Choco Dot Pumpkin Cake

I learned this recipe from actor F. Murray Abrham, at a potluck in Cambridge when he played King Lear at the American Repertory Theater.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can/16 oz. pumpkin
  • 1 cup vegtable oil
  • 1 cup All-Bran cereal
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and spice, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy, add the pumpkin, oil, and all bran. Mix until combined. Add in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined, stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in either a 9x13x2″ ungreased baking pan or bundt pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes or so, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pan.

Bite-Sized Apple Strudel

I did these at the request of Northern Stage, to provide them with some “amuse bouche” for a script reading in November, 2019. I made a strudel filling and partially cooked it on the stove top, so the small strudels would cook properly; I wanted a soft filling and crisp, puff pastry, without having to worry about anything burning.

It is best to make the puff pastry a day before, and let it rest overnight in the fridge. Make sure the filling is completely cool before beginning assembly.

mini strudel


1 batch of Rough Puff Pastry, chilled

  • Six baking apples (I used Macouns, Granny Smith or Macintosh would work, too) peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 8oz walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • sugar for dusting

To start with, peel, core and chop the apples. Set them aside. In a saucepan, cover the walnuts with water, bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes to remove some of the tannin, then drain and allow to dry.
Combine the sugar, spice, cornstarch, and water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble. Add the apples and nuts, stir to combine, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the apples are tender. 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. At this point, you can refrigerate the filling for up to a week.

To make the strudels

cutting pastry
Measure and cut

Preheat the oven to 400. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. Take the egg and water and beat together to make an egg wash. Set next to your workspace, along with enough sugar for dusting (1/4 cup or so).

Divide the puff pastry in half. Put one half back in the fridge. Roll the other half out into a rectangle, 9 x 15″. Using a straight edge and a sharp knife or roller, cut into 1-1/2″ wide strips. Trim the edges square. Again, using a ruler, cut each strip into 5″ long pieces. Save all of your scrap pastry.

Take each strip and put a tablespoon of filling in the middle. bring the ends up over the filling and pinch together. Place the strudel, seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have used all of your pastry or the baking sheet is full. Slash the tops of the strudels with a sharp knife, then brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Saving all of the dough scraps. Combine the dough scraps, re-roll, and cut again. With my typical rough puff pastry, you will use half the filling and end up with 30 mini strudels.


Nettle Bread with Maple

I have a lot of stinging nettle in the yard. It used to vex me, giving me a rash when I was picking rhubarb, or irritating my ankles when I mowed the lawn. Then I found out you could eat it. It is one of the first harvestable greens in May, so now I look forward to picking it.

Colander of nettle
Fresh nettle. It’ll sting until it is steamed.

The bread I bake is gluten free, mildly sweet, with both honey and dark maple syrup. It is somewhat crumbly; if that annoys you, swap in some whole wheat flour for the spelt.


  • 8 oz butter
  • 1/3 cup dark maple syrup (“Grade A Dark Amber, ‘full rich taste'”)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 room-temperature eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups stinging nettle leaves, washed.


Preheat the oven to 325

Place a steamer basket over a pot of water, bring to a boil. Add the nettle leaves and steam until wilted, 5-10 minutes, depending on the age of the leaves. Let them cool, then squeeze over the sink to remove as much water as possible (steaming kills the sting, so you won’t need gloves). Put the drained nettle on a cutting board and finely mince.

Melt the butter, syrup, and honey on the stove over medium heat until it bubbles. Stir to combine and let it cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the honey mixture and stir well.

Whip the eggs until frothy and lemon-yellow in color, either by hand or in a mixer with the whisk attachment. Add to the batter, along with the minced nettle. Stir everything gently until it is all combined. (This will be a loose, runny batter.)

A bowl of batter, showing the proper, runny consistency
A really loose batter.

Pour into an oiled loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Finished loaf, cooling.

I usually leave the loaf in the pan. If you want to remove it, wait until it is warm, then run a knife around the edges and carefully remove it with a spatula.


Black Currant Jam

A few years ago, I put in two black currant bushes. This is the first year where I’ve had enough currants to worry about canning them. Currants themselves are tasty enough that they don’t need much doctoring. Sugar and a bit of lemon juice are all.


  • 2 cups of black currants, stemmed and washed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1-1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice


washed currants

Wash and stem the currants (honestly, this is the longest part of the process). Add them to a nonreactive pot with the water and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for ten minutes until the currants are softened.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it reaches the jelling point. If you’re using a candy/jelly thermometer, that is 220 F/104 C. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use the cold saucer test.

Have two washed and sterilized jars ready. Pour the jam in, leaving 1/4″ head space at the top of the jars. If you aren’t water processing, they can be lidded, cooled to room temp, then put in the fridge, where it will be good for a few months.

If you are water processing, have a pot of boiling water ready, use two part lids on the jars, insert into the water bath and boil for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool until the lids ping. Store in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to use it.


Molasses Spice Cookies

This is a recipe from “Cooks Illustrated” dating back over 20 years. They’re my go-to autumn cookie. I’ll make these before chocolate chip, or oatmeal. They are flavorful without being overly sweet. Tender without being cloying. You can double the recipe, it’ll still fit in a standard Kitchen-Aid mixer bowl. The dough also freezes well. Shape the cookies into balls before freezing and you can thaw and bake a few at a time.

Molasses Spice Cookies


2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt, plus additional 1/4 tsp for rolling
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark is better)
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses.


Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or Silpat sheet liners). Put 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in a wide, shallow bowl for rolling.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt, set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add brown and white sugars, beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium, add egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium low, add molasses and beat until incorporated, pausing to scrape down sides. add flour/spice mixture, beat on lowest setting until incorporated, roughly 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

cookie factory

Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure, scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough. Roll between your palms into a 1-1/2″ ball. Drop ball in rolling sugar, roll to coat, and set on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough , spacing the balls 2″ apart. (Note: if you want to freeze these, roll them, don’t sugar them, bag them and freeze them at this point).

Bake one sheet at a time,  until the cookies are set on the edges, but still look slightly puffy in the centers (this will keep them tender and chewy), approximately 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through cooking to ensure even baking.

Transfer cookie sheet to a cooling rack, let the cookies rest for five minutes or so, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 24 cookies.


Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pecan Tea Bread

This is a nice autumnal change from pumpkin spice… everything. If you want a vegan version, swap out the butter for coconut oil. The lack of gluten makes this crumblier than a typical tea bread, so be gentle when cutting it.


  • 3 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed coarsely, approximately 8 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (spelt flour, or King Arthur gluten free flour)
  • 2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) or equal amount coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened).

Cook, peel, and mash the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda, powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. add the sugar and brown sugar, beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium, until well mixed. Add the sweet potato and vanilla and beat until just mixed. Gradually add the flour, beating on low until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, 60 – 80 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.


Maple Shortbread Cookies

Sugaring season starts in mid-February in Vermont, and lasts until the trees bud. Showing up with a plate of these maple shortbread cookies to a “Sugar on Snow” dinner isn’t a bad idea. The maple isn’t overpowering, and the cookies aren’t overly sweet. If you don’t want to bother rolling them out and using a cookie cutter, you can always form the dough into a log, chill it, and slice rounds. But, really, making maple-leaf shaped cookies is half the fun.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and airy. Add the sugar, beat until incorporated, then add the syrup and egg yolk. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough is just combined. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour (overnight is better).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment. Divide the dough in half, keeping one half in the fridge. Roll the other half out to 1/8″ thick, and cut with a cookie cutter. Save the dough scraps, put them back in the fridge as you roll out and cut the second half of the dough. Continue rolling and cutting until the scraps are all used up. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned (the cookies may look undercooked in the middle, this is fine. They’ll firm up on the cooling rack). Depending on the size of your cookie cutter, this will make approximately 24 cookies.


Raspberry Walnut Tart

Or, Tart Alma

I’ve got a raspberry patch in my yard. In late June, early July, and again in October, I get a gallon or two of raspberries. One of my favorite things to make is this tart. The toasted walnuts compliment the raspberries wonderfully. As an added bonus, the tart works as well with frozen raspberries as with fresh, so you can make this one in winter, as a Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert.

I call this “Tart Alma” since my friend, author Alma Alexander, flew from the west coast to Vermont solely so I could make her this tart.


  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (60g)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup or 12 Tbsp) butter


  • 3/4 cup (75g) chopped walnuts
  • 10 ounces (283g) frozen or fresh raspberries (do not defrost if frozen)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (150g) white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 (35g) cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough forms (it’ll be crumbly, but don’t bother adding any additional liquid).  Cut a round of parchment to fit in the bottom of a 10″ tart pan. Tip the crust into the pan and press it flat, evenly, over the pan. I find using a flat-bottomed glass works well, but fingers are fine. Be sure to press the crust into the edges of the pan. When the crust is flat, place it in the freezer and let it set for 30 minutes to an hour.

Take the crust out of the freezer, line it with foil, add pie weights (or dried beans, or rice) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and bake until lightly brown, another 5-10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack.

Prep the Filling: While the pie is baking, toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, shaking frequently, until fragrant. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove from the heat.

Beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, powder, salt, and vanilla.

Assembling the tart: Scatter the walnuts over the crust. Scatter the raspberries on top of the walnuts. Pour the egg mixture over the raspberries and nuts. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the top is slightly browned. The center should still jiggle just a little. Remove to a cooling rack. Take a sharp knife and work it around the edge of the tart to loosen it from the pan. This will make it easier to remove from the pan when the tart is cool (I use a two-piece tart pan, so I can lift the tart out of the pan and slide it onto a serving platter, which I recommend).