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Dessert Recipes

AJ's Classic Cut-Out Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • India Tree Decorating Sugars & Decortif Sprinkles

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in small bowl and set aside. Combine 1 cup butter, sugar and egg in large bowl. Using an electric mixer beat at medium speed, until fluffy and creamy. Add milk and 1 Tbsp. vanilla, and combine until it is well mixed. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients and blend until well mixed.

Divide dough in thirds, shape into thick round disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until very firm (2 to 3 hours).

Heat oven to 400°F. Take out one dough disk from refrigerator and roll out on lightly floured surface to ⅛ - to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. If you are not frosting the cookies for decoration - sprinkle sugars & decortifs on cookies before baking. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before frosting & decorating.

Some tips for beautiful Cut-Out Cookies:
Roll the dough evenly. A large rolling pin helps keep the pressure even, creating the same thickness throughout the dough.

Flour your work surface generously when rolling out the cookies. This keeps the dough from sticking. Flour the cookie cutters too; just tap off the excess flour before baking.

Keep your dough cool. If you put warm dough into the hot oven, the cookies will lose their shape. Use a spatula to transfer your cookies onto the baking sheet so you don't distort their shape.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. Hot cookies can bend or warp.

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. The Spice Hunter Highland Harvested Saigon Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. The Spice Hunter East/West Indies Nutmeg
  • 3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. The Spice Hunter Australian Crystallized Ginger , chopped (optional)

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. The Spice Hunter Vanilla Extract , plus more to taste

For cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 ¬Ĺ-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with wax paper and lightly grease. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped walnuts, raisins and ginger. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely.

For frosting

Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Place one cake layer on platter. Spread with frosting. Top with other cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake.

Garnish suggestions: walnuts, mint leaves and/or crystallized ginger.

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Vineyard Cobbler

Fruit Mixture
  • 6 cups Grapery grapes
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. tapioca
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1½ tbsp. melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredient except butter, drizzle evenly over top.

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • ½ cup melted butter

Combine first three ingredients till well mixed, add butter and stir until crumbly. Sprinkle over top. Bake until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown about 3o minutes.
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Fruit & Nut Brie Torte

1X: ½-kilo (17.6 oz.) brie   2X: two 1-kilo bries

1X 2X
Bottom Layer:
¼ cup
¼ cup
⅔ cup
⅔ cup
½ cup
½ cup
1 cup
1½ cups
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Honey Mustard
Mixed nuts
Second Layer:
1 cup
¼ cup
¼ cup
½ tsp.
2 cups
½ cup
½ cup
1 tsp.
Dried apricots
Sultanas (golden raisins)
Third Layer:
½ cup
1 Tbsp.
Currant jelly
Half-pints blackberries
Topping & Garnish:
½ cup

¼ cup
1 cup
2 cups

½ cup
2 cups
White chocolate ganache, micro waved for 30 seconds just before use
Mixed shelled pistachios & Craisins
Pint strawberries
Mixed nuts
For a ½-kilo brie, cut a well-chilled ½-kilo brie into thirds using a sharp, narrow-bladed knife that has been heated and oiled. For the two 1-kilo bries, trim the top off of two well-chilled ½-kilo bries and cut each in half using a sharp, narrow-bladed knife that has been heated and oiled. Place brie slices on parchment paper and maintain refrigerated until needed. Make each of the "layer" mixtures and set aside.

Place the bottom of the brie (rind-side-down) on a disposable tray and top with the "Bottom Layer" mixture, making sure to spread it evenly. Place a rind-less brie slice on the filling layer and top with the "Second Layer" mixture, making sure to spread it evenly (it may be necessary to manually arrange the dried apricots. If making the two 1-kilo bries, place the remaining rind-less brie slice on top of the "Second Layer" and top with the "Third Layer" mixture, arranging the blackberries so as to cover the surface evenly.

Place the top slice (rind-side-up) on, carefully pour the hot white chocolate ganache over it and spread so that it drips evenly over the sides. Immediately sprinkle the pistachio-Craisin mixture on top of the wet ganache and pile the strawberries in the center before it hardens. Distribute the mixed nuts around the base of the brie torte, cover and refrigerate until needed. Remove the brie torte from refrigeration and allow it to stand at room temperature for one hour before serving.

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English Garden Madeleines

These European-style hand-dipped and rolled chocolates are superb and make great gifts!

  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. rose water
  • 1 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers ("lavender tea")
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) butter, melted and decanted from its milky water (clarified)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a non-stick madeleine (little shell-shaped muffins) pan with aerosol vegetable oil.

Combine eggs, honey, sugar and lemon zest in a heat-proof bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch the water); whisk until lukewarm (about 2 minutes).

Remove bowl from over the water and pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the whip attachment until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and tripled in volume; about 12 minutes. On low speed, mix in the rose water and dried lavender. Gradually mix in the flour, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Transfer one-third of the batter to a large mixing bowl and gradually fold in the melted butter (avoid using the milky water at the bottom of the melted butter). Gently fold the batter mixture to the remaining batter.

Spoon the batter into the madeleine pan, filling each "shell" cavity almost to the top. Bake in the preheated 400°F oven until the madeleines are "springy" to the touch (it may be necessary to turn the pan halfway through to ensure even baking); about 10 minutes. Hold the pan on its side and gently tap it over a clean work surface and the madeleines should pop off; if necessary, gently pry them off with the tip of a knife. Spray the pan again before repeating the procedure with the remaining batter.

Sprinkle the madeleines with powdered sugar before serving. The madeleines can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Makes about 18 large madeleine

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Ganache for Chocolate Truffles

These European-style hand-dipped and rolled chocolates are superb and make great gifts!

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. semi-sweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. liqueur of choice (Grand Marnier, Chambord, Frangelico, etc.)
  • Chopped nuts, chocolate sprinkles, cocoa, specialty sugars, etc. to roll the truffles in
  • Melted dark coating chocolate to dip some of the truffles in
  • Melted white chocolate in a pastry bag fitted with a fine point to decorate the dipped truffles

Pour heavy cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat just until it comes to a boil. Add chopped chocolate, reduce heat to low, and stir in until melted. When chocolate is melted, remove from heat, add the butter and continue to mix until you have a thick cream chocolate sauce. Mix in the liqueur of choice and pour chocolate ganache onto a plain sheet pan (avoid non-stick pans) and refrigerate 10-15 minutes or until firm.

After the ganache is set, scoop into truffles onto a pan lined with parchment paper, scraping with a small sorbet scoop (numbers 40, 60, 70, or 100, depending on desired size), leveling the scoop on the lip of the pan, and refrigerate 5-10 minutes before continuing the process. Dip in melted chocolate (decorate with the white chocolate after the dark chocolate sets) or roll in various top-pings and refrigerate again before boxing or serving.

Makes 32 Truffles using a #70 scoop

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Chocolate Madeleine Cakes

  • 1½ sticks (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits (plus more to grease pans)
  • 4½ oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into bits
  • ½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 jumbo eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Grease and flour the shell cavities of two Madeleine shell pans (each having eight 2-tbsp.-capacity shells) and preheat oven to 400° F.

In a double boiler set over barely simmering water, melt the butter together with the chocolate; remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa and the flour. Combine the eggs and the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale. Sift ¼ of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently. Pour in ¼ of the chocolate mixture, fold it in gently, and continue adding the flour mixture and the remaining chocolate mixture alternately in the same manner, folding the batter gently after each addition until it is just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared shell cavities leaving a small exposed rim around the shell and mounding the batter slightly at the pointed end. Place both pans in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Invert the cakes carefully onto a rack and let them cool. The Madeleine cakes can be made one day in advance and kept in an airtight container. Sprinkle the cakes with the additional cocoa and confectioner's sugar and rub the mixture in to give the shells a textured appearance.

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Chocolate-Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ lb. semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan set over high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, yolks sugar and vanilla extract together with a wire whisk until smooth. Remove the hot heavy cream (the moment it reaches a boil) from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and stir in quickly until a smooth, thin ganache is formed. Slowly add one-quarter of the ganache to the egg/sugar mixture until blended and eggs are "tempered". Slowly add the remaining ganache and mix well. Mix in the Grand Marnier liqueur.

Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Pour chocolate custard mixture evenly into six ovenproof ½-cup rame-kins. Place filled ramekins in a hot water bath (the water should go three-quarters up the side of the ramekins). Carefully place the water bath pan with the ramekins on a rack in the center of the oven and bake at 325°F. for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick or paring knife placed in the cen-ter of the custard comes out clean and the custard is cooked. Carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water bath and refrigerate for 4 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat broiler. Place chilled ramekins on a baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Slide prepared ramekins under broiler (2-3 inches from the flame or element) until the sugar melts and turns a caramel color. It may be necessary to move the baking sheet around to ensure even broil-ing. Allow the caramel to set, crack it by tapping it with the back of a spoon and serve.

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Dried Cherry and Chocolate Biscotti

Great for informal holiday gatherings, this extra crunchy cookie perfectly complements tea or coffee. Plus, these treats travel and store well.

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unblanched whole almonds
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the almonds and cherries.

In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Mix well. Lightly dust the work surface. Turn the dough onto the surface and knead the dough a couple of times. Shape the dough into a log, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a serrated knife, slice the bread diagonally into ¼-inch slices. Place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for an additional 12-14 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Remove from the oven and cool completely a second time on a wire rack. Dip half of each biscotti in the melted chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate sets.

Makes 4 dozen

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Mexican Meringue Cookies

  • ½ cup Slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Dutch process cocoa Powder
  • 3 tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1½ tsp. Ground cinnamon
  • 4 Large egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. Cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. Pure almond extract
  • 1½ oz. Semisweet or bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Spread almonds in a pie pan and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.

In a food processor, pulse the toasted almonds with ⅓ cup of the sugar until finely chopped. Add cocoa, cornstarch and cinnamon and pulse just until mixed; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on low speed just until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ⅔-cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until the whites form firm, but still moist, peaks. Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat just until blended. In 2 additions, gently fold the reserved cocoa mixture into the beaten whites just until blended.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of the batter, 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets, or pipe the batter through a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain tip. Bake, using both oven racks, for 1 ½ hours, alternating the positions of the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool in the oven for 1 hour, then peel them off the parchment paper.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of almost simmering water or in the microwave. Use a small pastry brush to apply a thin coating of chocolate to the flat side of the meringues. Let the meringues stand, chocolate side up, until the chocolate has set.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

48 Servings

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Calzone

Items Needed for the Calzone:
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ⅔ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
  • 6 (2 oz) pizza dough
  • Egg wash
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • 6 fresh strawberries, sliced for garnish

Items Needed for the Sauce:
  • 8 oz frozen strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

Directions for the Calzone:
Mix the ricotta, mascarpone, egg yolk, sugar and Nutella, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out each piece of pizza dough into a 7-inch round.

Spoon the ricotta mixture in the center of the lower half of each pizza dough. Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash. Fold over the filling, forming half circles. Pinch the edges of dough firmly together to seal. Using a pastry wheel, trim the edges. Transfer the calzone to the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Brush the tops of the calzone with more egg wash and bake until they puff and become golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the calzone to plates and dust with the powdered sugar. Drizzle the strawberry sauce around the calzone. Chocolate sauce can also be drizzled along with the strawberry sauce.

Garnish with fresh strawberry slices and serve.

Directions for the Sauce:
Blend the frozen strawberries and 1 Tbsp. of sugar in a food processor until smooth.

Transfer the strawberry sauce to a small bowl and set aside.

Serves 6

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Chocolate Fondue

Items Needed:

  • 1 cup premium cocoa powder (Valrhona or Scharffen Berger), sifted
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup plus 5 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 5 oz 62% Scharffen Berger (premium semi-sweet chocolate) chopped
  • Chocolate fondue pot
  • Pound cake and fruit such as bananas, apples, strawberries, and plums, cut into bite-sized pieces

Sift the cocoa into mixing bowl and set aside. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup into a pot and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until sugar solution has reduced by about 30%. Pour the cocoa powder into the solution and blend with a whisk until smooth. Return the chocolate mixture to the stove and continue cooking over medium heat. Add heavy cream, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into fondue pot and keep warm.

Serve with bite-sized pieces of cake and fruit for dipping.

Serves 6

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Phyllo Shell with Fresh Fruit & Grand Marnier Sabayon

Items Needed for the Phyllo Shells:
  • 1 Box Phyllo pastry sheets, thawed overnight in the refrigerator (if frozen) If possible, it is always advantageous to buy fresh phyllo in Greek or Middle Eastern markets
  • 6 cups fresh ripe fruits and berries, ready-to-eat and in bite-size pieces
  • 6 mint sprigs, for garnish

Items Needed for the Grand Marnier Sabayon:
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

Directions for the Grand Marnier Sabayon:
In a mixing bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Beat vigorously with a wire whisk until the eggs are pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in the Grand Marnier liqueur. Place the bowl over gently simmering water (water should not touch the bottom of the pan).

Continue whisking until the custard is thick and doubled in volume for 5-8 minutes or just until it holds its shape. It is important that there be no more than about 1-inch of water in the pan. The water is only needed to produce steam. If the water touches the bottom of the bowl, the eggs will curdle. To minimize the change of curdling, periodically remove the bowl from the steam and whisk off to the side to allow the bowl to cool slightly so that is doesn't overheat.

Directions for the Phyllo Shells:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Follow thawing instructions when using frozen phyllo sheets and allow them to come to room temperature for 1 hour before using.

For each shell, take three phyllo sheets, fold each in half and layer (off-set from each other) to shape into shells in each of the six cavities of a ¾-cup size non-stick muffin pan. Use lightly crumpled-up aluminum foil inside the shell to hold the shape of the phyllo shells during baking.

Bake shells at 325°F. for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Allow them to cool, remove the aluminum foil ball from each shell, and carefully remove the phyllo shells from the muffin pan.

Place a small amount of the sabayon in the center of six dessert plates, place the phyllo shells on the sabayon, fill with the fruit and berries, spoon a generous dollop of sabayon over the fruit and garnish with mint sprigs.

Makes 1 gallon

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Viennese Linzer Torte

Items Needed for the Crust:
  • ¼ lb. butter
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup hazelnut flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. rum

Items Needed for the Torte:
  • 2 pints blueberries, rinsed
  • ½ cup raspberry preserves

Directions for the Crust:
Cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Add both flours, cinnamon and baking powder. Mix well and incorporate the rum. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a small round tip.

Directions for the Torte:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Pipe the torte dough in a greased 12-inch diameter tart pan, starting in the center and going out in a spiral, working up the sides of the pan to make a crust. Spread (or pipe) a thin layer of raspberry preserves over batter, cover preserves with layer of blueberries, spread another layer of raspberry jam over blueberries. Pipe the remaining torte batter on top of the filling in a diamond mesh pattern. Bake in 325°F. oven for 30 minutes or until browned on top.

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Zabaglione (Italian Whipped Custard)

For zabaglione:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 pinch salt

In a mixing bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Beat vigorously with a wire whisk until the eggs are pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in the Marsala wine. Place the bowl over gently simmering water (water should not touch the bottom of the pan).

Continue whisking until the custard is thick and doubled in volume for 5-8 minutes or just until it holds its shape. Spoon into stemmed glasses or serve with fresh fruits such as berries, peaches, nectarines, poached pears or Biscotti (or other cookie) for dipping.

NOTE: May also use Cream Sherry, sweet Madeira, sweet sparkling or dessert wines, Bourbon, Rum, Calvados brandy or liqueurs such as Grand Marnier, Galiano, or Frangelico. Citrus juice and zest or spices may also be added along with the wine.

It is important that there be no more than about 1 inch of water in the pan. The water is only needed to produce steam. If the water touches the bottom of the bowl, the eggs will curdle. To minimize the chance of curdling, periodically remove the bowl from the steam and whisk off to the side to allow the bowl to cool slightly so that it doesn't overheat.

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At AJ's
Mint Julep
An American Tradition

Whether you enjoy it on the rocks, in a mint julep or a whiskey sour, visit AJís for the finest Kentucky Bourbons.

Recipe for Mint Julep

Recipe for Muddled Mint Julep

Recipe for Whiskey Sour

AJ's Recipes
Tips for Cooking the perfect Standing Rib Roast from AJ's Butchers.
AJ's Recipes

Cooking with Olives from AJ's Olive Bar
Try these recipes from 4 local chefs featuring olives.

Roasted Tomato and Caastlevatrano Bruchetta
Olive and Garlic Roasted Chicken
Panzanella Salad
Summer Pasta