Thursday, October 30, 2014

Film Star Vanilla Cream Donuts And Entertaining Read~

Photo credit: Keller + Keller

“Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty” is 68-year old Oscar winning actress Diane Keaton’s entertaining new book. The single mother of two linked to many Hollywood leading men, centers her life in Santa Monica near where my mother, grandparents, and brother lived, and close to UCLA, where I worked and studied. I was surprised at how entrepreneurial she is with respect to acquiring, renovating, and selling properties...and enjoyed the story that took me back to old stomping grounds.

The nearby Brentwood Mart is where Hollywood stars shop still, as they did when I was a girl with my grandmother, who liked to stop there for a treat, like Vanilla Cream Donuts...

Vanilla Cream Filled Donuts~

Makes nine 4-inch doughnuts. 100% would re-make this Epicurious recipe.

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast or 2/3 ounce fresh cake yeast
2/3 cup (160 grams) milk, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups (490 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (270 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 eggs
7 tablespoons (3/4 stick/100 grams) butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
Canola oil, for frying

Vanilla Cream Filling~

6 tablespoons (90 grams) heavy cream
Pastry Cream, chilled


In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast and milk. Stir together briefly, let sit for 1 minute to dissolve yeast. Add the flour, 1/3 cup (70 grams) of the sugar, the salt, and the eggs and mix on low for approximately 3-4 minutes to mix and develop the dough.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to mix for 5 to 6 minutes until the butter is incorporated and the dough is soft and cohesive.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 15 hours.

Lightly flour a baking sheet. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch square about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2- to 4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out 9 doughnuts. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours until doubled in height and poufy.

When ready to fry, line a tray large enough to hold the doughnuts with paper towels. Pour oil to a depth of about 3 inches into a large, heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Toss a pinch of flour in the oil. If it sizzles on contact, the oil is ready. (350 degrees on a thermometer.)

Working in batches, place the doughnuts in the hot oil, being careful not to crowd them. Fry on the first side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until brown. Then gently flip them and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until brown on the second side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the prepared tray and let cool for a few minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Place the remaining 1 cup (200 grams) sugar in a small bowl. One at a time, toss the warm doughnuts in the sugar to coat evenly. As each doughnut is coated, return it to the tray to cool completely—for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Make the vanilla cream filling: 

While the doughnuts  cool, whip the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold it into the pastry cream to make about 3 cups.

When doughnuts are completely cooled, poke a hole in the side of each doughnut equal distance between the top and bottom. Fit a pastry bag with a small round tip and fill the bag with the filling. Squirt about 1/3 cup filling into each doughnut. Serve immediately.

Thank you for stopping by~ 

Monday, October 27, 2014

French Cherry Clafoutis Recipe~

Congratulations to Nadege! You've won the drawing for "Enchanted Venice" (see post directly below) please contact author, Lisa Rushford, with your mailing address. Thank you so much to others for your generous comments here and on Facebook.

Snuggle into a cozy Fall evening with an enticing book and a simple-to-make and delicious French Cherry Clafoutis. This is a regional specialty of the southern Limousin where the 13th century village of Turenne (above) is an official "Plus Beaux Village de France" in the department of the Corrèze.

And Elizabeth Gilbert's latest, "The Signature of All Things" will have you instantly hooked, too. Her short Ted Talk about what to "Build your house on": (HERE).  

Can't you just close your eyes and imagine the warm cherry fragrance of this just baked dessert filling a rock cottage on the verdant Turenne hilltop? And reading Gilbert's story next to the fire? A welcome escape from modern life and where history dates back to seven hundred years ago.

Stay at La Maison des Chanoines on the Route de l'Eglise...a magical tucked-away gem of a small hotel with an excellent restaurant. 

Cherry Clafoutis~

Serves 8 


1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups milk
6 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. kirsch
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
6 eggs
Kosher salt, to taste
¾ cup flour5
3 cups black cherries, pitted or unpitted
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Heat oven to 425°. Grease a 9″ cast-iron skillet or baking dish with butter; set aside. Combine milk, sugar, kirsch, vanilla, eggs, and salt in a blender. Blend for a few seconds to mix ingredients, then add flour and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

Pour batter into buttered skillet, distribute cherries evenly over top. Bake until a skewer inserted into batter comes out clean and a golden brown crust has formed on top and bottom of clafoutis, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

A short video taken at the peaceful village hilltop: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by~

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Enchanted Venice" Book Drawing And Author Interview~

"Looking back over your life you see that love
was the answer for everything" ~Ray Bradbury
"Each night ask yourself...When did you withhold love when you
might have given it?" Marianne Williamson 
'The Twelve Dancing Princesses' or
'The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces"
by the Brothers Grimm~

Author, Lisa Rushford
A little something found on Lisa's Facebook page...
And this..."You made me realize that every meal is a celebration."
~Nigel Slater on Nigella Lawson~
"As a lifelong reader, lover of books, and a writer, this is such a happy
personal-dream-come-true, and I would encourage you to follow your
hearts"~ Lisa Rushford

To receive a free, author signed copy of Enchanted Venice in your mail, please leave a comment on what enchants you most about Venice. Then check back on Monday for the winner of the drawing.

Lisa Rushford's “Enchanted Venice” is a charming love letter to one of the world's most dreamed of places that will entice novice and seasoned traveler alike.

I wanted to learn more about the author who graciously answered this brief "Proust Questionnaire." 

What’s your present state, Lisa? Caffeinated.

Where did your fascination with Venice and Italy originate? It began in my early teens when I received a calendar-cook book titled "Italy the Beautiful," which spoke of each region of the country and the corresponding food culture. The photos and recipes entranced me, and I studied them endlessly, daydreaming.

What significantly influenced your childhood? My childhood was heavily influenced by German fairy tales, and I was obsessed with Aesop's fables. Then came the serious literature phase, and I never quite got out of that.

If you could wave a magic wand what would your ideal life be? Living in a converted barn in New England surrounded by apple and quince trees.

What’s your favorite virtue? Integrity.

Your chief characteristic? Curiosity.

If you could choose just one memory from life to live with through eternity, what would it be? Sitting on a bench, in a busy circle, eating ice cream with my son, and we would burst into a laughing fit that would not stop.

Your favorite qualities in a man? Chivalrous, humorous, carnivorous.

Your favorite qualities in a woman? The ability to wing it, humor, integrity.

Your idea of perfect happiness? Thanksgiving in New England.

Your idea of misery? Being in a Walmart.

If not yourself, who would you choose to be? Elizabeth Taylor.

Where else would you like to live? Across the pond.

Your favorite bird, color, and flower? My favorite bird is the owl. My favorite color is red. My favorite flower is the foxglove.

Your three favorite books? The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.

Your favorite real-life heroine? Nigella Lawson.

Your three favorite films: Les Intouchables, La Bûche, and The Birds.

Your favorite food, drink, and Venice eatery: Sardines in Saor and/or linguine with clams; the Venetian Spritz; Osteria am Bacareto & Osteria all Mascaron.

Your favorite names? Monica Bellucci and Amelia Bedelia.

What do you most loathe? Bureaucracy.

What natural talent would you wish to be gifted with? A head for Mathematics.

How would you wish to die? With my Wellies on, thinking pleasant thoughts. Or by spontaneous combustion.

Your favorite motto? Joseph Campbell's ‘Follow your bliss'... and thank you so much, dear Suzanne, this has been fun.

Thank you, Lisa! Order Lisa's dreamy book: (HERE).

Rick Steves' "Venice: City of Dreams": (HERE). Be sure to leave your comment to enter the drawing, and check back Monday for the winner. Thank you so much for stopping by... 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting~

Tor House and Hawk Tower here in Carmel-by-the-Sea--
hand-built from local materials by owner and poet,
Robinson Jeffers
Picked up yesterday at the
Carmel-by-the-Sea Main Library~
The first eight photos above are of artist, Jonathan Scott Robinson's bucolic boutique inn Moulin Bregeon in the tiny village of Linières-Bouton, in the Loire, France. The inn has been featured in the NYT, many travel magazines, and guests have included Barbara Streisand. Many of the ingredients for the gourmet organic feasts are grown on site, and are served with Loire Valley wines. 

Late yesterday, out for a walk here in chilly Carmel-by-the-Sea, I stopped by the library for a copy of Edward Dolnick’s bestseller, The Forger's Spell. The true tale of forgery and art, set in Holland where my French-American son lives, reads like a thriller--and like a future film.

Out on my walk, I paid a visit to the beautiful tree behind Tor House and Hawk Tower--that poet Robinson Jeffers hand-crafted in 1918. It's been featured on the Travel Channel as a "Ghost Adventure" (HERE) and (HERE). Sitting on that limb over the cove below Tor House is one of the best things to do in Carmel. 
Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting~   

Cake Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
½ cup virgin coconut oil, warmed, slightly cooled


4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Kosher salt

Prepare Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat an 8x8" baking dish with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on all sides. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, and oil in another large bowl until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top.
Bake cake until edges begin to pull away from sides of dish and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.

Frost and Assemble:

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl just to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add sugar, then maple syrup and salt; beat until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Poet Robinson Jeffer's Tor House, "How Beautiful It Is": (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by~

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oscar De La Renta's Lifelong Ode To Beauty~

She walks in beauty, like the night   
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright        
Meets in her aspect and her eyes...    
~Lord Byron        

Oscar de la Renta loved the rustle of a taffetta gown, and having grown up with six sisters in the Dominican Republic, admired feminine kindness and confidence. 

At age 18, he left home to study painting in Madrid. His illustration prowess landed him a position working with, Cristobal Balenciaga. He was soon creating his own designs in Paris and during the exciting era sparked by the new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. 

By 1965, he'd launched his own label and two years later wed, Francoise de Langlade, editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Seven years after the devastation over her death, he married again in 1990, and adopted a son. He always recouped his spirit in Punta Cana, in his native land.

As fashion's leading gentleman, and tireless patron of the arts, Oscar de la Renta remained the designer of choice of movie stars, First Ladies, and the International Best Dressed set, including as designer for the new Mrs. George Clooney’s wedding gown and trousseau. Most of all, he was a lovely man. His website: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by...