A Time to Pie

Christmas is a  most excellent time to pie, don’t you agree? And yet you want this pie to be special. You want to honor tradition but add your special twist; to meet your guests’ expectations, but not to exhaust yourself. You got it: Not one but  two  utterly divine desserts you can make in advance, jewels from California Cooking and Southern Style, still goin’ strong. And hey, a great last-minute gift idea, particularly as it looks like (Lord help us) we may not be venturing out as much as we thought we were… ORDER HERE.

Happy and safe holidays to you all, and much love, Frances



Brown Sugar Tart
Serves: 8
Brown Sugar Tart, recipe by Chef Stephanie Valentine. Today's is made with walnuts, for a switch from the predictable (but nothing wrong with!) pecans. Use either, or something else, or no nuts at all. And for the curious, at right is our very special Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Cookie Crust and Chocolate Drizzle, on page 66 of California Cooking and Southern Style, by moi.

This delectable tart originated as individual, small brown sugar tarts that were a favorite of my mother’s, who got the recipe from our cousin Alice, an ace hostess.

The original does not contain nuts, and nuts are optional in our version, but we like the bit of texture they add. We also like the unexpected walnuts, but pecans are okay, too. You may also use a regular pie pan if you don’t have one with removable sides.
  1. 1 tart crust, baked at 350°F  for 10 minutes
  2. ½ cup butter, room temperature
  3. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  4. ½ cup white sugar
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 2 eggs, beaten
  7. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  8. 1 tablespoon flour
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown and white sugars, and salt on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in the eggs, and stir in the lemon juice, flour and vanilla.
  3. Spread the walnuts (if using) over the pre-baked crust and pour the filling over.
  4. Bake on a foil-lined tray for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center of the tart is firm when shaken.
  5. Let cool for 10 minutes then remove the sides of the tart pan.
Frances Schultz https://www.francesschultz.com/


Don’t be put off by the length of this recipe. It is just a lot of parts. Fun to make if you have “helpers” and can assign a part to each person.


Pavlova with Chestnut Puree and Toasted Almonds
Serves: 8
Pavlova with Chestnut Puree and Toasted Almonds, recipe by Chef Stephanie Valentine in California Cooking and Southern Style by Frances Schultz

The meringue-and-cream concoction also known as Pavlova is a beloved dessert in all its forms at Rancho la Zaca. Simple and easy to prepare, but most impressive. The chestnut puree, chocolate sauce, and almonds can be made several days in advance. Baked and pureed sweet potatoes may be substituted for the chestnuts.
  1. For the meringue
  2. 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  3. ½ teaspoon salt
  4. 1½ cups sugar
  5. 1½ teaspoons vinegar
  6. ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  8. For the chestnut puree
  9. 2 cups canned or jarred chestnuts
  10. ½ cup sugar
  11. 1 cinnamon stick
  12. Whipped Cream
  13. 2 cups heavy cream
  14. 3 tablespoons of sugar
  15. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  16. For the chocolate Sauce
  17. ½ cup sugar
  18. ½ cup cocoa, preferably “Dutched”
  19. ½ cup honey, agave or corn syrup
  20. ½ cup cream
  21. 2 tablespoons butter
  22. ½ cup semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
  23. For the almonds
  24. 1 cup almonds
  25. 1 teaspoon water
  26. 3 tablespoons sugar
  27. ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. For the Pavlova
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Beat the whites and salt on medium high speed until they are just barely stiff. Start adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and whip until very stiff and glossy. Change from the whisk to the paddle attachment, add the vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch and beat on high speed for 10 minutes, no less!
  4. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, mound the pavlova into a 10-inch circle, or 8 (3½-inch) circles. Place in the oven, immediately turn the temperature to 250degrees. Bake 1½ hours for the large Pavlova or 1 hour 15 minutes for the small. Turn oven off, crack the door open and cool for 1 hour in the oven then remove and cool completely.
  5. For the chestnut puree
  6. While the Pavlova is baking, place the chestnuts into a 2-quart sauce pan with the sugar and cinnamon stick and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chestnuts are very soft. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and puree in a food processor. (Or bake and mash the sweet potatoes, and sweeten with sugar and cinnamon to taste.) Cool completely.
  7. For the chocolate sauce
  8. In a 2-quart saucepan mix the sugar, cocoa, syrup, and cream with ½ cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the butter and chocolate chips.
  9. This will store for several weeks in the refrigerator. Rewarm to serve. Adjust the thickness with additional water as needed.
  10. For the almonds
  11. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  12. In a small bowl stir together the almonds, 1 teaspoon of water, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and chop.
  13. To assemble
  14. Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla together until soft peaks form.
  15. Spread the chestnut puree into the center of the Pavlova, leaving a 1½-inch border. Mound the whipped cream on top, drizzle on chocolate and toasted almonds. Refrigerate if you aren’t serving right away.
  16. Side Note
  17. To Make a Perfect Round Meringue
  18. Use a cake pan to trace a circle on a sheet of parchment paper. You don’t need to cut it out. Dab the corners of the parchment with a bit of meringue mixture to stick it to the sheet tray, so the paper will remain in place as you spoon and spread the meringue onto the circle to bake.
Adapted from Page 148 of California Cooking and Southern Style
Frances Schultz https://www.francesschultz.com/


  1. Great article in VERANDA – The California Issue with beautiful photos. Best to you and His Grace and the kids for Christmas. Lawrie & Ed

  2. Thank you for posting as a GREAT reminder to dig into your wonderful creations for a special dish for Christmas dinner. Gosh, when I reminisce over the fabulous feasts we had while painting; I am going to pretend I am you. My youngest daughter’s birthday is Christmas morning so I want to make it extra special.
    Stephanie, I hope you have a healthy holiday. Know it has been busy in your kitchen with Tom’s pup nipping at your heels. Tell everyone hello!
    Take care.

    Anna Ball

    1. Dearest Anna Ball! Thank you for writing and let us know how it goes! And an extra Happy Birthday to your beautiful Christmas “baby”! Come back to see us soon! Love, Frances and Steph

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