#70 Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake

Every Thanksgiving at Allysa’s cousin Polly’s house they used to gather the evening before to do the holiday baking, and every year Allysa was called upon to create a new cheesecake. This is a recent year’s recipe, and it was loved by all.



I was asked to bake something for a special meeting of foreign language teachers from our school and another nearby expatriate school.

I decided it was time to try my hand at a cheesecake. I had never baked one in my life. Wisdom dictates to do something you’re good at for such occasions and not to try new things. I defied wisdom, once again, and was modestly successful.

Looks pretty good. Details discussed below.

DETOURS and DISAPPOINTMENTS: Having defied conventional wisdom, I decided to go whole hog – no, I didn’t add pork. “Whole hog” is an expression for “all the way”, but you CAN visualize it. See!?

whole hog

DETOUR #1 and a disappointment: The crust. OK. I was in a metrics mood that morning. I was thinking, “In the future I’m not gonna fiddle with tablespoons, sticks, and ounces anymore. It’s gonna be grams and milliliters.” So, like a good scientific baker, I used a pastry recipe for the crust that measured things in grams. I must add, that I didn’t like the flour-butter-brown sugar recipe proposed by Magnolia from the start. I had never heard of such for a cheesecake – and this was gonna be my FIRST cheesecake. Well, anyhooo, it turned out kind of how I’d imagined it – flour-y, close to a regular American pie crust. I will never use this recipe for a cheesecake again. To make matter worse, and to take blame for a crust that nobody wanted to eat, I did NOT do a good job forming the crust in the pan. It was too thick, especially at the edge where the bottom and sides meet.

DETOUR #2 not a disappointment: The filling. It turned out FABULOUS. I’d like to make a new word at this point fusing FLUFFY and FABULOUS, but FLUBULOUS doesn’t work. It was NOT a flub. I also don’t want to coin the word “FLABULOUS” because no one would want to eat the cake thinking of all that flab they would be creating around their tummies. So I’ll just leave it at FLUFFY and FABULOUS. But why? After all, I made a detour from the experts. OK. Here’s the detour – The recipe called for 1 pound of cream cheese. I had 1/2 pound of cream cheese and 1/2 pound of “cream cheese spread”. The spread is the same cheese but fluffed up with air. Well, I ended up with a TALL, FLUFFY cheesecake which is something I’d always wanted to make. Philadelphia Cream Cheese comes in flavored, spreadable forms nowadays that might serve well a number of confectionery creations in your kitchen. So, success on this issue — and it seems to be the issue that most people (including myself) care most about when considering a cheesecake.

DETOUR #3 a little disappointment: The pecans on top. I decided to leave them whole and cover the top of the cake with them. It looked pretty, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat it. Pecans get lost from some bites.

ROASTING PECANS: I also roasted the pecans a little too long this time and they developed a slightly burned taste. Don’t go beyond 10 minutes (even 9 could be smart) for roasting your pecans at 350 F. They continue to cook a little bit after removing them from the oven. Roasting brings out deeper flavors of the nuts, but too much is damaging. Be careful and be glad.

REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE: I want to thank the authors of the Magnolia cookbook for the directions concerning baking the cake. I followed these directions carefully; placed the cake on a cookie sheet to bake, then turned off the oven after an hour and propped open the oven door to leave the cake there to cool very slowly for one hour. The cheesecake that emerged was golden and without any cracks. That brought a smile to this novice baker’s face.

I am glad to end my story with a smile.

I hope you have a smile today too.

After all, this was, in the end, a blessing.


#69, White Chocolate Coconut Cookies with Hazelnuts

“All the exotic tastes of a tropical island wrapped up in one yummy cookie” (Allysa Torey)

DETOUR: i substituted Hazlenuts for the Macadamia nuts called for in the recipe, “White Chocolate Coconut Macademia Cookies.” I never think to look for these nuts when I’m shopping, and I had hazelnuts ready to go, so I sent in the sub.

SILLY EXCITEMENT: This is the first time I’ve used the kind of shredded coconut expected in the Magnolia recipes. It comes already sweetened.



Well, I had a little extra time on my hands this morning. We are having Parent-Teacher-Student conferences at school this morning beginning at 8 AM. No ducks that I needed to get in a row this morning, so I took the opportunity to bake.


These cookies are at my station and available to my students and parents who come by for a chat. If you are reading this blog and are at ASD, you too are welcome to drop by and put your hand into the cookie jar.

Wanna see what my morning looked like while everyone else was sleeping? Ok!

Vrooom. Vrooom.

Here’s a gif of our trusty mixer creaming butter with white and brown sugars.


Here’s what Hazelnuts, Coconut, and coarsely chopped White Chocolate looks like BEFORE getting mixed up with batter.

The volume of these ingredients was actually more than the rest of the cookie batter.

TAKING A PEAK! (Is it “peek” or “peak”? — still too early in the morning.)

I put this on Instagram as “A baker’s selfie”.


You can tell pretty early on whether your cookies are going to hold their shape or flatten out like a cow pie in the pasture (Sorry, but having been raised in a cow barn, that’s the most accurate image I could conjure.) As you can see in the photo above and here below, the cookies held their own.




#68, Apple Tart with Hazelnut Brown Sugar Topping

“This tart is a nice alternative to apple pie, and it makes a great dessert for a dinner party, especially if served with vanilla ice cream and perhaps some caramel sauce.”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l



I am feeling homesick – for France. As I look at the photo above, I am thinking of all the apple trees at Chezbonneau that need pruning and the chestnut tree not far away from the kitchen window.

Wanna see a picture of our apple orchard? Sure you do.

 This photo is from our first summer at Chezbonneau, 12 years ago. 

Back to business. What about that tart?

LEARNING: Crust – filling – topping. I knew the crust would be the hardest part for me. Making great pie crusts represents an area in need of much learning and practice. I am still afraid and hesitant every time it comes time to making a pie for this reason. And, as it turns out, I hit a bump — getting the dough off of the table and into the pan without breaking it.

Feels “oopsy” to me. You know, like something “oops” is about to happen.

In the end, I managed, but not without tearing the freshly rolled out dough. Luckily, this recipe is very, very, pliable and forgiving.

At this point, it looks promising.

Time to stop complaining and worrying. It DID turn our great and I’m happy about this tart for a couple of reasons.


REASON #1: See that beautiful crust? You wouldn’t know that it was a very patched-up pie. I am considering making this my GO-TO-RECIPE for pie crusts. Could you use this crust for other things like a quiche? Yep. Just leave out the two table spoons of sugar (which I wasn’t supposed to put in anyway — but it was an accident).


REASON #2: This recipe is headed in the direction of my original inspiration for baking – somewhere between French and American pastry making. This is not a typical French or American apple tart. Actually, I would probably get a “you’re a foreigner” look for saying “tart”instead of “pie”. But I am sure that both French and American folk would reach for a second piece of this. Everyone in our family did.