Christmas Recipes

Christmas Recipes
Christmas Recipes

Italian Recipes

Italian Recipes
Italian Recipes

Dessert Recipes

Dessert Recipes
Dessert Recipes

The Hangover: Overnight Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake

I don’t know what your plans are for New Year’s Eve. I never used to like planning for the biggest night of the year. There sometimes were disappointments. Sometimes there were grand celebrations. Now that I’m a mommy, I have the best excuses to not want to go out on New Year’s Eve. Like, “I don’t have a sitter.” Or, “Little guy gets scared of the fireworks outside.” Actually, my chihuahuas get very scared.

Chocolate Nutella Peanut Butter Fudge

New  Year’s resolutions tend to fill me with unwanted and unnecessary angst. I used to make a list at the end of every December. They were lists full of hope and promises to do better. My lists included some of the usual suspects:

Holiday Panettone and Some Favorite Things

Here we are all are after the holidays. Is there room for another fabulous holiday dessert? I say there is!! Panettone is eaten in Italy during the Christmas days. I have never made panettone, but I have sure had some wonderful Italian ones.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.


Mostaccioli–Italian Christmas Spice Cookies

Mostaccioli brings back many Christmas memories to me. It is a cookie that I ate often as a child. My father is from Sicily. I grew up eating plenty of cannoli and mostaccioli.  Mostaccioli-Italian Christmas Spice Cookies are a favorite of our families. 

The Fluffiest Cinnamon Swirl Bread

When I was little, Christmas morning was the most exciting day of the year for all of the presents I would receive. Now that I’m older and much smarter, it’s all about the sweets!

Holiday Devil’s Food Cake with Buttercream Frosting

I know a beautiful little girl with curly dark brown hair. She has huge blue/grey eyes. Tiny freckles scattered across her nose.

Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread

When it gets REALLLLY cold here in sunny South Florida, I crave chili and corn bread. It was REALLY cold here last night and today. 12 degree wind chills merit a good bowl of chili with super fluffy cornbread. Don’t you agree?

This is grandmother’s buttermilk cornbread. Don’t ask me whose grandmother. It’s not mine. I found this recipe a while ago and I make it all year round. I use it also to make an amazing stuffing at Thanksgiving. Since I baked this Thanksgiving, we didn’t have the amazing stuffing. I think I will make it "just because" so y’all could have the recipe!

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints

Thumbprint cookies are so cute! They are little and fit into your mouth with one bite! Therein lies the problem. One bite. One cookie. 30 bites. 30 cookies.

The Winner of the Tate's Bake Shop Giveaway!

Thank you everyone for participating in the Tate’s Bake Shop Giveaway! This has been a fun giveaway! Don’t worry if you didn’t win because you can still get a discount on Tate’s Bake Shop orders. Tate’s Bake Shop is offering a 15% off discount on Tate's Bake Shop orders. The discount code is: cookie.
The winner of Tate’s Bake Shop’s giveaway won a gift pack of three different kind of cookies! Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, and White Chocolate Macadamia and the Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook-what a great prize!

Negroni Sbagliato- An Italian Christmas Cocktail

Feeling the holiday pressure? Feel like you are running out of time? Head is spinning with unfinished lists. Are you asking yourself why a Pet Shop toy costs $39.99? I propose you have a cocktail! A tasty Italian cocktail.

Speculoos–French Fridays with Dorie

Speculoos (or speculaas) are crisp and full of spices. Perfect with tea or coffee. Delicious made small or large. They are traditional Christmas cookies served on St. Nicholas’s eve on December 6th in their native Belgium. That old St. Nick is a lucky guy! 

Tate’s Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Giveaway!

Have you ever heard of Tate’s Bake Shop? If you haven’t, let me tell you ALL about this fabulous company! Tate's Bake Shop is Southampton's favorite bakery! Founder, owner and baker Kathleen King makes all of Tate's baked goods from the finest ingredients, just the way she made them when she was 11-years old and first started selling cookies at her family's farm stand.

Christmas Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake is a cake whose origins is full of mystery. I like a good mystery. I like a good cake! Was it invented at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City? Was it invented in the South? Was it invented in Canada? (YES, maybe in Canada!No offense to my Canadian friend;) When was it invented?

The Winner of the Big Night In Giveaway!

Thank you all so much for entering the Domenica Marchetti Big Night In Cookbook Giveaway! I really enjoyed doing this double giveaway with my friend Shulie. I also want to thank you again for reading my blog!

Sweet and Spicy Nuts-French Fridays with Dorie

This week I thought it would be fun to make Dorie’s Sweet and Spicy Nut recipe. It’s holiday time. I was dreaming of having a wonderful cocktail and a bowl of these nuts. I had a feeling these nuts would be delicious. Yes, I was right! 

Chocolate Hazelnut Kiss Cookies and a Double Holiday Giveaway!

Christmas day is in 26 days and that means the Cake Duchess kitchen is busy! There is chocolate every where!  Recipes are strewn across my counter. We do make an exorbitant amount of cakes here…but we also LOVE cookies.

Pumpkin Pie and Maple Whipped Cream

This is the last dessert I made on Thanksgiving. I swear, I won’t bother you any more with Thanksgiving sweets. But this pie is a simple recipe. One I don’t want to lose. If I add it my blog, it will be in a safe place.

The Daring Bakers' Challenge: Crostata alla Nutella


Some of you may still be recovering from the cooking and eating at the delicious Thanksgiving feasts. I didn’t have to cook a thing this Thanksgiving. But I sure did eat! And I baked this year. I baked some pies. I baked two pies. I baked a cake.  I also baked this gorgeous crostata. This was my first time participating with The Daring Bakers.

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie

Yesterday I gave you a glimpse of my childhood. If you want to see me when I was little, take a look and you will also get my no-fail pie crust recipe. Today I just made Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. I baked mine for tomorrow and I just pulled it out of the oven.

Butter and Shortening Pie Crust Recipe

If you need a great pie crust recipe, I bet you could ask your mom and she will pull out a wrinkled and faded recipe from the past. Maybe your mom isn’t a hoarder. Maybe she tossed that priceless recipe. Look no further for that perfect pie crust recipe!

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies and a Little Thanks

Starting a Monday with chocolate just seems right. It is the way things are supposed to be. I had made these brownies once before, but I had misplaced the recipe and I completely forgot about how good this brownie is. When I saw my friend Brian post this luscious brownie last week…memories of sweet pumpkin swirled with rich chocolate came flooding back. I had to make these again.

The Ina Garten Giveaway Winner is...

Thank you all so much for entering the Ina Garten How Easy is That? Cookbook Giveaway! I really enjoyed reading all the positive comments about Ina.  I also want to thank you again for reading my blog! There will be another very special holiday giveaway coming up soon!!


Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake

Later on tonight  I will announce the winner of the fabulous Ina Garten giveaway! In the meantime, I have a present for all of you: a delicious recipe from “How Easy is that?” I had to get a copy of the book for myself and I have been busy exploring her wonderful recipes. The first recipe I was drawn to was an amazing apple cake with cranberries.
My sweet friend Lindsey made the same cake this week and made a delicious twist of the recipe…you should check it out!

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce and a Giveaway!!!

I have a slight crush on cranberries. I go a little crazy when they come out in season and I put them in almost every thing I bake. I mentioned in my last post that my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberry sauce (tied in first place with the stuffing…ehem…I cannot lie!)


Upside-Down Cranberry Cake

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of the cranberry sauce. I know. It’s about the turkey. The pies. I have a soft spot for cranberries. I’m not going to lie, I think a lot about the stuffing too. When I started blogging this summer, I posted one or two upside-down cakes. Actually, three. I just reminded myself about how good the third one was. Ok, back to the cranberries!

French Fridays with Dorie: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

When I scanned the ingredients for Dorie Greenspan’s roast chicken recipe, I thought it seemed similar to the way I make it. The rosemary, the garlic, the onion. Some white wine.  Roasted potatoes and carrots. I had never made my chicken atop French bread slices. That part was intriguing.


Caramel Apple Bundt Cake with Nutella Ganache

What do you do with six leftover caramel apples from Halloween. You eat two of them. By yourself. Without telling anyone (shhh!). Then you start thinking.

Sour Cherry Scones with White Chocolate Chips

Happy Monday. Have a scone! I like scones because they are easy to make. Uncomplicated. Reliable. Versatile. Scones are high on my list of baking favorites.

I love cherries. I found these fabulous sour cherries at the Middle Eastern Market the other day. I made a cake with them. I had just enough leftover to make these simple scones. I started to make the first batch a different way than I normally do. I tried to roll out the batter and I was going to cut them into wedges.
Rolling dough with sour cherries makes a squished up sour cherry scone.

Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake

This week I had a choice of which recipe I would try for French Fridays with Dorie. I was talking with my dear friend Lindsey from the yummy Gingerbread Bagels , and we both decided on something sweet (of course!Smile).

Lemon-Lime Cupcakes with Lemon-Lime Mascarpone Frosting

What day is this? Is it already Christmas? This Halloween was fun and exhausting.

Hubs hid the 40 lbs of candy the kids got trick- or- treating yesterday. Daughter thought he threw it all away and exclaimed, "I did all that hard work for nothing?!?"

I am already dreaming of sugar plums and humming Christmas songs. Planning my Thanksgiving menu.

One Lovely Blog Award

There are many reasons to blog. To many people, it is a hobby. To some others, this is their job. Some bloggers are artistic; they are amazing photographers and creative writers. I have recently had the pleasure of meeting through my blog great talent in the kitchen, behind a camera, and at the keypad. People that inspire me and many others.

Candy Corn Cupcakes

There are Snickers, Skittles, Laffy-Taffy, and Nerds.

Milky-Ways, Three Musketeers, and Tootsie Rolls.

But there is something about a candy corn.


Marie-Helene's Apple Cake -French Fridays with Dorie


When I saw that the next recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book was an apple cake, my eyes got really big and I started to smile. :)

I love apple desserts. I checked the ingredients and found that it was very similar to a recipe I make often that is my mother-in-law's.  The cake was buttery and full of sweet apples. It is void of spices, yet bursting in flavor. Perfect with a cup of caffe' latte or a nice hot tea. Or a big glass of milk.

Pumpkin Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and White Chocolate Icing

Oh boy. This pumpkin problem is bigger than what I had thought. I just can't stop.

My husband said I have to stop baking like this. I think we all just need to up our exercise regimens. Because the holidays are just around the corner...and it will only get worse.

Fall M & M Blondies

Who knew there were M and M's made in fall colors? Did you? I found these cuties at Target the other day. They were staring at me as I was checking out. They beckoned me to purchase them with their rich fall colors full of empty promises of cooler weather.

I didn't even have my kids with me.

I know, I am so weak.

Hachis Parmentier -French Fridays with Dorie

I finally received the fabulous book by Dorie Greenspan called, Around my French Table. This cookbook is gorgeous. I stayed up for hours late the other night looking dreamily at all of her incredible recipes. I even dreamed about the book. I seriously dreamed about it! For this week's French Fridays with Dorie, we made a French comfort dish called Hachis Parmentier. Dorie writes about this ultimate fall comfort food and reminisces about Daniel Boulud, one of the most talented French chefs,  being fond of Hachis Parmentier.

Pumpkin Tiramisu Cupcakes

Confession: I may have a slight pumpkin dessert problem. Problem, as in I want to eat every single pumpkin dessert recipe I see during the holidays.

Another confession: I am a mess. I am working on my organizational skills. I am trying really hard. It is bad Feng Shui to have a pile of dishes (clean or dirty) piled up in your sink. As soon as I clean and clear out, there is another pile. I do my best.

Here is the problem: pumpkin donuts, pumpkin crumbles, pumpkin breads, and pumpkin cheesecakes.  In my opinion, any thing with pumpkin is the way forward and it is all good! I told you, it is a slight problem.

Pumpkin and a mascarpone frosting (not pronounced MARScapone, it is MAS-carpone) all are in trouble. That is all I'm saying.

Dangerously irresistible. My most sincere apologies.

Don't let the mascarpone intimidate you. It is an unpretentious cream that is only 60-75% milk fat.  In Italy they use it in so many desserts, pasta sauces, and other incredible ways.

Fuzzy slippers. Hot cocoa in front of a warm fireplace. Snuggling with my kids and a good book. Good times.

A Pumpkin Tiramisu Cupcake. The way forward.

I don't have a fireplace. But I often dream of having a fireplace.

These cupcakes are so moist. I ate several. The frosting to me was the perfect sweetness. It wasn't to my daughter and her friends. They said a little more sweetness. You could adjust the frosting to make it sweeter. I liked it just the way it was. Perfect. If you can't find mascarpone, you could add cream cheese to your frosting.

Pumpkin Cupcake
adapted from David Leite

makes18 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — they should be about 3/4 cups full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Coffee Syrup

Makes enough for 18 cupcakes.

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed very strong coffee (or espresso)
1 ounce cinzano or marsala (you could use just the coffee/sugar too and it will be fine)
1/4 cup sugar

Mascarpone Frosting
adapted Martha Stewart
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Add the heavy cream to a medium sized bowl. With an elextric mixer on medium speed, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.

Assemblying the cupcakes:
To finish, brush tops of cupcakes evenly with coffee syrup. I only added it to the cupcakes the adults were having. God knows my children don't need any more energy. Then pipe or spoon on the mascarpone frosting onto your little beauties (the cupcakes). Dust some cocoa powder on it. ENJOY!

Brushing on the coffee syrup:

Yum. That's all I have to say. Oh, and thank you for reading my blog and leaving me comments. Y'all are so sweet and kind. I wish I could have a cupcake right now with each and every one of you. And giggle a little. Or alot!


Southern Caramel Cake

The sun was just setting in the sky. When I put my head back on the sweet smelling grass and looked up, I saw vivid pastel colors streaming around gigantic puffy clouds that looked like cotton candy. I could hear the rocking chair swaying back and forth the way it always did every evening on our front porch. 


Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Bleh days.

I know you have these kind of days. Days where you feel like you don't want to talk to moms at drop-off because you didn't brush your teeth and there are crumbs from the morning's pancakes on your shirt. Days when you don't care that your son didn't cut out "one" picture to put under the word "one" and got red admonishments all over his assignment. We all needed a translator for that assignment.

Days when you don't want to check your email, walk the dogs, decide what to make for dinner. Fold laundry.

Bleh! That is pretty much every day.

Then there are days replete with sweet smelling flowers and colorful sprinkles. Days you don't care if your kids are arguing senselessly over a green cup. Days you aren't even remotely flustered by them fighting over who won the staring contest. Days you just know you are blessed.

You dream of what fatty and buttery recipe you will create to make every thing a little better. These cupcakes will make you smile. Smile. Look at them! You can't take your eyes off of them. They are just good. Cupcakes have that effect.

Of course these cupcakes are good. They should be with a whole stick of butter and a half a cup of sour cream in them. The bananas have to be perfectly ripe. Not ripe where they are baby food consistency. That is just gross. Toss those bananas away. You could maybe even eat them without the peanut butter frosting. Not the best choice. But still good.


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 very ripe large bananas, peeled
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 t vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Mash bananas with fork in another medium bowl until smooth. Mix sour cream and vanilla into bananas.Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with banana-sour cream mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until blended after each addition. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (generous 1/4 cup for each).Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack and let cool completely.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I think I added a couple extra Tablespoons)
1  8 oz. package cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural)
chopped, salted roasted peanuts

Sift powdered sugar into large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cupcakes, dividing equally. Sprinkle lightly with chopped peanuts.

A man waiting for a bus on Miami Beach. A cupcake would have made him smile. September 2010.

Sunset on Miami Beach, September 2010. Sunsets make me smile


Fall Carrot Cranberry Cake

Life is good. Life is better with good food. Life is the best with great Italian food. Occasionally, you may come across my strong opinions here on Cake Duchess. I am passionate about great Italian food. I am very picky about what I consider great Italian food. You may know my husband is an Executive Chef from Italy. I spent part of my childhood in Italy. I have spent alot of my grown-up years in Italy. I know great Italian food. I'm a little snobby about it. There is one blog out there in this vast internet that KNOWS great Italian food. Paula from Bellalimento is an Italian food connoisseur. Not only is she super talented, she is also really nice. Sometimes we talk about how much fun we would have if we were neighbors. One day we will have a farm in Italy. Paula told me she'd clean the chicken coops and I will gather the eggs. Not a bad deal, right? I told you she was nice.

I love carrot cakes. I love really moist and flavorful carrot cakes. Carrot cakes remind me of  when I was a little girl. I remember my mom always making carrot cakes. Mom knows how to make an amazing carrot cake. It seriously is the BEST carrot cake I have ever had. I have taken mom's recipe and changed it just a little. I didn't want mom to get too mad at me. I know you will add this recipe to your collection and share it with all your friends. You can omit the nut part if you are allergic. It will still be fabulous.

Look at my fall flowers. Aren't they gorgeous?!? I have pink, hot pink, and lavender bougainvillea in my yard. I also have those splendid golden trumpets. Forget the flowers...look at that cake! Please visit sweet Paula at  Bellalimento and her gorgeous blog to get the recipe. You will spend hours just browsing through it. Paula is also a contestant in Project Food Blog. Show your support and cast a vote for her!

Thank you! Grazie! Merci! Gracias!



Butterscotch Drop Scones

Butter and butterscotch chips. This is a marriage that will not end up in divorce or even in a little bit of therapy. Not that there is any thing wrong with therapy. And not that there is any thing wrong with divorce. There are just some couples that shouldn't stay married. Heck, I don't even know why they got married in the first place! I know some people that have had great results from therapy. I am a child of divorce. Maybe my parents should have gone to therapy? Hmm...deep thoughts on this Wednesday morning are getting me into a funk.

I know a way to get happier: Butterscotch Scones!

Every single time I make these scones, there is a line in my kitchen. As soon as the smell comes wafting through the kitchen, you will see the beggars. They are all lined up by the stove begging to know, "How much longer?" They also ask me, "How many do I get?"

Pear Tarte Tatin with Crumbled Toffee

Goals have been on my mind this past week. Goals, and of course cake. But mostly goals. I've been working on a paper for my class and it was on short and long-term goals as an educator. I was majorly distracted and a little frustrated. I began to wonder if I  maybe have adult ADHD.To deal with my frustration, I baked. And baked some more. Eventually, I finished my paper. In a haphazard manner, it was complete and I felt incomplete. I was left wondering:  do I really want to teach?

The other day I woke up to see I was number 1 on the top 9 on Foodbuzz on Wednesday for my Upside Down Banana Dulce de Leche Cake. I took a shot of the screen when I saw it. Dorky? A little. But hey, I was excited.

That was a pleasant and wonderful surpise!(Thanks to all the foodbuzz peeps that buzzed my recipe!) A family member told me it was great, but also posed an important question, "How are you going to make money with this?"

A profound question. After some careful thought and lengthy consideration, I present to you some ways I could make money with this:
1) I could write a best-selling baking book. It would outsell Ree from The Pioneer Woman  and possibly even Paula Deen.

2) I could open the hottest and trendiest bakery in South Florida. People would stand in line for hours like they do for the Cake Boss to sample one of my galettes or cakes. Ensuing bakeries would open all over Italy.

3) The Food Network would discover my talent by some glorious miracle. I would be as popular, or more popular, than Giada de Laurentiis (God, she has the cutest smile!). My cooking line would be in every Target on this continent. I would be a star. A rich star.

4) I could run a famous cooking school in an old castle in Italy. Any part of Italy will do fine. Laura  from Ciao Laura will book the tours to visit my incredibly informative and witty classes. We will both be reveling in this sweet success.

"Lora, wake up! Wake up!!" OMG! This is so embarassing. I just fell asleep and had the most amazing dream that I was a rich and famous food blogger/cookbook writer/FoodTV star/bakery owner. More famous than Ree Drummond, Paula Deen, and Giada! I was getting ready for my book signing and picking out what shoes to wear. Yes, I am a geek. 

Back to humble me.  My reality is I am still just blogging on my little blog for you, my dear readers. And for now, it's all I want to do. I leave you with a Pear Tarte Tatin recipe to enjoy. If read this, you like it, and even attempt to make it, that will bring me abundant joy and immeasurable satisfaction. This is why I do this.

Let's talk about the Pear Tarte Tatin. I love to make crusts. This crust recipe is simple and to me, crust perfection. It still was flakey and with the perfect firmness the next day. My husband said he hadn't had a Tarte Tatin like this since he was working in this castle in Italy and there was a French Pastry Chef that used to make them. Now that was a compliment. The pears have to be Bosc. They were made to be the co-star of a tarte tatin. They hold their shape. Don't use them over ripe. Mushy pears are not easy to peel and clean and will fall apart while making the caramel. A little ugly, but could still taste good.

This could happen:
*When you flip your tarte, the fruit may slide around. That is no problem. Reassemble them. No one will know!

*When you make the caramel, it is ready when it turns amber color. I made this a few times recently. On a recent time, I had to take care of a kid emergency (put Dora on TV!). There were some hard pieces of caramel. It gave me an idea. Keep those delicious toffee pieces and save for when the tarte is done. Smash them up and sprinkle on top. Ingenious and very delicious!

For the pastry
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 tablespoon lard (or shortening)
3 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling
2 lbs firm pears, peeled, cored and halved lengthwise (I used Bosc)
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger

In a food processor, add the flour, salt, sugar and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and the lard (or shortening), and pulse until there are coarse crumbs. Add the water to the dough mixture a tablespoon at a time until when you pinch the dough, it sticks together. Take the dough out of the processor and form into a disc. Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you are ready to roll out, roll it out to about a 1/8-1/4 thickness and it should be about 11 inches in diameter for a 10 inch skillet. I like to roll the dough out either between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. You can leave the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

The pears

Preheat the oven to 415 F.

Cut the pears in half. Core the pears and take off the stems. Add to the bowl with 1/4 cup of sugar and lemon juice. Let it sit aside for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a  9" ovenproof skillet. I used my ancient cast-iron one. Add the 1 cup of remaining sugar and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat. It will turn golden brown and start to caramelize. As soon as it changes color, remove from the heat. Drain the pairs and arrange the pears over the caramel mixture. Cut side down and the stem end should go towards the center. Sprinkle the cinnamon and ginger over the pears.

Return the pan to the stove top and cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes. Make sure you keep the temperature at medium high, letting the sugar boil and caramelize. The high heat will help the sugar caramelize and the pears to cook a little. Now when I made this the other day, I got some crunchy pieces of caramel. I took those off and saved those to add to the top after when it was ready. Toffee crumbles topping! It is all good! You really can't mess this up. Gently toss the pears around so they get nicely coated. Stir You want it to reduce until the you have a thick buttery caramel sauce. This syrup will be very hot, so don't be tempted to touch it for a taste

Now it is time to lay the pastry over the top. Quickly and carefully tuck the pastry down right into the edges. I used a thin knife to tuck in the edges. Cut four 1/4 " steam holes in the center. Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. You could bake over a cookie sheet in case you don't want to mess up your oven with caramel drippings. I didn't have any thing overflow from my skillet the last few times I made it. It's up to you:)

Run a knife along the edges of the cast iron to make sure that none of the puff pastry edges are sticking to the pan. Next, place a large plate or serving platter on top of the cast iron and, using two giant pot holders, invert quickly and carefully because the skillet weighs a ton and is burning hot. You will feel the skillet become lighter and know that it has inverted correctly. Life the cast iron and  don't worry if any of the pears moved around or if some stuck to the pan. You could carefully remove them if they stuck to pan and reassemble. If they moved when you flipped the skillet, just simply place them the way they were before in the tarte. One time when I made the caramel, it was too liquidy. That could happen. If you feel there is too much liquid when you are making your caramel, you could pour some of it carefully into the sink before you add the skillet to the oven.  Serve warm. It is even amazing at room temperature. Enjoy your beautiful tarte tatin.

Here is the dough ready to put in fridge.
Here are the pears caramelizing with some ginger and cinnamon sprinkled on them. I'm telling you, this smells crazy good!
When they are ready, this is how the dough should look on top. I added the four scores with a think knife right in middle (forgot to take a photo of it!).

Here is that toffee thing I told you about! I used a meat tenderizer and smashed them up. Toffee will fly every where. It is really good. Save some for the tarte.

Sprinkle some on the tarte. If your caramel doesn't form any crunchy pieces, you could use toffee bars if you like. This only happened once in the last few times I've made this. I may use the toffee bar idea next time. Those are really good too!!

This tarte is just gorgeous. It reminds me of a cool, crisp day in France or Italy. Or even North Carolina. A cup of caffe' latte. Steaming hot. Maybe a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

Random photo from other day of my lil' guy telling me he could put the yogurt on the flat bread by himself because, "I'm a chef mommy." He was so proud when he said it too.

And in case you want to see what I look like and my profile picture is a little boring. Here is me with a cake on my past birthday. As Mariskaneni (my Hungarian great-aunt would say for a pose), "This is how I look." Not ever, "How do I look?" Lol!