Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Choclate Hazlenut Honey Pavlova © Dina Avila

All photos © Dina Avila 2014

I decided that since it’s been MONTHS since I posted a recipe here on Leek Soup that I would make up for lost time and make something epic for you. And by epic I mean a visually stunning dessert that has the potential for an epic fail. Who doesn’t like a challenge in the kitchen? It’s been snowing for three days here in Portland and today we are in the middle of an ice storm. Perfect weather for attempting a stacked pavlova. It’s really not a difficult dessert to make, but SO many things can go wrong. For example, fishing out an egg shell from the egg whites with your oily fingers? Bad. Any amount of residual oil or butter clinging to the side of the mixing bowl? Recipe for disaster. A high humidity day? Forget about it. No really, don’t do it. But freezing temperatures outside and cozy warmth in? Perfection.

I’ve been doing mostly editorial and restaurant work for the past few months or so and this is first food shoot I’ve done in our new home. Our old apartment was directly across a narrow alley from a warehouse that was painted a putrid shade of pale peach. That color would bounce into our kitchen around mid-day giving me approximately 4 hours of good daylight to shoot with. Even in cloudy weather. I now have multiple windows to shoot near (no ugly warehouse anywhere in sight), plus a basement that is slowly being transformed into a studio (and hopefully darkroom at some point). I expect this new arrangement will afford me some creative flexibility that the old place didn’t and I’m excited to see what lays ahead. I hope you are, too :)


Chocolate Hazelnut Pavlova Drizzled with Honey

The recipe is simple enough, but give yourself enough time to make it. At least 3 hours from start to finish.
Feel free to use whipped cream or marscapone instead of crème fraîche.



For the meringue:

9 egg whites

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons dutch cocoa powder

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, plus more for cleaning

For the topping:

3-4 cups crème fraîche, whipped until fluffy

1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Dark chocolate, grated

Honey for drizzling


Warm your oven to 375

Line the bottom of two baking sheets with parchment paper and, using an inverted 8 inch bowl draw three circles.

Wipe down your beaters, bowl and large spoon with white vinegar to remove any potential grease. Do not skip this step as oil, even from your hands, is the arch-enemy of meringue.

Beat your egg whites at medium speed until frothy.

Increase the speed to medium-high and add the powdered sugar, one large spoonful at a time.

Add the brown sugar one large spoonful at a time.

Continue to beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. About 10 minutes.

Beat in the vinegar for a few seconds.

Sift the cocoa powder over the egg whites and using your large spoon, fold in. No need for it to be completely blended. Streaks are fine.

Spoon the meringue into the your parchment circles and use an offset spatula to spread evenly.

Bake for 5 minutes at 375 and then lower the temperature to 250 for an hour and a half. Until the meringues are dry to the touch.

If you’re using both oven racks, rotate the meringues half way through the baking time.

Remove the meringues from the oven and let cool completely on wire racks.

To assemble the meringues, spread whipped crème fraîche on top of each layer, sprinkle with grated chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle with honey and gently stack the layers.


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Rosemary Plum Tart © Dina Avila

© Dina Avila 2013

Take one look at this tart and you can see that I’m craving fall. Dark, warm colors, hints of rosemary. We’ve been having an endless summer here in Portland, and while the city is alive with folks geeked out to the gills in vitamin D giddiness, I’m ready for cooler weather. Long sleeves, the smell of damp earth and bowls of warm, root-laden soup.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and fellow food photographer about town, David Reamer, sent me an email inviting me to collaborate on a side project he has called Catching the Ox. Basically, we pick a subject somehow related to food, ours being stone fruit, and shoot it as we see fit.  Enter this tart. It is incredibly easy to make and will absolutely knock your socks off. I took it to a BBQ and had strangers stop me in the kitchen praising this tart. This is the tart that impresses your friends and makes you new ones. No kidding. I’m almost considering not sharing the recipe with you and keeping it as my secret tart recipe.

I kid :)

Rosemary Plum Tart

Adapted from Epicurious

The two changes I made in this recipe was the addition of fresh rosemary,
and a generous hand with the lemon juice and zest.
Oh, and I halved the recipe and used black plums instead of Italian.


For the pastry dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut in to chunks and placed in the freezer

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Zest from one lemon

2 egg yolks

For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch

2 lbs black plums halved, pitted and sliced

Juice from one lemon

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped


For the dough:

Combine all of the dough ingredients, except for the yolks, in your food processor and pulse until the mix becomes a coarse meal. Pulse in the egg yolks and process until the dough begins to clump into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and cut into two portions.

Using the heel of your hand , smear each portion forward to distribute the fat.

Bring the two portions together in to a ball.

Depending on the type of tart pan you’re using, line a tart pan with parchment paper up the sides with corners sticking out (see photo), butter and lightly flour it.

Using lightly floured fingers, press the ball of dough into the tart pan and spread evenly on the bottom and up the sides. You want it to be about 1/4 inch thick and go up the sides of the pan about 1/8 of an inch.

Place the tart in the fridge and chill for about 30 minutes.

For the filling:

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch.

Gently stir in the plums, lemon juice and fresh rosemary.

Set aside, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Warm your oven to 425.

Place the plum halves, skin side down, in the tart pan in circular rosette pattern.

Tuck in any remaining plum bits into any gaps you see.

Pour the juice from the bowl evenly over the plums.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375, cover the tart loosely with foil and bake for another 40 minutes until the juices are gently bubbling and the plums are tender when poked with a knife.

Brush the juices over the plums and cool the tart completely on a rack before removing from the pan. If you used parchment paper, you can just pull up on the corners of the paper (gently!) that are sticking out of the pan.

Serve at room temp with an optional dollop of creme fraiche.

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Blueberry Hazelnut Clafoutis © Dina Avila

Blueberry Hazelnut Clafoutis © Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

It’s the middle of summer and that means blueberries! I had every intention of making this recipe by the book, but when I saw blueberries at the market, I just couldn’t resist. This is a riff on David Tanis’ Cherry Almond Clafoutis out of his gorgeous book, A Platter of Figs. I was drawn to this recipe for its aesthetic. The visual (and beautiful photograph in the book) of succulent, bright red cherries peeking out from an eggy custard felt like summer to me. As you can see, it’s just as summery with blueberries, if not a little messy and rustic in my version :)

You’ll find this recipe to be breezy. Whip it together whenever you find yourself with an abundance of fruit any time of year. I’m already looking forward to an autumnal/winter clafoutis with apples or pears…or pomegrantes!

I hope you all are having a lovely summer and are staying cool! My first issue with Elle a Table Japan will be published next month and I cannot wait to share those images with you!


Blueberry Hazelnut Clafoutis

Adapted from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis


1 tablespoon butter

Flour for dusting

2 pounds fresh blueberries

1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts

6 large eggs

2 cups brown sugar, packed

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar


Warm your oven to 375.

Butter and flour your crocks or a large 10-12 inch cast iron skillet.

Place the blueberries at the bottom of the pan. They don’t need to be in a single layer.

Scatter the hazelnuts over the blueberries.

With a whisk or hand beater, beat the eggs, brown sugar and flour until smooth.

Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract.

Pour the batter over the fruit – it will be runny.

Bake for about 40 minutes until the custard is firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If you use a deeper dish, like the crocks, then you’ll need to bake for a hair longer. I extended the baking at 5 minute intervals until the toothpick came out clean.

Cool to room temperature, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes © Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

DinaFlourish (1)22

Hello! Hope you all well, happy and fed!

I thought I’d bring back an oldie but goodie for this week’s (this month’s!) post. I made a version of these beety cupcakes for my birthday last year but never got around to writing up the recipe for you. I decided to remake them but with a bit of a twist. If you weren’t around last November then you’ll be surprised to find that these cupcakes are 100% natural. Yep, nuthin’ artificial about them. Would you expect anything else on LS? The cupcakes are made with a juicy beet purée and the buttercream frosting is tinted with a bit of the beet juice that pools at the bottom of the foil when cooking the beets – that’s the twist. Brilliant, no? I lifted the recipe from Sunset magazine who I believe found inspiration from Diane Morgan’s Roots Cookbook.

I have a chock-a-block schedule of back-to-back shoots this month (hurray!) so it may be quiet on LS. I hope these crazy pink cupcakes will hold you over for a bit. Feel free to follow my adventures on Facebook or Instagram.



Beety Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Sunset Magazine


For the Cupcakes:

1 lb red beets, scrubbed

2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup olive oil

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Buttercream:

1 cup, 2 sticks butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon oil

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Wrap your beets in foil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 oven for about an hour and half. Until beets are tender when pierced.

Remove the beets from the foil and carefully pour any juice that has pooled into the bottom in to a glass.

Let beets cool completely then use paper towels to rub off the skins.

Trim off the ends, cut beets into chunks and purée in your food processor until smooth.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together beets, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.

Stir the flour mix into the beets a third at a time until well blended.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and fill to the top.

Bake the muffins at 350 for about 30 minutes. Until a toothpick comes out clean.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before topping with frosting.

For the buttercream:

Beat butter at high-speed until creamy and smooth.

Add powdered sugar, lemon oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy.

Slowly drizzle the reserved beet juice until desired color is achieved.

Spread a thick layer of buttercream on your cupcakes and enjoy!

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Pot Roast ©dinaavila

©dinaavila (1 of 2)

Chocolate Tart © Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

DinaFlourish (1)22

One of the (not always) fun things about the building we live in is that there’s a table near the mailboxes where folks leave stuff they don’t want anymore. Not really an offering to their neighbors, but more of a “I don’t feel like schlepping this stuff to the Goodwill 3 blocks away”. Sometimes it’s great. Most of the time is crap that someone will undoubtably take. I recently spied a copy of The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland and quickly swooped it up. Not to be confused with The Newlywed’s Kitchen by Lorna Yee. Because that is exactly what I did when I picked it up. I’m not sure how Sarah’s book compares with Lorna’s, but finding it for free was a score. The pages are peppered with personal stories and simplish meals for two. As I was flipping the pages later that evening, two recipes jumped out at me. I’ve been craving beef stew lately, despite the warm weather we were having, and thought her pot roast would be a great alternative and a way to welcome back fall. Read: Cold and wet outside. It’s a time-consuming recipe but worth it. The key with the roast is to let it come to room temperature before seasoning it. Then letting it rest for another half hour before cooking. Genius.

Oh, and the other recipe that caught my eye is a chocolate tart with smoked sea salt. Nuf said :)


PS I’m back on Instagram, after a long absence, and have been posting my adventures in the kitchen and elsewhere. Some of those photos may end up on LS, but…if you’re curious and would like to follow me: :)


Three Hour Pot Roast with Basil Mint Sauce

Adapted from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland


1 – 3 lb chuck roast

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 shallots, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size

Splash of apple cider vinegar

3-4 cups of water

One bunch parsley stems

2 bay leaves

1 bunch of carrots, cut into chunks

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced and cut into chunks

About 15 small red potatoes, halve or quarter the larger ones

Pinch of crushed celery seeds


Unwrap the meat and leave it on the counter for about an hour to come to room temp.

Season the meat with generous amounts of salt and pepper on all sides and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Warm your oven to 325.

Warm the oil in your largest Dutch oven or other oven proof pot over medium-high heat.

Brown meat on all sides until a dark brown crust forms. About 15 minutes.

Add the onions and brown.

Add  the apple cider vinegar and use a spatula to scrap the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.

Turn off the heat and add the water until it comes half way up the meat.

Using kitchen twine, tie the parsley stems and bay leaves together. Tuck in to the side of the pot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven for an hour.

After an hour stir in the carrots, fennel and potatoes and dust the veggies with the crushed celery seeds.

Cover and cook for another hour and a half.

Remove the pot from the oven and place meat on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pour the gravy into a bowl and serve alongside the basil mint sauce with the meat and veggies.

Basil Mint Sauce:


Half a bunch of basil, finely chopped

Half a bunch of mint, finely chopped

About a cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from half a lemon

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of salt


Place all of the ingredients in a mason jar. Tighten the lid and give a it a good shake.


Chocolate Tart with Smoked Sea Salt


For the crust:

1/2 cup, 1 stick, butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of sea salt

7 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate.

1 egg, beaten

Smoked Sea Salt

Creme Fraiche


Warm your oven to 350

Whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl.

Add the flour and stir until well combined.

Butter a 9″ springform pan, or tart pan if you’ve got one, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Press the dough evenly into the pan ensuring the crust comes up the side at least an inch.

Using a fork, prick the crust all over and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Place the chilled crust in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

For the filling:

Bring the cream, milk, sugar and salt to a simmer over low heat.

Remove from heat and add chocolate. Do not stir. Let sit for about 2 minutes.

Whisk the chocolate until it’s melted and creamy. Whisk in the beaten egg.

Pour the chocolate into the hot crust and bake at 300 for about 15 minutes until the chocolate is set.

Let the tart cool on a rack completely. Just before the tart is cooled dust with the sea salt.

Serve the tart with creme fraiche.

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Farro Risotto with Fava Beans ©dinaavila

Lemon Souffle ©dinaavila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

DinaFlourish (1)22

Just a quick couple of recipes for you today taking advantage of the abundance of spring veggies we have in the markets this season. The risotto, although time-consuming, will knock your socks off. Feel free to make it with traditional arborio rice. Especially if you want a dish that’s lighter for warmer weather. I was more in the mood for a healthy, stick to your gut kind of a dish and this risotto surely delivers. We were full after half a bowl. One thing I forgot to pick up for this dish was creme fraiche. If you plan on making this recipe then I suggest picking some up and adding either a couple of spoonfuls at the end of cooking, or a dollop with each bowl. Save some for the souffles, too, as I think it would be an excellent addition to the dessert….and a great way to mask the fact that the souffles have sunken :)



Spring Farro Risotto

Inspired from Bon Appetit


2 cups shelled fresh fava beans

8-10 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large leeks, white and pale green parts, halved, rinsed well and sliced

1 fennel bulb, cored and sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups farro, rinsed and soaked in cool water for a minimum of 30 minutes

1 cup dry white wine

2 large handfuls arugula, torn

1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano, plus more for shaving

1/4 chopped chives, plus more for serving

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add shelled fava beans.

Let cook for 1-2 minutes, drain and place beans in an ice bath until cool.

Place cooled beans in a small bowl and set aside.

Pour chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.

Melt 1 tablespoon of your butter in a large dutch oven or other heavy pot.

Add mushrooms a cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until tender.

Spoon cooked mushrooms into the bowl with the fava beans.

Warm oil and remaining tablespoon of butter in same pot and add leeks, fennel and garlic.

Stir frequently for about 4 minutes until the veggies soften.

Add the drained farro and stir to coat for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. About 4 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the broth and cook stirring frequently until the broth is almost absorbed.

Add remaining broth, one cup at a time allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more.

Cook in this manner for about 50 minutes, until all broth is absorbed and the farro is tender yet chewy.

Add more or less broth as needed.

Stir in arugula, pecorino, chives, favas and mushrooms and let cook, stirring, until arugula is wilted and the cheese is melted. About 2 minutes.

Spoon risotto into warmed bowls, sprinkle with chopped chives and shavings of pecorino.


Sunken Lemon Souffles

Adapted from Food 52


2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

Zest and juice from one lemon

1 1/2 cups hemp milk

3 eggs, separated

Pinch of sea salt


Warm your oven to 350

In a large bowl bring the sugar and flour and salt together and with the butter and press with your fingers until crumbly.

Stir in the lemon juice and zest.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks.

Stir the milk into the yolks and fold into the flour mixture.

In a smaller bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter.

Ladle the batter into ramekins or jam jars.

Add hot water to a pan about 1-2 inches deep.

Place jars and ramekins into the pan and place in the warmed oven.

Cook for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, until the tops of the souffles are golden brown.

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©dinaavila (1 of 1)-4

DinaFlourish (1)22

Boy, did this daylight savings throw me off. A touch of insomnia and, I’m embarrassed to admit, an oven left on all night led to a restless (and very warm) sleep and more than a little sleep-in. I won’t tell you what time we woke up this morning, but suffice to say, I feel rested as a result. I wish we could put this daylight savings thing to a vote because I am sure most of the country would want to turn it off for good. On the plus side, a late morning blog shoot brings you this incredible bread pudding.

After scouring the internet for a bread pudding recipe that didn’t involve seemingly pounds of sugar, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks, Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce. I’m not sure why I didn’t turn to her book first. I mean, as we know, I always do. Alas, lesson learned and I present you with a bread pudding that Adam and I nibbled on in the wee hours of the night last night. Technically midnight…but for all intents and purposes 1AM. Way past my bedtime….but it was worth it :)



Orange and Rye Bread Pudding

Inspired by Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

I forgot to pick up whole milk, which the recipe calls for, so I used a
rice/quinoa milk I had on hand. It worked great, but
I’ve listed the whole milk as I think it would have lended a richer custard.


One loaf day-old rye bread, cubed into one pieces

5 eggs

3 cups whole milk

1/4 cups buttermilk or heavy cream

Zest and juice from two oranges

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 dried cherries

2 tablespoons cold Irish butter, cubed


Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and place in oven.

Turn oven to 350 and let the cubes gently toast until mostly toasted. About 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and buttermilk until well combined. Strain into a large bowl.

Stir the orange juice and zest, sugar, nutmeg, sea salt, cherries and 1 tablespoon of the butter into the custard.

Stir the cooled bread into the custard and let soak for about 10 minutes.

Butter a dutch oven or a 10 inch baking dish that’s fairly deep and pour the bread and custard into it.

Dot the second tablespoon of cold butter on top of the pudding.

Place the dutch oven into the oven and bake at 350 for an hour and a half.

Check on it at an hour and if it looks like the bread is starting to burn a little, place a sheet of foil on top of it for the final half hour.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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