Great stocking stuffer - Pie Weight Disc

Looking for a stocking stuffer for your favorite cook?
This gadget from Williams-Sonoma ($12.95) is one of my new favorites.  What is it? a Pie Weight Disc.
It replaces that pesky parchment paper, baking beads or beans you use when baking pie crust "blind".  No more paper ripping and beads dropping all over the place.  
The "petals" gently hold the sides in place until the crust is partially baked and is easy to remove.  Caution: the handle is hot.

Tips for Easier Baking (Plus Christmas cookie videos)

The French have a term for it:  "mis en place".  It means: "everything in its place".  Like many cooks, it took me some time to learn that this is a huge timesaver when you are baking or cooking.  There is nothing more frustrating to be in the middle of a recipe only to find you are out of that one ingredient or implement that is essential for the dish you are preparing.  So here are some tips which I hope you will find helpful for both gearing up for holiday baking and your everyday cooking

.This video provides ten tips for streamlining the baking process. Happy baking!

Getting ready to bake Christmas cookies? Watch these videos for easy to make treats....all family favorites.

Italian Sausage Dinner

Here is a video of my preparing a sausage, potato, onion and red & green pepper meal.....great for dinner or lunch. The video is taken from my "Betty Visits England" video. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Cockburn's butcher shop in Bedale, Yorkshire. We had the opportunity to watch the sausage made by Wayne Pearson.

Betty visits an English Butcher: Cockburn's of Bedale

During a recent trip to Yorkshire, England, we had the opportunity to visit Cockburn's in Bedale.  Much more than your average butcher shop, they offer an amazing variety of home-made pies, aged beef, locally sourced game, every cut of meat imaginable, and sausages. 

Not just ordinary pork sausages (although they are very good too) but 12 different varieties.  Everything from caremelized onion, honey mustard, Italian, black pudding, and on and on.  

We were invited to see Wayne Pearson - the master sausage maker - produce the specialty sausage of the day, and then we took some back and cooked them for dinner.

Watch the video:

How to make Pizza Dough

I have been making pizza at home for years but have never been totally satisfied with it - particularly the crust.  It never seemed to develop the taste or texture I was looking for.  Along came Arthur Schwartz with his great cookbook “The Southern Italian Table”.  His recipe for the dough requires an overnight rise in the refrigerator and that makes all the difference.  He also uses far less yeast which I thought might detract from the flavor but that is not the case.  His recipe gives 16 ideas for toppings which, I am sure, will help inspire you to create your own. One which he did not mention - probably because it is not authentic - but which I had in a restaurant in Vermont, is a pear and gorgonzola topping.  Different, but delicious!

For the dough:  

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (not fast-rising)
1½ cups warm water (between 100 and 110ºF)
3½ to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

At least 30 minutes before mixing the dough, in a minimum 2-cup liquid measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast on ½ cup of the water.  Wait a minute, then stir with a fork until the yeast is dissolved.  Stir in ½ cup of the flour.  Set aside at room temperature and let the mixture increase to at least double, about 1½ cups.

Combine 3 cups of the flour with the yeast mixture and the remaining 1 cup of warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Mix on low speed until the dough just begins to mass together.  Add the salt, and continue to knead the dough with the dough hook until it looks smooth and the machine struggles a little.

Stop the machine.  Gather the dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead the dough for another 5 minutes, folding and turning it onto itself as demonstrated in the video, adding just enough flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
Lightly oil a medium sized bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough over so that all surfaces are coated with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator.  Allow to rise until doubled - this will take up to two hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  After an hour, turn your oven on to 550º.
Deflate the dough by pressing it down, then divide into 3 parts.  Each will make a 10 to 12-inch pizza.  

See My Breville Pizza Maker Video for Forming:

To form the pizza, flatten a ball of dough into a thick disk.  On a lightly floured surface, rotating the disk as you go, flatten the center of the pizza with your fingertips or the heel of your hand.  When a ridge of dough starts appearing on the perimeter of the disk, lift the dough up with both hands, and holding onto the ridge, let gravity and the weight of the dough stretch the circle.  Keep turning the dough to get a relatively even 10 to 12-inch circle.  Keep pulling the ridge slightly so the circle gets larger.  Be careful not to make the center too thin or the ridge more than a ½-inch deep.  Alternatively, you can use a rolling pin. Spread the formed pizza dough onto a paddle lightly dusted with cornmeal.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, place the formed dough on a lightly floured cookie sheet.
Top as desired and bake for 8 to 10 minutes depending on your oven and the topping and how well baked you like pizza.


  For many years, I’ve also had so very many disappointments regarding pizza dough that I  pessimistically thought that  your system wouldn’t work.  I was pleasantly surprised, that, following your instructions, except  leaving the un-risen dough in the refrigerator for 2 days (as opposed to over night), it turned out GREAT.
   I guess the moral of the story is to never question the abilities of Betty Busciglio.

P.S. You are also good in front of a camera (I assume that this ability comes along with the Scottish blood).

Betty's Raspberry Frangipane Tart (Betty's Kitchen Fare)

The recipe that follows is about the sixth version of this tart.  The first one had too much butter in the pastry so it leaked out all over the place; the second had a filling which was too light so that puffed up and then cracked when it cooled.

A third try didn't have enough frangipane.  I was on the way to the right crust and the right filling, but the raspberry flavor didn't "pop".  

The solution was to add a thin layer of raspberry jam on the crust before adding the frangipane filling.  Finally, just what I was looking for.

Of course, you can vary the fruit - blueberries work well as do fresh or canned apricot halves.  Just be sure to drain and dry canned apricots really well.

Be sure to follow the instructions to press the pastry slight over the top of your tart pan so that it doesn't shrink down the side of the pan.

Any problems, just contact me. (
Raspberry Frangipane Tart

Sweet Pastry
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold water

Raspberry Almond 
1 cup ground almond meal
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup raspberry jam
6 oz. fresh raspberries, washed and dried
⅓ cup sliced almonds, more or less to your preference

First, make the pastry. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.. Add butter and pulse until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water with a fork and pulse until combined.  
Turn out onto a sheet of waxed paper or work surface and gently knead until a dough forms. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk and chill, wrapped in waxed paper, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Take the pastry out of the fridge. Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper until it is about 11 inches in diameter.  Line a 9-inch tart tin with the pastry, making sure the edges are higher than the tart tin, as the pastry shrinks while baking. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Place a sheet pan or cookie sheet in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
Prick the bottom of the pastry lightly with a fork, line the tart with lightly buttered foil and fill with pie weights (dried beans/rice).  Blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and the foil and bake for 5 minutes, until the pastry is cooked but still very pale. Let it cool completely.
For the almond cream, add all ingredients to food processor and process until well combined.  Coat the bottom of the cooled tart with the raspberry jam and top with the almond cream, smoothing it out with a small offset spatula.  Arrange the raspberries over the top of the almond cream. There is no need to push them down as the almond cream will rise while baking and the raspberries will sink in a little bit. Scatter the sliced almonds over the raspberries. 
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the tart for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Dust with icing sugar just before serving if you wish.

        Watch the video:

How to make Flavored Butters

A really easy way to add some extra flavor to all sorts of things.   From pancakes to toast, fish, chicken, steak and on and on.

Simple to make, the combinations are limited only by your imagination!  Here are a few of my favorites:

Note:  Each recipe uses 4 ounces of unsalted butter.

1.  Finely grated zest of 1 orange
     1 tablespoon of honey
     2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts
     2 tablespoons finely chopped raisins

2.  1 head roasted garlic, mashed
     Optional:  2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

3.  2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
     Grated zest of 1 lemon
     (This is delicious on corn on the cob)

4.  2 tablespoon finely chopped dried cranberries
     1 tablespoon maple syrup
     (Great on pancakes, dinner rolls when you are serving chicken or turkey)

5.  1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons jam of your choice

6.  1 or 2 tablespoons wasabi - depending on your heat tolerance!
Watch the video:

How To Make Pizza: Pizza Maker from Breville (Product Review)

My gadget-happy husband saw the Breville Pizza oven in a Williams-Sonoma catalog (photo) and decided it was just what we needed.  I have tried all kinds of pizza stones, bricks, cast iron etc. in the oven and on the grill, but was never totally happy with the results.  I wasn't so sure this would work either.  Was I wrong!  This oven has enabled me to make delicious, crisp-crusted pizza every time.  At $149 from Williams-Sonoma I think it paid for itself in less than 3 months!

Not only is it very inexpensive to make pizza at home, it's much healthier since you control the fat content of what goes into it.  You can also put anything you like on top - just make sure you don't overdo the toppings!

The idea of rolling the dough out on parchment and then sliding it onto the stone is nothing short of brilliant - it saves so much mess.

Breville has their own video for using the oven.  I have found that it is not necessary to prick the edges of the dough as long as I roll it out quite thinly.  Also, there is a "viewing" window on top of the oven.  After a few uses you can't see through it but, by the time that happens, you will have the timing down just right so that it's not really necessary!

Here is the recipe for the dough I use:

4 cups flour
2¼ teaspoons yeast
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups hot water - about 110º

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, add water and stir until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto the counter and knead until smooth and elastic - you may need a little extra flour to dust the dough and your hands if the dough is sticky.  This takes about 10 minutes. If you prefer, you can do this in a mixer using the dough hook.  Place in a lightly oiled clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size.

Punch dough down lightly and divide evenly into four pieces.  Place each piece on a lightly floured square of parchment paper, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise again.

Roll the dough out on a large square of parchment paper, add the toppings of your choice and place in the preheated oven for 2 minutes.  Remove the parchment and continue cooking for 5 or 6 minutes or until pizza is cooked and lightly browned on top.

I used traditional tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmegiano cheese.  For a white pizza, I spread the dough with a paste of roasted garlic*, topped that with mozzarella, Parmegiano and ricotta cheeses.

A family favorite is pizza spread with fig jam and topped with sliced pear and gorgonzola cheese (photo right).

I am sure you can come up with some great variations on these.

*To roast garlic, cut off the top of a whole head of garlic, place on a square of foil large enough to enclose it entirely and drizzle with olive oil.  Place in a 350º oven and cook for about an hour.  Allow to cool and just squeeze out the garlic.  I mash it thoroughly with a little olive oil. It keeps for a week or so in the refrigerator and can be frozen.

Watch the video:

Barbecued Chicken (Chinese Style)

I got this Chinese Barbecued Chicken recipe from one of our daughters who got it from a newspaper years ago.  The original was good, but a little tweaking made it even better.  You can use any cut of chicken you like with this:  wings, thighs, drumsticks - with or without skin.


1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (you  can substitute white wine or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated ginger

Mix all ingredients well and place in a plastic bag.  Add chicken and marinate for several hours or overnight.

Remove chicken, reserving marinade.  Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place chicken on the rack (photo above right).  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 35 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once. Timing will depend on what cut of chicken you are using.  Chicken should be at 165 degrees when it is done.

While chicken is cooking, place reserved marinade in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes to reduce.  Use to baste chicken during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

NOTE:  it is essential to thoroughly boil the reserved marinade to avoid any contamination from the uncooked chicken.

Tastes great hot or at room temperature.

Here is the video demonstration:

Betty's Apple-Blackberry Crumble

With blackberries in season, what better to make than apple-blackberry crumbles!  Just substitute 1/2 lb. of blackberries for apples in my apple crumble recipe.

Here is the original apple crumble video demonstration:

'My Paris Kitchen' by David Lebovitz-Cookbook Recommendation

It's been a while since I have found a cookbook I could recommend.  With so much information on the Internet and so many one-topic books,  it's difficult to justify spending the money.  But...there is a book which I wholeheartedly recommend.  My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. 

This is not just a cookbook, it's a visit to Paris.  It's sights, sounds, smells and everything else Paris.  Not just recipes, although they are all wonderful, the book will transport you to the City of Lights.  Whether you decide to cook any of the recipes - and I don't know which pick first - this is a book to enjoy from cover to cover. 

The recipes are accessible, unlike some other French books I have seen lately, and all are doable.

This is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Quick Tip: How to Butter Cake Dishes...the Easy Way

Here is an easy method to butter cake dishes.

Poached Eggs...The Easy Way

Here is a chef's secret for producing perfect poached eggs.  If you don't have access to eggs freshly plucked from under a hen in you own back yard, the whites in purchased eggs will already have begun to thin out. 

This thin part is what produces those wispy bits of white when you poach eggs.  No amount of vinegar, no rapidly spinning whirlpool of water will persuade them to coagulate into a neat shape.  

At best, you will have to trim them once they are cooked.  But, if you take a moment to drop the egg into a strainer and allow the watery white to drain away, you will get a perfect egg every time. 

 After poaching for two and a half to three minutes, they are ready to serve or to be placed in a bowl of iced water to be used later. Also see Eggs Benedict recipe and video.


Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce is one of the great classic sauces.  It has a reputation for being finicky to make but all it really needs is your constant attention.  A heavy round-bottomed pan, called a saucier, is a great asset since there are no corners for the sauce to lurk in and overcook.  But if you are careful to get your whisk into the corners of your pan, you can make it in any pan.

Whisking the eggs with lemon juice - fresh please! - and water until they are thick enough to coat the back of a spoon is the important first step.  Once you have accomplished that, add the clarified butter and drop or two at a time to start with and then a little more quickly, whisking all the time and you have a perfect Hollandaise.

In addition to Eggs Benedict, Hollandaise is great with asparagus and broccoli.  
You can vary it by replacing the water with orange juice in the beginning step, and adding an addition tablespoon of orange juice and a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest at the end with the salt and pepper.  You now have Sauce Maltaise!


Eggs Benedict

Producing Eggs Benedict for a group for brunch can be a daunting prospect.  However, when you break down the steps and do some of them ahead, the dish becomes much more manageable.  I like to poach my eggs and clarify the butter the day before.  Yes, you can poach eggs ahead - you simply drop them into a bowl of iced water when they are cooked.  When you are ready to use them, drain the cold water and replace it with hot - not boiling - water and allow them to sit for a few minutes.

Breaking the raw eggs into a sieve and allowing the watery part of the white to drain away makes for a perfectly shaped poached egg without any of those stray, wispy bits of white that need to be trimmed.

Clarified butter is easily made in the microwave. I like this method because I can see when the milk solids have settled.  Apart from use in Hollandaise Sauce, clarified butter is great for frying.  It can take a higher heat because it is the milk solids which burn and cause black spots when you use whole butter to fry.  It is also promoted as being healthier.

Hollandaise Sauce is one of the great classic sauces.  It has a reputation for being finicky to make but all it really needs is your constant attention.  A heavy round-bottomed pan, called a saucier, is a great asset since there are no corners for the sauce to lurk in and overcook.  But if you are careful to get your whisk into the corners of your pan, you can make it in any pan.  Whisking the eggs with lemon juice - fresh please! - and water until they are thick enough to coat the back of a spoon is the important first step.  Once you have accomplished that, add the clarified butter and drop or two at a time to start with and then a little more quickly, whisking all the time and you have a perfect Hollandaise.

In addition to Eggs Benedict, Hollandaise is great with asparagus and broccoli.  
You can vary it by replacing the water with orange juice in the beginning step, and adding an addition tablespoon of orange juice and a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest at the end with the salt and pepper.  You now have Sauce Maltaise!

Warm your poached eggs, toast English Muffins, heat some Canadian Bacon and you are ready to serve Eggs Benedict.


Betty's Apple Crumble

A great dessert for a cold winter's day.  Easier to make than pie and just as good.  Perfect for a beginning baker.

Apple Crumble

For the Crumble:
2 ¼ cups flour
¾ cup unrefined brown sugar (demerara) 
7 ounces butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 cup crushed Amaretti cookies

For the filling:
1½ lbs. apples
¼ cup unrefined brown sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and flour and gradually rub in the butter cubes using your fingers until mixture resembles crumbs.  Toss in the crushed cookies.

Peel and dice apples, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon and toss with apples.

Place in a buttered 2 quart baking dish, or individual dishes, top with crumbs and bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.  Allow to cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice-cream.

The crumble freezes well.

Notes:  If you can't find Demerara sugar, substitute brown sugar.  If you can't find Amaretti, ginger snaps would work well or you can simply eliminate the cookies altogether.
You can also make the crumble in a food processor but you would want the butter to be very cold.

Watch the video:

Loaded Smashed Potatoes (appetizer)

Loaded Smashed Potatoes ?

No, they are not potatoes that have been out on a bender!  They are a takeoff on loaded potato skins but without having to bake all those big potatoes and then either find a use for the insides or just wasting them.

They make a great appetizer, snack or side dish and you can vary the toppings any way you like.  I'm using cheddar, scallions, bacon and sour cream but you could use cooked, crumbled Italian sausage, mozzarella and a little tomato sauce; cooked chopped beef with taco seasoning, Jack cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream, etc., etc.

The potatoes can be cooked ahead of time and just baked and topped at the last minute.

Watch the video:

FRICOS-Cheese Wafers (hors d'oeuvre)

Can you believe a one-ingredient hors d'oeuvre?  If you have some cheese in your refrigerator, you have everything you need to produce an elegant, tasty, light bite.  The perfect thing to serve before a big meal.

Simply grate about 2 ounces of cheese - parmigiana is my favorite but you can also use cheddar, Swiss or Gruyere.  Sprinkle generous tablespoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet to make 8 circles leaving some space in between as they spread, bake at 375 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes until very lightly browned.

Hint:  I use a 2" ring or cookie cutter to keep the rounds neat.

Here is the video demonstration: