Coconut Tequila Caramels


As Mother Nature wistfully thrusts us into my absolute favorite season of the year, Fall, I find that I can’t ignore my yearning for the smells and flavors that this glorious season evokes.  I love the overcast, cool and rainy days, the delicate rustling of the leaves as they transform into picturesque colors and begin to break loose from their branches, and most treasured, the smells of wonder baking in the oven.  While this recipe for Coconut Tequila Caramels doesn’t involve the oven, you won’t believe the breathtaking aroma that permeates the house upon creation.

Let me see if I can pique your interest here; chewy, buttery, toasty, sweet, salty, nutty, intoxicating harmony…captured your attention yet?  While these decadent candies render me speechless (and not just because my mouth is full of them), I nevertheless manage to muster up enough utterance to define the happiness that they create.  These caramels have euphoria about them that all desserts strive to possess.  They are perfect displayed on a holiday dessert buffet or individually wrapped as a treasured gift for someone special.  You might find however, that you don’t want to share them at all.

Don’t let the whiskey in this recipe deter you from making this amazing confection.  The liquor evaporates when cooked with the caramel leaving you with a profoundly flavorful candy.  I think that you’ll find that if you do decide to share these little bites of heaven, they will be warmly received time and time again!


Coconut Tequila Caramels          { Print Recipe }

Yield: 48 caramels

1-2 Tbsp  coconut oil, plus more for cutting caramels

1-16 oz can  coconut milk

¾ cup  light corn syrup

1 tsp  coarse sea salt

1 ¾ cup  granulated sugar

¾ cup  water

¼ cup  Tequila Blanco

½ cup   sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

½ cup  whole almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper and lightly brush with coconut oil.

Place the whole almonds on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes.  Check them after 5 minutes and give them a shake in the pan to ensure even toasting.  Chop the toasted nuts as finely as possible and set aside.  Using the same pan, toast the coconut for about 6-8 minutes stirring frequently as it can burn quickly.  Set the coconut aside and chop finely.

Combine the coconut milk, corn syrup, tequila and sea salt in a medium saucepan (4-6 quart).  Heat over medium low, stirring constantly for about 2-3 minutes until the milk is just warm and any coconut milk clumps are dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In an 8-quart saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until sugar is completely wet.  Place over medium high heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar turns a light amber color and a candy thermometer reads 310 degrees F, about 10-15 minutes.  Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the milk mixture.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble rapidly.  Return this saucepan to medium low heat and stir continuously until the caramel is completely dissolved (The caramel will solidify once added to the milk mixture, but will eventually soften and dissolve into the coconut milk).  Increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly, and cook until the caramel becomes thick and a candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F, about 20-30 minutes.  Quickly stir in the almonds and coconut, immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Let the caramel cool completely, about 2 hours, at room temperature.  Remove from the pan by lifting the parchment paper and cut into 1” squares.  Brush your knife with coconut oil as necessary between cutting to avoid sticking.  Wrap individually in parchment paper squares or store in an airtight container between sheets of parchment.  The caramels will last up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.




Amaretti Cookies


I’ve been wanting to make these Italian meringue cookies for a long time…dreaming of them in fact.  They are wonderfully light and airy with a sweet almond flavor & a chewy yet crunchy texture when you take a bite.  They all but melt in your mouth.  I absolutely love to make Italian desserts and am so inspired by Italy’s cuisine.  I think I might just need to take a trip there soon so that I can experience it all first hand!  These meringue cookies remind me of French Macarons if you’ve ever had those.  You could easily envelop two of these cookies around a delicious filling; chocolate ganache, lemon curd or espresso buttercream would make a great pairing with the almond flavor in the cookies.  I chose to keep it simple though and just enjoy a couple (3 or 4) of them with my latte…life just doesn’t get better than that!

Amaretti Cookies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 75-80 1 1/2 inch cookies

1 2/3 cups (8 oz) blanched almonds

2 cups (8 oz) confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs), at room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Position racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor.  Process until the almonds are finely ground, pulsing to avoid turning the mixture into a paste and scraping the sides as necessary.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.  Add the almond extract and continue to beat, gradually adding granulated sugar, until the egg whites are fluffy and very stiff with a dull sheen.  Pour the almond mixture over the meringue.  Fold with a large rubber spatula just until the dry mixture is fully incorporated.  Scrape the batter into a pastry bag.  Pipe low domes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inches high, 1 inch apart, on parchment lined cookie sheets.  You can also use a spoon to scoop tablespoons of batter 1 inch apart onto the pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cookies are golden.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool.  Let the cookies cool completely before storing.  The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for weeks.

Recipe from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt in Your Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich


Coconut Rum Meringues

Does anyone else feel like the holidays are moving way too quickly?  Even as I sit here typing, so many things are running through my head, I find it challenging to concentrate on one thing at a time.  My to-do list has far exceeded the time in which I have to complete it all.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life particularly in the midst of the holidays, but it’s so very important to slow down, crank up the Christmas music, enjoy a cup of warmth (perhaps some spiked hot cocoa?) with something sweet (perhaps some meringues?) in front of the Christmas tree and relish in this wonderful holiday season.  After all, it will come and go before we know it, leaving us with only memories to hold us until next year.  I am as just as guilty as anyone else this time of year…I WAY over commit myself with the excitement of the approaching holiday season and find myself completely overwhelmed!

These coconut meringues and spiked hot cocoa are unbelievably good and with a bit of coconut rum in both, they are sure to help you to relax a little more this holiday season.  These two recipes are my first official published post in Front Row’s Magazine’s December issue and I’m so excited to share them with you!  I have to admit that I consumed about three batches of these amazing cookies before finally discovering the perfect recipe.  They are so light and airy with an amazing texture and go down surprisingly easily (way too easily).  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Please visit to view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 16 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.  I also have recipes published periodically in the Arts & Culture Section of the magazine.

Coconut Rum Meringues          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 30-36 cookies

2 large egg whites

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2/3 cup superfine sugar

1 ½ tsp coconut rum

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

¼ cup almonds, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the whole almonds on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes or until they start smelling wonderful!  I check them after 5 minutes and give them a shake in the pan to ensure even toasting.  Chop the toasted nuts as finely as possible and set aside.  Using the same pan for the shredded coconut, toast the coconut for about 6-8 minutes stirring frequently as it can burn quickly.  Set the coconut aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks carefully leaving no trace of egg yolks (this step is easier to do when the eggs are cold).  Store the egg yolks for another use.  Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until foamy.  Once foamy, add the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating for about 3 minutes or until the egg whites form soft peaks.  Add the coconut rum and vanilla extract and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.  Fold the coconut and almonds into the egg whites gently with a spatula until fully incorporated.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and using a piping bag, pipe the egg white batter onto the pan in tablespoon portions, 1” high and about 1” apart.  Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes or until they turn slightly golden brown or the tops crack slightly.  Let cool completely in the pan.  These cookies are best eaten the day that they are made however they will keep several days in an air tight container.

Spiked Hot Cocoa

Yield: 4 mugs

6 oz. chopped milk chocolate

4 oz. heavy cream

12 oz. milk

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

2 oz. coconut rum

2 oz. amaretto

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot milk over it.  Blend with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted, then add the remaining ingredients.  Pour the hot cocoa back into the saucepan and keep warm until serving.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Happy Holidays!


Italian Chocolate Kisses

Italian Chocolate Kisses



I love spending time in the library looking at books on baking.  It’s a bit of an obsession really…at any given time I can have a dozen baking books on my shelf with hundreds of post-it notes hanging out of them tagging my next great baking challenge.  It was in one of these books that I recently discovered these cute little Italian sandwich cookies and just had to make them.  The cookies truly melt in your mouth and have the perfect combination of salty and sweet flavor. The ganache filling provides a little extra sweetness along with the perfect amount of texture…truly delicious. One bite of these tiny morsels and I can almost invision myself sitting in an Italian piazza soaking up the sun, sipping a latte and enjoying these special cookies. I hope that you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!

Italian Chocolate Kisses          {Print Recipe}
Yields: 2 ½ dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
½ cup whole blanched almonds
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1 ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp dark rum

For the ganache filling:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tsp dark rum or your favorite liqueur (optional)

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (Farenheit). Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are light golden brown and fragrant, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the almonds from the oven and turn off the oven until you are ready to form the cookies. Allow the almonds to cool completely, then grind them in a food processor with the 1 Tbsp of sugar until they are finely chopped.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and confectioner’s sugar on medium speed until creamy and light, about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract and rum and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the ground almonds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for about 1 hour, until it is firm enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the others wrapped and refrigerated. Roll 1 portion of dough into a small log about ¾ inch in diameter. Cut each log into ½ inch lengths and roll each piece into a ball, then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat them completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced ½ inch apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets 180 degrees to ensure even browning, until they are puffed and cracking on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache filling: Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil and pour it over the chocolate and butter. Allow the mixture to sit for a few moments, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Whisk in the rum, if you like. Allow the ganache to cool, whisking it occasionally, until it is firm enough to pipe.

To assemble the kisses: Pair up the cookies according to size. Turn one cookie upside down and, using a pastry bag fitted with a plain or star tip, pipe a small amount of ganache onto the flat side, then place the bottom of the second cookie on the ganache to form a sandwich; the two round tops of the cookies should be facing outward. Repeat until all the cookies have been used. Allow the ganache to firm up, at room temperature or in the refrigerator if necessary, then transfer the kisses to a serving plate.

The cookies can be stored, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container kept in a cool place for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, by Gina DePalma