Because the best things in life are simple

Tag: dessert

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

My friend Antoinette (who was born in Italy and is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it.

These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it. Here’s what you need to do:

Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: 2 min
: 30 min
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
Directions
  • Step 1 Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick. (Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary). Note: I suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the deep frying goes very quickly.
  • Step 2 Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet).
  • Step 3 Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.
  • Step 4 Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.

 

 

Ghosts in the Graveyard, Just in Time for Halloween

Ghosts in the Graveyard, Just in Time for Halloween

My brother, Pete, used a vampire from Burger King, owned by 3G Capital, to decorate this dessert.
My brother, Pete, used a vampire from Burger King, owned by 3G Capital, to decorate this dessert.

It’s scary, I know: a recipe from a gigantic food conglomerate.

The man wants to sell more Cool Whip so he relies on creative to come up with a recipe millions will be forced to make, at least once each year. My brother is one of those millions who makes this dessert each year. However, he’s no tool. His is much better than the original recipe served up by Kraft, Inc.

Instead of “CAMEO creme sandwich cookies” as recommended by the man. He gets radical and used Milano Cookies from Pepperidge Farm, which is owned by the Campbell Soup Company.

Yes, “To Serve Man” is a cookbook.

Get the recipe here.

La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

(Above: La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie. But don’t let that fool you. This can be served as a sweet dessert or the main course for a light supper.)

Here’s a savory sweet pastry from our Southern France meal plan. I made this from a recipe card I picked up in the market in St. Remy last summer. Although there was an English translation, it wasn’t that good and so I had to figure out a few things, including the conversion of some measurements from grams to ounces.

Apple, swiss chard pie, without top crust
The torte before the top layer of dough was put on.

I also used a 10-inch round springform pan instead of an 11 x 8 x 1 inch tart pan (who has one of those?) and so there was leftover dough to make a few apple turnovers.

Brush in milk bowl

(APPLE TURNOVER BONUS: If you have left over dough, simply roll it out. On one half, add peeled and sliced apples with some brown sugar, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a slice of butter. Roll over other half of dough to cover apples. Seal edges. Brush with cream or milk. Prick with fork to create several steam holes and cook in a 350 oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes a nice after-school or after-work snack).

Although the mixture of ingredients may sound strange — mixing swiss chard with raisins and parmesan cheese — they work well together to create a dish that can be served as a main course with a salad or as a dessert. It’s a sweet and savory tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations.

LA TOURTE DE BLETTES

February 6, 2013
: Difficult

By:

Ingredients
  • For the pastry dough:
  • Flour (About 4 1/2 cups)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Sugar (2/3 cup)
  • Butter (2 sticks or 8 oz. of softened butter)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (About 1/2 cup or a little more
  • just enough to make the dough)
  • For the filling:
  • Swiss chard (1 bunch or about a dozen large leaves)
  • Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup, grated)
  • Brown Sugar (3/4 cup)
  • Golden Raisins (4 oz., I used regular dark raisins but the recipe calls for light golden ones)
  • Marc or Grappa (Just enough to cover the raisins to marinate them.)
  • Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Pine nuts (4 oz.)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Apples (about 1-2 large, peeled and sliced)
  • Powered sugar (just enough to dust the torte after it’s cooked).
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry dough in a small bowl, adding the water a little bit at a time at the end until most of the flour and ingredients are absorbed and a good ball of dough is formed.
  • Step 2 Turn out the ball of dough onto a floured board and knead several times until the ingredients are mixed well and a smooth dough is formed. Form a ball with the dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with a towel and put in a cool place (the refrigerator is a good spot). Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 3 Soak the raisins in either Marc or Grappa in a small bowl. Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 4 Wash the swiss chard and strip it from its stem (you can throw out the stems or save for another day). An easy way to do this is to make your hand like a cat’s claw and drag the stem between your forefinger and middle finger. Boil swiss chard in a covered pot for just a few minutes. Take it out. Drain well and chop it. Place it in a bowl.
  • Step 5 Drain the raisins and add to the bowl with the swiss chard. Add all other filling ingredients, except for the apples and powdered sugar, and mix well.
  • Step 6 Butter your tart tin or springform pan.
  • Step 7 Cut pastry dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one of the pieces on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it’s flat (about 1/4 inch thick). Cut dough to fit your tart tin or springform pan with some dough coming up the sides. Press the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough.
  • Step 8 Add the filling. Top with the peeled and sliced apples.
  • Step 9 Roll out the remaining piece of dough. Place it ontop being careful to seal the ends by pinching it all around. Take a fork and prick the top so that steam can escape while it cooks.
  • Step 10 Place in a 350 oven until golden. This took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Step 11 Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

The 12 Treats of Christmas

The 12 Treats of Christmas

A few of these recipes are misfits, but still very good.
A few of these recipes are misfits, but still very good.

There are some foods I make every year around Christmastime. They are tried and true classics that continue to make taste buds happy year after year. And each year, I also try some new recipes. Some stick and become a classic, others fade away either because they didn’t deliver on their promise or simply because of neglect: like a broken doll on the Island of Misfit Toys in the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special.

Here are a list of winning recipes. Most I make every year. But there are a few neglected misfits too that are worthy of a new chance in a New Year. We’ll start with the desserts because this time of year is so sweet:

DESSERTS:

This is more of a snack than a dessert but anytime you eat it, it's delicious.
Chocolate Bread is more of a snack than a dessert but anytime you eat it, it's delicious.

1.) Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)This lightly sweetened bread is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. You can spread cream cheese over it, but Mascarpone cheese is better.

2.) Chocolate Bark (Christmas Gift): The only thing that would be easier than making this sweet treat would be going out and buying it.

3.) Cenci (Florentine Rags): Cenci are a deep-fried Florentine winter treat, made from Epiphany to Mardi Gras.

4.) Christmas Befana Cookies: My grandmother, Bruna, made these Befana cookies every Christmas.

5.) Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls: Another quick and easy treat to make. Makes a good gift too.

APPETIZERS:

Ribollita is a hearty soup for a cold December day.
Ribollita is a hearty soup for a cold December day.

6.) Ribollita Soup: One of the most loved recipes in the RootsLiving collection. Who knew, Tuscan Bean Soup, would be such a crowd pleaser?

7.) Asian Shrimp Salad: Trish found this recipe in an old cookbook a previous tenant left in her apartment about 30 years ago. It has become a traditional Christmas Day appetizer.

SIDE DISH:

8.) Nan’s Mashed Potatoes (with Cream Cheese and Sour Cream): No Christmas Roast Beast would be complete without a side dish of this. It puts the “comfort” in comfort food.

ENTREES:

Shrimp Saute can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish.
Shrimp Saute can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish.

9.) Shrimp Saute (For the New Year): I made this for the first time last year, but it’s a keeper. From Joshua’s Restaurant in Wells, Maine.

10.) Best Lobster Stew Recipe, Ever!: The recipe is from Morrison’s of Portland, Maine. It’s even easier to make if you have your lobsters steamed when you buy them.

11.) Pizza: Cheese and Fig & Proscuitto (from Figs Restaurant): My grandmother made pizza every Christmas Eve. This recipe is a combination of her pizza, Julia Child’s pizza, and Todd English’s pizza.

12.) Breakfast for Dinner: Gingerbread Pancakes: In these last, short, dark days of December sometimes it’s nice to stay in your pajamas all day and have breakfast for dinner. Here’s a suggestion in keeping with the holiday spirit.

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

Yogurt Sundaes

Yogurt Sundaes

Nothing is as quick and easy and sweet.
Nothing is as quick and easy and sweet.

Here’s a nice, light dessert for a summer’s night whether you’re on a diet or not. I sometimes prefer this to ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • Greek Yogurt, non-fat. 8 oz.
  • Strawberries, sliced. 3 or 4, preferably locally grown.
  • Blueberries, a handful, preferably locally grown.
  • Walnuts, about 1/8 of a cup, crumbled into small pieces.
  • Honey. About 1/2 tsp.

What I did:

Mix strawberries and blueberries with yogurt.

Sprinkle walnuts on top.

Drizzle honey over it.

Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

You don't cook these so the alcohol doesn't evaporate.
You don't cook these so the alcohol doesn't evaporate.

This is a quick and easy treat to make. And they make a great gift around the holidays too.

I got the recipe from the December, 1997 edition of Bon Appetit magazine but it was my idea to add the Kahlua. You can also make the original recipe, omitting the Kahlua and adding additional rum. But be forewarned: these little devils pack a potent punch!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup of dark rum
  • 1/4 cup of Kahlua
  • 5 cups of finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 20 ounces)
  • 2 cups of finely chopped walnuts

Looking for something quick and simple to make to bring to a Christmas Eve dinner? Try these.
Looking for something quick and simple to make to bring to a Christmas Eve dinner? Try these.

What I did:

Stir chocolate in top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted. Remove from on top of water.

Whisk in 1 cup of sugar and the corn syrup, then the rum and Kahlua.

Mix the vanilla wafers and the walnuts in a bowl and blend.

Add the chocolate mixture and stir to blend well.

Place remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. For each ball, roll a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture into a 1-inch ball.

Roll the balls in sugar to coat evenly.

Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to five days.

Makes about 80 balls.

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I’m Dreaming of a Black Forest Cake

I’m Dreaming of a Black Forest Cake

If you like cherry cordials, you'll love this.
Cherries and chocolate and whipped cream. Oh my!

Here’s the last recipe I’m giving out from our Easter feast. “What no recipe for the ham?” you ask. Sorry, but ham needs no recipe. You simply stick it in the oven.

“Someone defined eternity as a ham and two people.” That’s my favorite quote from the “The Joy of Cooking,” cookbook. And it’s true. We’re still eating ham leftovers.

But the Black Forest cake is long gone: just a distant chocolate, cherry and whipped cream dream.

Here’s how to make your own dreams come true:

Ingredients/Shopping List:

For the Cake:

  • All-purpose flour. (2 cups, plus 2 tbsp.) (I use King Arthur. It’s not bleached, and for me, local. It’s made in Vermont.)
  • Baking powder (1 1/2 tsp.)
  • Baking soda (3/4 tsp.)
  • Salt (3/4 tsp.)
  • Sugar (2 cups)
  • Cocoa (3/4 cup)
  • Eggs (3) (Always use “large” eggs for recipes.)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1/2 cup)
  • Vanilla (1 tbsp.)

For the Cherry Topping:

  • Tart pitted cherries (2 20 oz. cans, drained. Reserve 1/2 cup of the juice.)
  • Sugar (1 cup)
  • Cornstarch (1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla (1 tsp.)

For the Frosting:

  • Whipping cream (3 cups)
  • Powdered sugar (1/3 cup)

What I did:

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Cover bottoms with waxed paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.

Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges and remove to racks to cool completely.

While cake is baking prepare cherry topping (see below) and cool.

Split cooled cakes horizontally in half to make 4 layers. Tear 1 layer into crumbs and set aside.

Make frosting (see below) and reserve 1 1/2 cups of it for decorating the cake and set aside.

To assemble, place 1 layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup of frosting. Top with 3/4 cup of cherry topping. Top with second cake layer. Repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer.

Frost sides of cake with remaining frosting. Pat reserved crumbs into frosting on sides of the cake.

Pipe reserved 1 1/2 cups of frosting around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake. Refrigerate.

To make the cherry topping:

Combine the reserved juice, cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla. Cool and set aside.

To make the frosting:

Beat together the whipping cream and powdered sugar in a chilled bowl at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

(This recipe is from “The Treasury of Creative Cooking,” which features award-winning recipes from around the country, all illustrated with full-page color photos. It was given to me as a gift about 18 years ago.)

Find more recipes from the Easter dinner menu.

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Rum, Yum: How a Midnight Snack Was Born

Rum, Yum: How a Midnight Snack Was Born

What were you expecting: a photo of us in bed eating this delightful treat? Keep dreaming!
What were you expecting: a photo of us in bed eating this delightful treat? Keep dreaming!

Tricia had a craving for oatmeal with blueberries one night. She had been reading about this dish in a magazine or saw an ad there and mentioned it sounded good. So I said, we have frozen blueberries. I’ll add them to some oatmeal and we’ll have a snack.

I got out of bed, walked into the RootsLiving kitchen, poured about 3/4 of a cup of blueberries into a bowl and defrosted them in the microwave. I then went to the cereal cabinet, only to discover our two boys had eaten all of the oatmeal.

Hmm. What to do? I quickly surveyed the ingredients in our refrigerator and found some part-skim ricotta that was leftover from my “Vegetable Lasagna Masterpiece.” I then flashed back to my father making impromtu desserts using ricotta, rum and sugar.

That’ll work, but this dish needs something else. I walked into the RootsLiving butler’s pantry and saw an open package of “lemon snap” cookies. They’re like ginger snaps, only with a lemon flavor. I had bought them because as far as cookies go, they are a low-fat, low-calorie treat. And I knew that the flavors of lemon and blueberry work well together.

I crumbled about two cookies each in the bottom of two cereal bowls and then soaked them in dark rum (I’m lucky because I have Nardini rum, which can only be bought in a small mountain region near Lucca, Italy. In fact, you can’t even get this in Florence, which is only an hour or so away. Although this rum was perfect for this dish — and is also known for blending perfectly in a cup of espresso — you can use any good dark rum, such as Myer’s or Mount Gay.).

When the cookies were soft (about a minute later) I added a few heaping tablespoons of the ricotta in each bowl and about a teaspoon of sugar. I then stirred this concoction up and drizzled the warm blueberries with their juice over it.

The flavor was not too sweet, not too fruity, and had just the right kick to lull us off to sleep.

———————————-

OK. You heard the story, and now here’s the quick-scan recipe:

Ingredients/Shopping List

  • Lemon Snap Cookies (About four or five)
  • Dark rum (To taste, about 3/4 of a shot for each serving)
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Sugar (To taste, about one teaspoon per serving)
  • Blueberries, frozen. (About 3/4 of a cup, defrosted and warmed in a microwave oven.)

What I did:

I got out of bed.

Crumble the cookies in two cereal or dessert bowls. Add rum and let sit until cookies are soft (about one minute).

Add about 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese to each bowl. Sprinkle each bowl with a teaspoon of sugar. And mix well.

Drizzle the blueberries and their juice evenly into the two bowls.

Eat in bed. Sweet dreams.

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(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Florentine Rags (Cenci)

Florentine Rags (Cenci)

Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.
Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.

Here’s another recipe from the classic 19th century Italian Cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi.

Cenci are a Florentine winter treat, made from Epiphany to Mardi Gras. This deep-fried pastry looks like little rags and tastes a little like fried dough, but not as heavy and never greasy.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • All-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • Butter (2 tbsp.)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (1/3 cup, plus more for dusting the finished cenci)
  • Large eggs (2)
  • Brandy (1 tbsp.)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (Optional; 1/4 cup or less; just enough to make dough)
  • Vegetable oil or lard (enough for deep frying)

I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.
I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.

What I did:

Making the Dough: Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl, making a fairly stiff dough. You may have to add a little water to incorporate all of the ingredients. Knead the dough thoroughly on a lighted floured surface. Add a little flour if dough comes out too soft. Shape into a ball and flour it. Let it rest, covered, for about an hour.

After it rests, the dough will much softer and easier to roll out. (If the dough formed a crust while it sat, knead it a little before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a thin rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick).

Use a pastry wheel (or knife) to cut it into strips as long as your palm and two fingers wide.

Twist and crinkle the strips and then fry them in the hot oil or lard.

Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to catch the extra oil.

Transfer to a clean plate and when cool, dust them with confectioners’ sugar.

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Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.
This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This lightly sweetened bread is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. The recipe comes from “The Italian Baker” cookbook, by Carol Field.

I’ve made this several times before but this time it tasted better than ever. The texture was light and more like soft Italian bread. In the past, it’s had more of a cake consistency. I think the difference was sifting the flour (actually I don’t own a flour sifter and instead push the flour through a fine sieve with a butter knife) and using a food processor (instead of working it all by hand).

And oh yes, in the past I’ve spread cream cheese over each slice but this time I splurged and used Mascarpone. I’ll never use anything else or make it any other way.

Recipe: Makes 2 round or oval loafs

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp, warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (sifted or pushed through a fine sieve with a butter knife)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp, sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut up into four pieces
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

What I did:

Stir the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy (about 10 min.)

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Process with several pulses to mix well.

Stir 1 1/4 cups of cold water and the egg yolk into the dissolved yeast.

Put the pieces of butter ontop of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it and process it until the dough gathers into a ball.

Process for another 40-45 seconds, pouring the chocolate chips through the feed tube during the last 10 seconds.

If necessary, knead dough a little more on a floured surface until it is velvety, elastic, and moist.

First Rise: Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).

Second Rise: Punch the dough down and cut it in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into a round or oval loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Spread Mascarpone cheese on a slice and enjoy. Makes a good dessert or breakfast treat.

Find more recipes in the Food section.