This recipe uses grams as a measurement to help with accurate amounts of ingredients. You can use an inexpensive kitchen scale to help with the measurements. You will also need a candy thermometer for the Swiss meringue.
  • Using fresh vanilla bean in the tart shells creates great flavor and will create pretty flecks of vanilla bean.
  • Keep the tart dough refrigerated until ready to roll out. The dough is easier to work with when it’s cold. If the dough gets too soft when you are working with it, pop it in the ‘fridge for a few minutes and take it out again.wpid-20150614_194556.jpg
  • Use fresh lemon juice for the lemon curd. It’s more work to juice the lemons, but it’s well worth the fresh flavor.
  • You don’t need the professional pastry bag set for this recipe. I found an inexpensive kit for $5 that used disposable bags and plastic tips that could be reused.
  • When browning the Swiss meringue, be light handed. You want a brown color, not black. If using an oven broiler, it can go from brown to burned within a few seconds so keep a close eye on it!
  • Store finished tarts in airtight container, in cool place for up to one week.