Thursday, September 30, 2010

Collection of Evil Pieces - 3rd Online Piano Concert

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm back and excited to have finished my third online concert. The theme for this concert is evil... which sounds kind of strange, but there are a lot of piano pieces that  either sound creepy or were written with something evil in mind. And what perfect (and slightly deliberate) timing that October commence tonight and St. Hallow's Eve is just around the corner! So go grab those gummy skeletons and Harry Potter vomit flavor jelly beans, and enjoy some great piano pieces. Here is the line up:

1. Suggestion Diabolique, Op.4 No.4 - Sergei Prokofiev
2. Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel
3. Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saëns (Liszt-Horowitz Transcription)

Oh and just so everyone isn't wondering whether I was cognizant of the fact that the back of my collar was up for the first two pieces... I didn't realized it until after I was done recording so I'm just going to say that it's evil fashion. You can't stop me!

Just as a brief overview, if you would rather not here my babble in my commentary video. The first piece is creepy, fast, and really short. It's a great opener and yes, I'm trying to look at the camera all creepy at the beginning. It's an evil concert people! geez..... The second piece is strange, abstract, and I'm not sure people will like it. But it's one of those pieces that is all over the place and really fun to play. The last one piece is the one everybody loves! It's suppose to be about the dead gathering on Halloween night and waving they hands in da air, like they just don't care! I mean, who doesn't like a sexy skeleton shorty in apple bottom jeans. you know.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys this concert as much as I had fun preparing for it!!
Also, for those of you on Facebook seeing the note, you can go to this link to see the videos on my supa fly blog!


Fireside Commentary from Dennis McNulty

Suggestion Diabolique, Op.4 No.4 - Sergei Prokofiev

What a great and creepy piece! The first time I heard this, I was just sitting there thinking what a crazy but rad piece this is. Just so everyone doesn't think I'm a complete freak, I was trying to look at the camera all creepy in the beginning, but really I just look constipated or something... Anyway, the piece starts out creepy sounding, and soon goes crazy for another 2 minutes until it ends. You will hear dissident chords all over the place, but sprinkled within that mess, you'll hear 7-chords which gives the piece its playful mischievous quality. That's one thing I think is soooooo great about my man Sergei Prokofiev. He can take some crazy sounding things, and make a melodic pattern out of it. Must be something in the Borsch... Anyway, it's a short and fast piece so enjoy!!!!

Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel

I'm not sure what to say about Scarbo other then its craziness! The piece is based from a poem written by Aloysius Bertrand and is the last piece from the Gaspard de la Nuit set. When I decided on a theme of evil, I knew that I had to include this piece because of its creepy sound and context to the actual poem. I will admit, that at first I learned this piece because of its reputation and to have something good to play for competitions. However, as I started learning it, I began seeing that it's a great piece, amusingly challenging, and something that I think helped me grow as a pianist. When I was learning the piece, I was telling my professor that Scarbo is CRAZY hard and his advice to me was:

"Just play all the notes!"

We just laughed because Scarbo has notes everywhere to the point where I'm not sure if the composer dropped his ink jar on the music or if he was having seizures while jotting down the notes. Either way, the difficulty makes it all the more fun to learn. And for Omaha people, you may know what I'm talking about if you remember the side of the Schmidt's music building before they painted over it. That's the second to the last page of Scarbo!

Honestly, I'm not sure if most people will like this one because it's very abstract sounding. I think Ravel is so good at turning concepts or words into music. Since the poem describes this little fiendish creature running around playing tricks on some guy, that's exactly what you'll hear in the music. Fast runs all over the place, dynamics all over the board... yet throughout it all, Ravel still makes gives it the romantic feeling with his chord progressions. I remember performing Scarbo once for a recital that was filled with students of all levels with their friends and families. I'm sure they are all use to hearing the Mozart stuff and Sonatinas because after I was done, there was this mass of people staring at me like "What did you just effin' play?!?!" as they shyly clapped their hands out of obligation. I mean... it's not for everyone.


Piano music isn't just Fur Elise and Chopsticks so I'm always happy to play more contemporary literature! So I hope everyone who is listening to this for the first time doesn't find it too strange!

Below is the English version of the poem:

Oh! how often have I heard and seen him, Scarbo, when at midnight the moon glitters in the sky like a silver shield on an azure banner strewn with golden bees.

How often have I heard his laughter buzz in the shadow of my alcove, and his fingernail grate on the silk of the curtains of my bed!

How often have I seen him alight on the floor, pirouette on a foot and roll through the room like the spindle fallen from the wand of a sorceress!

Do I think him vanished then? the dwarf grows between the moon and me like the belfry of a gothic cathedral, a golden bell shakes on his pointed cap!

But soon his body becomes blue, translucent like the wax of a candle, his face pales like the wax of a candle end - and suddenly he is extinguished.

Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saëns (Liszt-Horowitz Transcription)

And now for the grand finale!!! When I started making online concerts, this was actually the first one I wanted to record because I think it's such a cool piece!!! Danse Macabre was written for orchestra back in the 1870's by Camille Saint-Saëns. Unfortunately, Camille was too progressive for his time and this piece was ill-received because of its sounds of death and evil. Camille was good friends with Liszt who transcribed this piece of piano. Surprisingly, Liszt made it really simple and a little boring so I'm not a fan of his version. Almost 80 years later, this crazy good pianist by the name of Vladimir Horowitz re-wrote the piano version by making it sound more like the original orchestral version. So what happens when you try to replace an entire orchestra with one pianist?? CRAZINESS!! When I first started to learn the piece, I had an old recording of Horowitz playing it... I just sat there wondering if it was actually possible to play this thing!? Luckily, I fell in love with it which really helps with the learning process.

There is actually a poem 'Danse Macabre' which describes this dance of the dead. Basically Danse Macabre is a legend saying that every year during Halloween, Death (creepy guy that brings you to Hades) wakes up and starts to pay his fiddle to wake up the dead. The key point to the fiddle is that he tunes the E-string to an E-flat making what is called the Devil's Fifth chord. So on Halloween night the dead are partying like it's 1999 until dawn when they all scramble back to their graves to party it up again next year. This is an old legend so there is a lot of art depicting the Danse Macabre as well. Last year, I was traveling in Switzerland and during my visit to Laussane I came across a famous bridge there. As we were walking along the inside of the bridge, each section of the bridge had a large painting of different scenes of the Danse Macabre!!! I thought this was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen and seeing the paintings reminded of various parts of the piano piece.

I think this is a great addition to the evil theme and this is one of those pieces I think everyone will really enjoy!

Below is the English version of the poem: 
Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence, 
Striking a tomb with his heel, 
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune, 

Zig, zig, zag, on his violin. 
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark; 
Moans are heard in the linden trees. 
White skeletons pass through the gloom, 
Running and leaping in their shrouds. 

Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking, 
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers. 
A lustful couple sits on the moss 
So as to taste long lost delights. 

Zig zig, zig, Death continues 
The unending scraping on his instrument. 
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked. 
Her partner grasps her amorously. 
The lady, it's said, is a marchioness or baroness 
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright. 
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him, 
Like the rustic was a baron. 

Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband! 
They all hold hands and dance in circles. 

Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd 
The king dancing among the peasants. 
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance, 
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed. 
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world! 
Long live death and equality!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Winterreigen - A Winter Collection Piano Concert

Welcome welcome welcome to my second online piano concert! The truth is that I actually recorded this set in February, but found out that there was something wrong with my microphone and nothing recorded!! Unfortunately that was the day before my piano was moved to another location leaving me pianoless (which is like losing a limb to a pianist!!!) Due to some crazy relocation circumstances, I have been without a piano for quite some time until now!! So I'm back and ready to get this under way!!! This was suppose to be a winter-themed concert with selections from the Winterreigen suite by Ernst von Dohnányi, but now it's May and it doesn't feel like winter here! But I figure if anything, the elves and polar bears up in the North Pole still think it's winter!! These pieces are short and simple so it's not a crazy concert by any means. But the most important thing I wanted to do with this concert is play pieces that are hardly played or even known! I did a search on youtube just to make sure there were no recordings already! I hope everyone enjoys!!! Btw... the next concert WILL be out of this world knock your face off crazy so stay tuned!!!

I. Widmung
Widmung is the first in the set of ten and serves as a quick introduction. The left hand is quick with shadowed arppegiated chords overlayed by a slow and quaint melody coming from the right hand. The interesting thing with Dohnányi is how he uses minor chord changes to build up a tonal progression. I think this is very similar to a lot of Rachmaninoff's piano pieces sans the difficulty and craziness!!

II. Marsch der Lustigen Brüder
The second piece of the set is a definite march! With a steady beat and the constant 8th-16th note pattern, it feels like you are watching a militant parade marching down the streets of a small German town. True to the composing style of a march, there is a quiet and melodic section in the middle, much like a trio. I took the liberty of adding a lot of color to this part since it was a "break" from the marching. A lot of heavy yet colorful chords, especially toward the end, and definitely a lot of fun to play!

IX. Morgengrauen
The second to the last piece in the set is an immediate switch to a somber and reflective tone. Throughout the piece is a constant pattern of octaves with the same rhythm. It makes me think of waking up on a rainy day to the sounds of an old church bell in the distance. I feel like this piece of the set symbolized the ending of something... maybe someone as they become close to death, or possibly the ending of a cold and dreary winter. Either way, the piece has a small yet reflective climax, followed by the repeating the somber octaves, but then ends on a major chord. If Ernst ended the set with this, it would leave you with the sense of a lack of closure. I think that's why the last piece starts on the same chord. I wanted to separate these two videos for youtube, but in a live concert, I think they belong together with no pause. Feel free to listen to the last piece directly after this to see if you can hear the connection!

X. Postludium
I LOVE this piece for so many reasons! I remember playing this as a kid and thinking how much I liked it, but wished it was longer. Little did I know that later on I would find the entire set of pieces that belong with Postludium. The piece previous to Postludium ends on a G major chord. Postludium begins on a G suspended 4 chord which doesn't resolve until eight measures into the song. This Ernst guy is pretty rad for that! Even though this is a short piece around two minutes, it feels like this constant build up to the climax which is a grand reprise of the first theme. It ends with three chords and in the score Ernst wrote A-d-e (one letter per chord) meaning farewell in German. What a perfect way to end this awesome set of ten pieces - Ernst is seriously the man!!!

**If you are viewing this blog as a Note on Facebook and can't see the videos, go to the following link:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

As Ludacris put it.... "ROLL OUT!"

I can’t believe that I’ve had this blog and haven’t yet posted my recipe for eggrolls!! I seriously make it so much that I have I can make it in my sleep! So when I say eggroll, I must specify that these are Vietnamese eggrolls. No offense to other countries out there, but Vietnamese ones are by far one of the best! Most people who frequent Chinese restaurants are accustom to eggrolls with thick crunchy wraps filled with questionable shredded cabbage, but the Vietnamese kind is a different and o-so-yummy blend of ground meat, shrimp, green onions, fungus and carrots! I remember the first time I brought it into work for food day. The reason why I did it was because my manager at the time came back from lunch and gave me an eggroll saying

“I know your people eat this, so I brought it back for you.”

Funny thing is that she is the nicest person and didn’t mean it like it sounded. Anyway, it was enough inspiration for me to make some homemade ones and show people what yummy eggrolls are all about! I didn’t expect people to go so crazy for them and they were gone 30 minutes after I brought them in. This started the tradition of bring eggrolls into work. Whenever we had food days, people would discuss what they would bring but when it came to me, I was commanded to bring my eggrolls. Over years I’ve made some modifications so it won’t be like my mom’s original recipe, but for you spicy lovers, you’ll definitely like my version!!

A couple of years ago, I decided to branch out and try dessert eggrolls. The first batch was for a family Thanksgiving party and unfortunately they didn’t go over so well… especially since we came late and everyone had already had dessert. It was basically filled with pumpkin pie filling and if you’d ask my partner in crime and I, we would testify that it was damn good. I next experimented with a pumpkin vanilla dessert roll that I brought to work. I was afraid it wouldn’t be received too well so I didn’t make too many. It was a hit and people kept telling me that I should have brought more! In addition, I received the greatest suggestion from someone who said I should try putting chocolate chips in next time! Mmmmmm….

So for this blog entry, I decided to try a new dessert roll AND put chocolate in it. Since I LOVE Xôi (Vietnamese sweet sticky rice) I decided to make something similar and put it in the dessert roll. The day before I made the rolls, I was at Trader Joe’s and they had a large amount of blackberries for $1.99 and I couldn’t resist. With my abundance of blackberries I decided to make a Blackberry White Chocolate Dessert Roll with Xôi. So you know when you make cake and you can’t help but lick the spoon and get it all over you face and sometimes body? Well after I mixed the ingredients for the dessert roll together I had stick rice allllll around my mouth because I couldn’t stop eating the yummy sugar and carb infested roll filling!

So without further ado… here is the recipe for Vietnamese Eggrolls and BWC Dessert Roll:

Vietnamese Eggrolls (25 rolls)
   - egg roll wraps*
   - ½ lbs of ground pork or turkey
   - ¼ lbs of ground shrimp
   - 4-5 good sized carrots
   - ½ cup of chopped green onions
   - 2 oz. dry black fungus*
   - 2 oz. bean curd thread or bean vermicelli*
   - 2 tbsp minced garlic
   - 4 tbsp fish sauce
   - Sriracha sauce (you can make it as spicy as you’d like!)
   - 1 tbsp ground black pepper
   - 1 tbsp garlic powder
   - 1 tbsp onion powder
   - 2 egg (1 egg is for rolling the wraps)

*easiest and best to buy at an Asian store

  1. If egg roll wraps are frozen, defrost them
  2. In a large bowl, shred all of the carrots (this will make your arm sore)
  3. Add in the chopped green onions and minced garlic
  4. Boil the bean curd thread in hot water until it is soft (like spaghetti but more than al dente)
  5. Place the dry black fungus in a bowl and drain the hot water from the bean curd thread into the bowl (this will soften the fungus)
  6. In a colander with small itty-bitty holes, pour cold water over the bean curd thread until it is cool
  7. Chop the cooled bean curd thread into half inch pieces
  8. Once the fungus is soft, drain the water and chop into fine pieces (discard any hard pieces)
  9. Add ground turkey/pork and ground shrimp
  10. Add in everything else (Sriracha sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and one egg)
  11. Mix mix mix!!!!!!! It’s not very easy to mix this evenly without using your hands so go on and get a little dirty!
  12. Now comes the potentially tricky part… rolling the eggrolls… I’m not exactly sure how to explain it so I recommend youtube-ing it or following the directions on the back. Also, some Vietnamese people will use rice paper instead of eggroll wrap so you can use whatever you’d like!
  13. Once everything is rolled, fry the eggrolls in pre-heated 375°F peanut oil for 8 minutes (should be a perfect golden brown color when done)

Once it’s done, it’s customary to take large lettuce leaves and wrap it around the eggroll while dipping it in Nước Mắm. Unless you have a Vietnamese friend who made you some Nước Mắm, you probably won’t be able to get any. The most common replacement would be something like Thai Sweet Chili sauce. So I mentioned that this is my twist on my mom’s recipe, and really the only difference is I use Sriracha sauce to really give it a kick… normally you won’t find spicy eggrolls in Vietnam since the Nước Mắm is spicy enough!!

Blackberry White Chocolate Dessert Roll (10-15 rolls)
   - 1 cup dry sweet rice*
   - 1 can of coconut milk
   - 1 cup of fresh blackberries
   - 1 bar of white chocolate (I used a Lindt white chocolate blueberry bar)
   - ¼ cup white sugar
   - 2 tbsp honey
   - 1 tbsp lemon juice
   - 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Cook the dry rice and blackberries in one can of coconut milk (I just use a rice cooker for this but a pot will do as long as you don’t over cook it)
  2. Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar, honey, lemon juice and vanilla extract
  3. Stir stir stir until the rice until you have a yummy Barney color purpl
  4. Go ahead and taste it and add more of anything if needed
  5. Chop the entire bar of chocolate into 1 cm chunks
  6. Pour the chocolate into the mixture and only stir it a couple of times! The chocolate will melt so if you stir too much you won’t have any choco-chunks!!
  7. Just like you did with the eggrolls, wrap those puppies up!!
  8. Make sure you fry these ones first or else you will have fishy BWC dessert rolls!
I didn’t do this for the potluck, but if you have some extra coconut milk, you can easily make a creamy dipping sauce by mixing sugar and pudding mix with the coconut milk. Also, I had some left over filling, so I just put it in a bowl, garnished it with shaved almonds, and stuck it in the fridge for some BWC sticky rice!!

So FINALLY the eggroll recipe is out for everyone to try! I expect to hear back from people to see how it went!!! And you didn't think I would finish this blog entry without a Vietnamese song!!! I'm posting a song I heard A LOT when I was in Saigon, which is natual because the song is about Saigon! It's called Sai Gon Dep Lam Sai Gon oi! (Which translates to Saigon is pretty, Oh Saigon!!) Haha the title makes me laugh, but you'll get a kick once you hear it since Vietnamese aren't known for their singing voices.... ENJOY!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Water Pieces: An Online Piano Concert

I know this whole idea of an online concert is kind of weird, but I say why not! As a pianist, we spend long hours in front of a piano learning whatever is next on our list of things we want to master (I can tell you this is an inexhaustible list!) Usually these efforts are put forth for various performances and competitions which give us a deadline and help motivate us to learn new things. But what do you do when you're all done with performances and competitions? I thought, what better way to keep this tradition of learning/performing up with online piano concerts! 

For my first online piano concert I decided to have a theme of Water related pieces including the following selection:
  1. Jeux D'eau - Maurice Ravel
  2. Reflets Dans l'Eau from Images - Claude Debussy
  3. Online from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel
Included in the collection is a commentary from me about my selection. BTW, the commentary video makes me laugh because I sound like a nervous zit-faced adolescent boy at first. 

Opening comments from Dennis

Jeux d'Eau by Maurice Ravel
"River god laughing as the water tickles him..." This excerpt from Henri de Régnier's Cité des Eaux is what Ravel used as a template of imagination to compose this piece.

Reflets Dans l'Eau from Images by Claude Debussy

Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel

Below is the poem written by Aloysius Bertrand in which Ondine was composed
"Listen! listen! it’s me, it’s Ondine who brushes with these drops of water the resonant diamonds of your window lit by the gloomy moon-light; and there in her silken robe is the lady of the manor contemplating from her balcony the lovely star-bright night and the beautiful sleeping lake.

"Each ripple is a 'child of the waves' swimming with the current, each current is a path winding towards my palace, and my palace is built fluid, at the bottom of the lake, in the triangle of fire earth and air.

"Listen! -Listen! – my father strikes the croaking water with a branch of green alder, and my sisters caress with their arms of foam the cool islands of herbs, water lilies and gladioli, or make fun of their sickly, bearded willow that is fishing with rod and line."

Having murmured her song, she begged me to accept her ring on my finger, so that I would be the husband of an Ondine, and to visit her palace with her, so that I would be king of the lakes. And since I replied that I loved a mortal woman, she wept a few tears, sulking and peevish, then broke into laughter, and vanished in showers of rain that drizzled white across my blue window pane.

I'm not exactly sure how this is suppose to work, but I hope everyone enjoys my first online concert. My next concert, currently in the works, will be some rare selections of Ernő Dohnányi never performed repertoire so looking forward to that!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is it too late for a Christmas Blog?!?!?

I'm not sure if it is because of the massive amounts of food I ate around the holidays, but I've managed to wait this long to post all the yummy things I made for Christmas! So you know how everyone makes a batch of Christmas goodies like cookies, peanut butter kisses, peanut brittle... you know you know. Well I wanted to do the same thing, but since it's my first time, I figured I'd try some different stuff. And don't worry, I didn't miss out on the regular stuff since I pretty much ate all the stuff people brought into work during the last three weeks of the year...

So here is a list of things I made!

(Click on each picture to get the recipe)

1. Magenbrot - When I was in Switzerland last November, I was on a rampage trying every new thing in sight! We came across a lit
tle Christmas stand that had various goodies and this weird pink bag called filled with Magenbrot (translated as stomach bread). Someone in our group told me it is one of his favorite things to eat so I for sure got a bag, inhaled one piece, and fell in love! I ate a lot of things in Switzerland and this by far was one of my favorites. I'm happy to report that despite my concerns with the hard and dry dough, the Magenbrot turned out perfect!! I can see why they call it stomach bread, beacuse one bite and your stomach is happy! Funny thing was that during our Christmas get together, this was the least popular dessert. Oh well... more for me!!!

2. Cream Cheese Raspberry
Brownies - Just the name gives away the yumminess of this one! Although the brownies turned out a tad on the dry side, I really liked the cream and raspberries mixed in with the brownies!

3. Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies - Instead of just plain old cookies, I decided to make something with a twist. After I made the dough, I probably lost 7.3% of it because it was sooooo good and I couldn't stop eating it. And after I made the cookies, I licked the bowls so clean they didn't stand a chance! Even though the dough was good, I felt like the cookies lost a little flavor after they were baked... so they were just aaaaiiiight. For the trouble it takes to make them, I don't think I will make them again... well maybe I'll make them just to eat the dough!

4. Jeera Biscuits - Had she not been sick, we would have had a guest from Pakistan at our Christmas get together. Just for fun, I thought I would make a dessert from Pakistan and while I was doing a search, I came across a biscuit recipe with cumin seeds... N say what?!? Really they are more like cookies. So... I like cookies... and I like cumin... so why not!!! Since these weren't sweet, they didn't go to well stacked up with the other desserts, but I thought they were OK. The recipe called for 3/4 cups oil, which I thought was excessive, but I wanted to stay true to the recipe. FOR SURE it was too much oil so I modified the recipe to reduce the amount of oil to 1/4 cups. If I was ever in the mood for something not too sweet, I would make these again.

5. Pumpkin Bread Pudding - Next to the Magenbrot, this was one of my favorites!! I looooove bread pudding and have made different kinds in the past, but never one that tasted like this. It was super mushy (just the way I like it) and I filled it with prunes (which everyone things I'm obsessed with) and it was yummy! Of course I decided to be a little decorative and put little piggy and lady bug marzipan pieces on top to freak people out.

6. Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - I told my sister I was going to bring these and she totally thought I was going to buy them. Do I buy food??????? Ingredients maybe, but I for sure I was going to make these babies from scratch. While the process was cumbersome and messy, this was the most popular item and were quickly gobbled by everyone like.... WHOOOOPIEEE!! I recommend everyone try this recipe out!

7. Babka - Babka is a sweet loaf of bread filled with yummy cinnamon chocolate swirls inside. It's not the easiest thing to make, but it was definitely worth it. The recipe calls for chunks of chocolate, but instead I used these chunks of peppermint bars that
I brought back from Switzerland. I'll tell you that these bars were super strong, so it gave the bread an interesting peppermint chocolate flavor. I want to experiment with this bread again and try a new type of filling. Carmel chunks? Peanut Butter? Onion?!?!? We shall see :)

8. Sugar Plums - So around Christmas time, you hear about sugar plums... I mean... there are frickin sugar plum fairies! But what the heck is a sugar plum?!? I had no clue so I looked up a recipe for it. There are a lot of variations, but basically you take chopped fruits and/or nuts, stick them together with honey and you've got yourself some sugar plums! Again, this wasn't a favorite at the Christmas get together, but that worked out because I loved them! They taste like a fruit and nut energy bar, so I would pop in some before I hit the gym as a snack.

Well that's it! There was dessert that I didn't tell anyone about because it was a complete failure and I eventually threw it away after several attempts to save it. Apparently when you are making meringues, you can't use egg white substitutes... oops! I'll remember that for next time. Anyway, I encourage everyone to try at least one of these recipes next Christmas (or any time for that matter) and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas usual... ENJOY!!!


Babka and Sugar Plums

Babka (Sweet bread with chocolate swirls)

  • 1 tsp sugar (for yeast and milk)
  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat free half and half
  • 3 tbsp Splenda-sugar blend (for dough)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour
  • 5 tbsp soften butter
  • 1/4 cup Splenda-sugar blend
  • 5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz of chocolate, finely chopped (I used peppermint chunks instead)
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk and let stand for 5 minutes
  2. In a large bowl, stir in yeast mixture, rest of sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and egg
  3. Slowly add 1 1/3 cup of any flour while mixing and continue to mix to form a dough
  4. Add butter to dough and continue to mix (dough is sticky!)
  5. Place sticky dough on a floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes while adding the rest of the flour 1 tbsp at a time (again it's sticky and messy but adding the flour makes it gradually better)
  6. Place dough in a covered greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours
  7. After dough has doubled in size, punch it down like a domestic violence victim and let rest for 5 minutes
  8. While dough is resting, make the filling by combining and mixing all filling ingredients in a medium bowl
  9. Roll the dough over a floured surface creating a 16x16 inch square
  10. Sprinkle the filling over the dough evenly and roll that puppy up! (Don't worry if filling gets all over the place because the end result will basically be the same!)
  11. Twist the dough as if you are wringing out a towel around 4 times (just make sure it doesn't lose shape)
  12. Squeeze the dough into a 9x5 inch loaf pan by bending the dough to make it fit
  13. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes until it doubles in size
  14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (you know you're almost done when you have to preheat!)
  15. For the streusel, mix the powdered sugar, flour, and softened butter with a fork until it is crumbly
  16. Sprinkle the streusel mix over the dough and bake for 40 minutes
  17. Cool and enjoy!!

  • 2 cups unsalted almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • orange zest (from one medium orange)
  • 1 cup apricots
  • 1 cup prunes
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • powdered sugar
  1. Toast the almonds at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  2. In a medium bowl, mix honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg
  3. Chop almonds and fruit, then add to honey mixture
  4. Mix everything together then roll into golf ball sized balls
  5. Roll each ball in powdered sugar and enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 12 slices of cinnamon bread cut into cubes
  • 1 cup of chopped prunes
  • 1 can of 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 can of fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 can pumpkin (should be around 15 oz)
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish
  3. In a large bowl mix both cans of eva-milk, pumpkin, egg substitute, sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, and salt
  4. Add bread crumbs and prunes and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes
  5. Bake for 45 minutes
Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Mini Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup Splenda-sugar mix
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 can pumpkin (again should be 15 oz)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Cheese WHOOPIE filling
  • 4 oz 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Starting with the mini cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease 4 sheets of parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt
  3. In another bowl, mix butter and sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes
  4. While beating the mixture, slowly add egg substitute
  5. Add pumpkin and vanilla extract to the egg mixture and beat until smooth
  6. Slowly add flour mixture while stirring to create a gooey-ooey batter
  7. Use a teaspoon to collect one scoop of the batter and place it on the parchment paper (this should yield around 72)
  8. Bake the mini cookies for 12 minutes (they look like scones when done)
  9. For the WHOOOOOPIE filling, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl
  10. Gradually add the powdered sugar while beating the mixture at a slow speed
  11. Once the cookies are done baking and cooled, place a small spoonful of whoopie mixture on the flat side of a cookie and place another cookie on top flat side down. (basically looks like a sandwich)
  12. Repeat for all cookies and refrigerate
I will warn you now that making the whoopies is really messy and sticky!