Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

earl grey caramel slice

The first time I sipped earl grey tea (not sure exactly when, maybe as a preteen?), I thought it was vile. I don’t quite remember why — maybe the unexpected citrus notes, maybe the particular cup I had was brewed way too strong, who knows. All I know is that it turned me off from earl grey for at least a decade.

Well, many years and cups of caffeinated drinks later, I finally gave earl grey another chance and am happy to report a complete change of heart (er, taste?). It’s actually become one of my favorite flavors to infuse into baked goods; it adds such a lovely hint of brightness and sophistication that pairs equally well with either fruit or chocolate.

Infusing earl grey flavor

This recipe is a twist on the classic caramel slice or millionaire’s shortbread, a three-layer bar cookie with a shortbread base, caramel middle, and chocolate topping. Many caramel slice recipes use condensed milk as the basis for the caramel layer; but since I wanted to add the earl grey flavor, here I make a classic caramel with earl grey infused cream. At first I tried infusing both the caramel and chocolate, but the flavor wasn’t as prominent as I wanted. So I ended up nixing the earl grey in the chocolate and adding some tea to the shortbread for the right balance.

When adding tea directly to a baked good as in the shortbread, I prefer using leaves from regular old tea bags (Twinings is my go-to for earl grey). The leaves are small and unobtrusive. But for infusions, I prefer loose leaf. There will naturally be some cream (or butter) that sticks to the tea leaves during straining, but using the larger loose leaf tea seems to minimize the loss. However, if you don’t have both kinds of tea I would opt for tea bags in this recipe — you may just need to top up the cream a bit after the infusion.

earl grey caramel slice slabs

Baker’s Notes:

  • You will need a digital thermometer to make the caramel layer. For candy-making I prefer the clip-on style; I have both a Polder and Thermoworks Dot and both work well. While you want to use a pot large enough to prevent overflow, using one that’s too large can make it difficult to get an accurate reading with the probe. A 2.5L saucepan is my favorite size for this amount of caramel. As always, use caution when working with hot sugar — have all your ingredients scaled out nearby and keep small children and animals out of the kitchen.
  • I use a small amount of corn syrup in both the caramel and chocolate layers. In the caramel, the corn syrup helps prevent crystallization. In the chocolate topping, it adds a little shine. You can omit it if you don’t have it; just increase the sugar in the caramel to 200g. No need to adjust other quantities for chocolate layer.
  • I prefer to let the chocolate layer set completely at room temperature (about 4 hours or overnight) rather than refrigerating it so the caramel won’t be too hard to slice through neatly. If you’re in a rush and need to refrigerate it to set, make sure to let the slab sit at room temp for at least 15 minutes to let the caramel soften a little.
  • Love earl grey in baked goods? Check out the earl grey bundt cake and the earl grey variation of the chocolate caramel tart in my cookbook Baked to Order!

Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

Makes one 9″ x 5″ pan

Ingredients:

For the earl grey shortbread:
  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 35g (1/4 c plus 1 tsp) icing sugar
  • 4g earl grey tea (from 2 regular tea bags)
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 125g (1 c) all-purpose flour
For the earl grey caramel:
  • 160g (2/3 c) heavy cream (35% fat), plus more if needed
  • 8g earl grey tea (1 3/4 Tbsp loose leaf, or about 4 regular tea bags)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 180g (1 c minus 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 20g (1 Tbsp) corn syrup
  • 60g (1/4 c) water
  • 42g (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the chocolate topping:
  • 75g (3/4 c) good-quality dark chocolate (~50-60%), chopped
  • 50g (3 1/2 Tbsp) butter
  • 7g (1 tsp) corn syrup

Method:

Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat your oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan or 9×4 pullman pan and line with two pieces of criss-crossed parchment. Ensure all sides of the pan are lined and leave at least 2-inches of overhang on the long sides to ensure easy removal. Lightly grease the parchment.

Make the earl grey shortbread: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, icing sugar, tea, salt, and orange zest. Beat on low to combine, then raise the speed to medium and beat until smooth and combined, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl a couple times during this process. Add the flour and mix on low just until combined and no streaks of flour remain. Scatter the dough evenly into the prepared pan and use your fingers or a small glass to press the crust firmly and evenly across the bottom. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Chill until just firm, about 10 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Bake the shortbread until lightly golden and set, about 25-30 min. Cool on a wire rack while you prepare the caramel layer.

Make the earl grey caramel: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until steaming. Stir in the tea, remove from the heat, and cover. Let cream infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the cream to remove the tea, pressing on the tea to extract as much cream as possible. Measure 130g of cream back into the small saucepan (add additional cream if necessary to reach the correct amount). Stir in the salt and vanilla. Place back over medium heat and bring back to a bare simmer, then turn off the heat, cover, and keep warm while you prepare the rest of the caramel.

In a medium (I used a 2.5L) heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Place over medium heat and stir with a fork to ensure the sugar is evenly moistened. Once the mixture starts to bubble, stop stirring. Place the lid on the pot and let boil, covered, for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, remove the lid and continue boiling until the mixture turns the color of a copper penny. Once the caramel reaches this color, remove the pan from the heat. Slowly pour in about a third of the cream mixture, stirring constantly. Take care as the mixture will bubble up! Once the first portion of cream is smoothly incorporated, slowly drizzle in the remaining cream followed by the butter, stirring constantly the entire time. Once the caramel is smooth, clip on a digital thermometer and return the pot to medium heat. Cook the caramel, stirring and scraping the pot frequently, until it reaches 250F. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the shortbread. Do not scrape the pot; those bits of caramel tend to overcook and may leave hard bits in your squares. Let caramel cool completely before preparing the chocolate layer — about 4 hours at room temperature or 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Prepare the chocolate layer: Combine the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 20-second bursts, stirring well between bursts, until 80% melted; then continue stirring until completely melted and smooth. Pour over the set caramel, tilting the pan to spread the chocolate in an even layer. Let set at room temperature, about 4 hours. (You can speed this along and refrigerate for about an hour, but let stand at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before cutting.)

Slice the bars: Once the chocolate has set, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut into desired sizes. For the cleanest slices, heat the blade and clean after each cut. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage; bring to room temperature before eating.

Six years of blogging, and a madeleine recipe

citrus and honey madeleines
Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

We will get to madeleines, I promise. But first, please humor me for a trip down memory lane. Six years ago, I bought the cooktildelicious.com domain and published my first recipe blog post. This blog is older than all my children, and has certainly lived longer than any of my previous blogs (which date back to the days of Geocities and LiveJournal; am I dating myself?). Historically I haven’t done much to celebrate blog birthdays. It’s right on the heels of the holidays and we’re usually unpacking from trips and resetting from vacation eating. But after a quiet staycation with a few extra days to just sit and reflect/navel gaze/catch up on cheesy holiday rom-coms, I spent a few moments gathering my thoughts on what this little corner of the web has meant for me.

The face of this blog hasn’t changed a whole lot since its inception. No redesigns, no fancy recipe plugins. (I would love to give it a refresh but there are many items in my house higher on the “need to clean” priority list.) I don’t have an editorial calendar for posts, though I have a running list of recipe ideas and the occasional scheduled sponsored post/partnership. The scope of this blog has shifted slightly — as the name suggests, I originally intended to post more cooking/savory recipes. But baking quickly took over, and this blog became a love letter to that.

Blogging in this space has changed my life. It’s provided opportunities to connect with and learn from bakers around the world. Without this blog there would be no book. Most importantly, though, it’s reminded me of the importance and joy of learning and cultivating a creative hobby.

We live in a strange time when, at least here in North America, it’s hard to resist turning a hobby into a side hustle. The moment we show some skill at baking/photography/basketweaving/insert-creative-venture-here, the voices — internal and external — start suggesting, “You should sell that.”

But there’s also nothing wrong with just letting a hobby be a hobby, with making things simply for the joy of making them, with learning new skills just to learn. There’s nothing wrong with making and decorating a cake just because you want to eat cake on a Tuesday, and decorating makes you happy. You don’t have to make a profit to legitimize your passion.

This doesn’t you shouldn’t earn money from a hobby or that you should work for free “just because you do this for fun.” Absolutely not! But making the switch from hobby to business shouldn’t be done lightly. If you run a business, you’ll have less time to devote to creative projects that actually interest you because it’s hard work and time-consuming to run a business!

Occasionally I’ve wondered if I should “take this thing to the next level” but a quick reality check always confirms that I’m right where I’m happiest right now, chasing kiddos and baking for fun. And if I have a little time at the end of the day — lucky me, here’s this place write about it and share with you.

I know I am extremely blessed that I’m able to spend time on this blog and pursue baking as a hobby. Time, energy, health, and finances are all privileges I recognize daily; and I’m especially grateful for a husband who provides honest, level-headed perspective when I’m tempted to take on more than I should.

I’m not sure where baking and blogging will take me next, but I hope to continue curating this space for years to come. As my children get older I’m even more invested in trying to preserve recipes and create food memories (the original impetus behind starting this blog). I’m grateful to all of you who have read and tried recipes here — your feedback has made me a better baker and writer. Thank you for spending time with me.

Citrus and honey madeleines: simple is best

madeleines tea

If you made it this far: congrats, your reward is a madeleine recipe! Last year the lovely people over at USA Pan kindly gifted me a madeleine pan, something I’d been keen on adding to my bakeware collection. Madeleines are essentially mini cakes, delightfully light but buttery and perfect with tea. I hadn’t actually eaten many madeleines before last year, but had often admired their iconic shape: shell-like on one side, and humped on the other. Receiving the pan was just the excuse I needed to nerd out on madeleines. I spent a few weekends reading and analyzing dozens of madeleine recipes and baking off different batches to compare methods. I tried flavors like brown butter, apple cider, jasmine, and espresso; I glazed and didn’t glaze.

Many madeleines and sticks of butter later, I’ve concluded that I like unglazed, classic citrus and honey madeleines the best. I also think madeleines are ideally enjoyed about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven: at this point they’re still just a little warm and the contrast between the crisp, shell-like side and soft, buttery interior is most pronounced. “Fancy” flavors often don’t fully develop until a baked good is completely cooled; so with madeleines I just keep it simple.

Madeleine recipe ratios and mixing methods

Above: I tried coffee, apple cider, and brown butter madeleines but in the end I kept going back to a simple citrus flavor.

In terms of ratios, madeleine recipes are pretty similar across the board: roughly equal parts melted butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. The batter is usually mixed using either the classic genoise technique (whisking eggs and sugar until tripled/ribbon stage, then folding in flour and butter) or by simply whisking all the ingredients together.

While the genoise method does yield airier madeleines, I don’t think the difference is good enough to warrant the more finicky technique. I did find that briefly warming the eggs and sugar over a bain-marie (pot of simmering water) helped create a beautifully glossy emulsified batter with minimal mixing, so I recommend that extra step.

The coveted madeleine hump

madeleine humps

One of the endearing characteristics of a madeleine is the hump. It’s just aesthetics, and non-humped madeleines are just as tasty. But if you’re going to make madeleines you might as well shoot for the ideal shape! The main trick to getting a voluptuous hump is temperature: specifically, cold pan and cold batter + hot oven. I recommend chilling your batter and pan overnight for best results. I also found baking madeleines in the top third of my oven produced the most pronounced humps.

Using just the right amount of batter per well is also key to a good hump. You need enough batter so that when the cake rises there will be enough batter to produce the hump; but not so much that it will overflow the well. Madeleine pans come in all shapes and sizes so it may take a couple tests to figure out the ideal amount for yours.

Baker’s Notes:

  • I consulted many madeleine recipes while working on this one — notably recipes by David Lebovitz, Stephanie Duong, Dominique Ansel, Daniel Boulud, and Baking Like a Chef.
  • I place the madeleine pan on a preheated sheet pan to make it easier to rotate during baking.
  • Pure citrus oil is one of my secret weapons for getting a punchy citrus flavor into baked goods — a little goes a long way. I use Boyajian lemon oil and orange oil most often.
  • You can store the madeleine batter in the fridge for a couple of days and bake them off in batches. Re-butter and chill the pan between batches (15-20 minutes in the freezer is sufficient).

Citrus & Honey Madeleines

Makes about 16 medium madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
  • 100g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 100g (about 2 large) eggs, at room temperature
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 20g honey
  • 1/8 tsp lemon or orange oil (optional)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job. Once melted, measure out 100g for the batter and add the citrus zest. Transfer the remaining butter to a small bowl and refrigerate to solidify slightly while you finish preparing the rest of the batter (you will use this extra butter to brush the madeleine pan).
  2. Set up a bain-marie and prep dry ingredients: Fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly.
  3. Warm the eggs and sugar: Once the water is at a gentle simmer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and honey in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water) and whisk over the heat constantly for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and just slightly warmed, about 95F. Turn off the heat and remove the bowl.
  4. Mix the madeleine batter: Sift the dry ingredients into the egg-sugar mixture in two additions, using a whisk to gently but thoroughly combine. Add the butter-zest mixture in three additions, whisking gently to fully combine after each addition. Whisk in the citrus oil, if using. The batter should be shiny and smooth, with no visible streaks of flour or butter. Use a flexible spatula to fold the batter several times to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
  5. Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or press a piece of plastic wrap against the batter). Refrigerate at least four hours, or up to 2 days.
  6. Prepare the madeleine pan: Use the reserved softened butter to brush each well of the madeleine tin. Freeze until ready to bake the madeleines.
  7. Preheat the oven and fill the molds: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the upper third. Place a large baking sheet on the rack while the oven is preheating.
  8. When the oven is ready, remove the prepared madeleine pan from the freezer. Fill each well about 3/4 full (24-25 grams in my madeleine pan). Don’t spread the batter to the edges; it will spread on its own in the oven.
  9. Bake the madeleines: Place the filled pan on the preheated sheet pan and immediately turn down the oven temperature to 400F. Bake until the madeleines are well risen and firm and the edges are golden, about 11-12 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a couple minutes, then gently pry madeleines out of the tin. Madeleines are absolutely best enjoyed while still warm, about 5-10 minutes after baking; but leftovers will keep in an airtight containers for a couple of days.

Sourdough Enriched Cruffins

sourdough enriched cruffins
Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

I don’t remember when I first laid eyes on a cruffin, but it was intrigue at first sight. Tall, sugared, flaky pastries often filled and garnished to the max, cruffins are a feast for the eyes and Instagram feeds. These laminated darlings are relatively young in the pastry world (they were invented by the famed by Kate Reid of Lune Croissanterie in 2013), but since then have been popularized by bakeries such as Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and Supermoon Bakehouse.

Not many bakeries in my area actually sell cruffins, so I challenged myself to learn how to make them. After a couple years of experimenting with cruffins, I am so excited to finally share this recipe with you, along with a lot of tips learned along the way!

sourdough enriched cruffins

What is a cruffin?

Cruffins are croissants shaped liked muffins (“Cr” = croissant + “uffin” = muffin). That is all. Many people have devised interesting methods for making cruffins using pasta machines, puff pastry, etc.; but for this recipe we’ll just be making good old-fashioned croissant dough and baking it in a muffin (or popover) tin.

I’m just focusing on the cruffin pastry base here, but you can go wild with customizing your cruffins! Start by tossing them in a spiced or flavored sugar. If you’re feeling ambitious, go crazy and fill your cruffins with jam/curd/pastry cream. Finish them with a glaze or garnish for extra flair. You could even run in the opposite direction with a savory cruffin — sprinkle a spice blend on the pastry strips before shaping or fill with a savory whipped cheese. Mmmm…

Cruffin tins and sizing

baked cruffins in tin

To achieve the tall, sleek bakery-style cruffin shape, you will need a jumbo muffin or popover tin. My favorite is the Nordicware Grand Popover tin — judging from the videos I could find online, this seems to be the choice tin of several cruffin-making professional bakeries as well. Each of the six wells measures 2.5″ on top, 2.5″ tall and 2.25″ along the bottom. This creates a beautiful, tall cruffin with a stable base.

For the Nordicware tin, I used ~75g dough per well to get the shape I wanted. If you want more of a dramatic “muffin top” you could try increasing the amount of dough per well by 20-25%. However, I liked this more demure size — each pastry feels substantial without being too much of a sugar bomb. Because I only have one Nordicware tin, I like to divide the dough in half and make 6 cruffins at a time. Croissant dough keeps well in the freezer for a couple of weeks, so I like to maximize my time and make a full batch of dough each time I plan to laminate.

If you don’t have or want to invest in a popover tin, you can bake this recipe using a standard muffin tin — no need to adjust the dough amounts. Your cruffins will just be a little shorter and have more of a muffin top. If baking in a muffin tin, you can bake 12 cruffins at once (the whole batch of dough), if desired.

Note: I also tested baking cruffins in this Chicago Metallic Mini Popover Tin. This worked too; but due to the smaller size and tapered shape of each well, I recommend only using ~60g dough per cruffin (i.e. make 8 cruffins per half-batch of dough instead of 6). If you overfill these tins, the tops of the cruffins may fuse into each other and the finished pastries may be too top-heavy to stand on their own (don’t ask me how I know). Other popular cruffin tins include the Wilton jumbo muffin tins and individual tart rings.

Note that the dimensions listed in the recipe work for the Nordicware tin or a plain muffin tin. For different-sized tins, you may need to adjust the roll-out dimensions and dough quantities.

Shaping the cruffins

Figuring out how to shape cruffins is where I had to do the most experimenting. Over the past couple of years I’ve searched across the interwebs for cruffin shaping tutorials. Unlike croissants, no “classical” shaping technique really exists. Many bakeries simply roll up the dough and cut into thick cinnamon roll-style shapes, sort of like extra-tall morning buns without the butter-sugar spread. However, I was intrigued by this rose shaped method from Supermoon Bakehouse and wanted to emulate that.

Warning: this shaping is a little tricky! I recommend looking at the photos and watching the video above a few times to familiarize yourself with the process. Try to roll the strips up tightly so the cruffin tops don’t pop too much in the oven, and make sure to tuck all three loose ends underneath. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries — it took me a couple batches before I turned out a respectable cruffin!

The sourdough-enriched dough and suggested baking schedule

This cruffin recipe uses a straightforward croissant dough (formula adapted from Adam Pagor). I like adding some active, ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter to the dough for the additional flavor and complexity. There’s still a decent amount of instant yeast, though, so the pastries rise reliably and not too slowly. See baker’s notes if you want to omit the sourdough. You can also use this versatile dough to make croissants, pain au chocolat, or any other laminated pastry.

For best results, I recommend making the cruffins over three days (make sure your starter has been fed and is scheduled to peak around the time you plan to mix the dough):

  • Day 1, evening (right before bed): Mix the croissant dough and chill overnight
  • Day 2, morning: Make the butter block, freeze the dough briefly, then laminated the dough (3 single turns). Freeze dough right after final turn.
  • Day 2, evening (right before bed): Transfer dough back to refrigerator to thaw overnight.
  • Day 3, morning: Assemble, proof, and bake cruffins

If you’re in a rush, you could condense the process into two days. Refrigerate the pastry for 90 minutes after the final turn, then proceed with assembling, shaping, and baking. However, freezing the pastry and letting it slowly thaw overnight makes the final roll out easier (the dough is more relaxed), resulting in pastries with better definition and layering. (Note: Thanks to Brock aka Tuscan Baker and Adam Pagor aka Season Adam for their many pro lamination tips via Instagram!)

Baker’s notes:

  • If you are new to laminated doughs, please refer to my previous laminated dough posts for lots of tips on lamination (morning buns, grape ricotta danishes). Although the dough recipe and butter lock-in method differs slightly here, the same general principles apply.
  • If you want to make cruffins with just yeast and no sourdough starter, omit the starter and increase the bread flour to 423g, water to 135g, and instant yeast to 10g. Method remains the same; the pastries will probably take closer to 2 hours to proof rather than 3.
  • Don’t be afraid to flip the dough as you are rolling it out each time — this helps keep it from sticking and ensures the whole sheet of pastry is an even thickness. Just make sure to orient the pastry correctly (with the opening on the right) before making your folds.
cruffin crumb shot

Sourdough Enriched Cruffins

Makes ~1kg dough (enough for 12 medium-sized cruffins) | Croissant dough formula adapted from Adam Pagor

Ingredients:

For the laminated dough:

  • 381g bread flour
  • 93g water, cold
  • 135g whole milk, cold
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 6g (2 tsp) instant yeast
  • 10g kosher or fine sea salt
  • 85g fully active, ripe sourdough starter
  • 250g European-style (at least 82% fat) unsalted butter, cold (for the butter block)

To finish:

  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix and chill the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine all dough ingredients except the butter. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until all ingredients are well combined but the dough is only moderately developed. (We’re not looking for a completely smooth dough or windowpane — if you develop the dough too much at this point, it will be more difficult to roll out later.) Flatten dough into a roughly 1-inch thick square, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (or up to 12).
  2. Make the butter block: About 30 minutes before you want to begin the lamination process, take the butter for the butter block out of the fridge. Slice into even pieces (or, if your butter comes in 250g blocks you can just leave it whole) and pound into an even 7-inch square using a rolling pin. An easy way to do this is to draw a 7-inch square on a piece of parchment, flip it over (so you don’t get marker or pencil into your butter), put the butter inside the square, and place another piece of parchment over it. Pound and roll the butter until it is an even square of butter, using the marks as a guide. Use a bench scraper to clean up and sharpen the edges and corners as you go. Place the dough back into the fridge to firm up for about 10 to 15 minutes before beginning lamination.
  3. Freeze the dough: While the butter is chilling, remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 7″ x 14″ rectangle. Brush any excess flour from the dough and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover with plastic and freeze for 10-15 minutes, or until the butter is the right temperature and consistency for laminating.
  4. Laminate the dough: Check that the butter block is ready for laminating. It should be cool to the touch but pliable, able to bend without breaking (about 55-60F). Remove the dough from the freezer. Place the butter on the bottom half of the dough. Fold the top half of the dough over the bottom half, sandwiching the butter in between. Pinch the edges of the dough around the butter to seal it in.
  5. Turn the dough so the opening is on the right. Roll the dough into an 8 x 24–inch rectangle, flouring the dough and rolling pin as necessary. You shouldn’t need too much flour, but use as much as you need so nothing sticks. (Just brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush before folding.) Do a single book fold by folding the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up over the middle, using a bit of water to “glue” down the layers. Before folding the top edge down, trim the edge to expose the butter (you can save the scraps and bake them off in a mini loaf pan at the end!). Give the dough a 90-degree clockwise turn so the opening is on the right, cover with plastic, and rest the dough in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Do two more book folds following the step above, chilling the dough 20 to 30 minutes after the second fold. After completing the third and final fold, you can cut the dough in half crosswise, if you plan on just making 6 cruffins; or keep it whole if you plan on making a full batch. Either way, wrap dough well in plastic wrap and and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using. (Dough will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.)
  7. Roll out and cut the pastry: When you are ready to assemble and bake the cruffins, lightly grease each well of a 6-cup cruffin/large popover tin or a regular muffin tin. Transfer the dough from the fridge to a lightly floured surface, orienting it so the opening is on the right. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes so the butter is pliable. Roll the dough into a rectangle just over 9″ x 12″ (half-batch) or 9″ x 24″ (full-batch), about 3/16″ thick. Trim the edges so you are left with a neat 9″ x 12″ or 9″ x 24″ (full-batch) rectangle. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough lengthwise into nine 1-inch strips. Cut each strip in half (for a half-batch) or quarters (full-batch) crosswise. You should end up with 18 (half-batch) or 36 (full-batch) strips, each 1 x 6 inches and approximately 25g each. Transfer the strips to a sheet tray (it’s fine to stack them), cover, and refrigerate for 10 minutes before shaping.
  8. Shape the cruffins: To shape a cruffin, place a strip of pastry on your work surface with the short end facing you. Stack two more strips of pastry on top, offsetting each by about one inch from the strip below it. Starting from the short end furthest from you, tightly roll the strips up towards you like a jelly roll. Turn the roll spiral side up. Use the pinky edges of your hands to “spin” the spiral to tighten the shape, then tuck the three loose tails of pastry underneath so the cruffin will not unravel. Place spiral side up into the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining strips of pastry. (Note: refer to video and photos above for more insight into shaping process.)
  9. Proof the cruffins: Cover the shaped cruffins with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof until the pastries have roughly doubled in size and the layers are clearly visible, about 2 to 3 hours at warm room temperature, 78 to 80F. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.
  10. Bake the cruffins: Bake cruffins for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375F and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the tops are evenly golden and the centers register at least 200F. (If they are browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil halfway through baking.) While the cruffins are baking, whisk together the granulated sugar and cinnamon (if using) in a small, wide bowl.
  11. Cool cruffins in the pan for about 2 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and roll each in cinnamon sugar. If you wish to fill the cruffins with something like jam/curd/pastry cream, wait until they’ve cooled completely. Use a paring knife to make a hole on top of each cruffin, then transfer filling to a piping bag and fill as desired. Cruffins are best consumed the day they’re baked, but any extras can be stored in an airtight container and reheated for about 5 minutes at 325F the next day or two.

Bye 2020

top 9 instagram rushyama

No one is trying to hang on to 2020 any longer than is absolutely necessary. But even at the end of this strange, strange year I wanted to take a moment to remember a few bright spots. More than ever this year, I got messages, comments, and emails about how recipes on this site helped you to pass time, to find comfort, to learn a new skill. As a food blogger I can’t ask for anything more, so thank you for making this little hobby of mine even more rewarding through your kind words and recipe remakes. See you in 2021!


I wrote a cookbook!

baked to order

I didn’t publish any recipes on the blog until April because I was fully immersed in finishing my cookbook, Baked to Order: 60 Sweet and Savory Recipes with Variations for Every Craving. Writing a cookbook was an opportunity I never imagined would come my way, but I’m forever grateful it did. It connected me with a wonderful photographer, Diana Muresan; and many of you helped test the recipes to ensure they would work in kitchens other than my own.

While it was a notoriously challenging year to release a book (ingredient shortages, printing and mailing delays, no in-person events or book signings), I smile every time I see Baked to Order in another kitchen somewhere in the world. Thank you for supporting me by supporting Baked to Order — I am truly humbled by your kindness, and I look forward to seeing more of your bakes from it in the new year.


Sourdough Recipes

Remember when flour and yeast was scarce and everyone made a sourdough starter? Yeah, me neither. But while the intense sourdough craze of spring 2020 has cooled, your love for sourdough hasn’t. My sourdough discard post was the most popular page on the blog in 2020, and I published a few new sourdough recipes this year:


So! Many! Cookies!

Cookies were my ideal 2020 baked good: perfect for socially-distanced drop-offs and easy to freeze for later. I published more cookie recipes this year than ever before, because I made more cookies this year than ever before!


Small Batch Recipes

This year, we all looked for ways to celebrate in scaled-down fashion. I absolutely cannot wait for the day I can make and share a big old layer cake with my friends, but will enjoy these small-batch treats for years to come.

Spiced eggnog sourdough cinnamon rolls

spiced eggnog cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls will always and forever be my special breakfast of choice. I love everything about them, from the mixing and shaping to the frosting and devouring. This is a very slightly adapted version of the sourdough cinnamon rolls in my book, Baked to Order. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for a few years now, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see photos of them in your kitchens.

My favorite feature of Baked to Order is the multiple suggested variations for each recipe. This dough is a prime example. It’s been the base for both sweet and savory loaves, wreaths, swirls, buns, you name it. If something works, find a way to make it work even harder for you, I say! I love trying out different sweeteners, liquids, fillings, and frostings — so many possibilities!

I’m always looking for ways to use up our annual carton of eggnog, so for this variation I’ve snuck eggnog into both the dough and glaze. Dark brown sugar, a touch of molasses, and a punchy spice mix add to the festivities. Eggnog for me is all about the nutmeg (I love love love freshly grated nutmeg; fresh really does make a difference here); so if you’re a nutmeg junkie like me, grate a little extra over the top of the glazed rolls for maximum holiday vibes. Or be like my kids and go the sprinkle route. 🙂

Wishing you a safe, healthy, and joyful holiday season!

spiced eggnog sourdough cinnamon rolls
A few notes:
  • If you want to have these rolls ready for Christmas morning, I suggest the building your stiff levain the evening of December 23rd, mixing the dough and doing the 2-hour room temp proof on the morning of December 24th and shaping the rolls right before going to sleep that night. Leave them out on the counter to proof overnight. Then preheat the oven and bake first thing when you get up Christmas morning. Note that you need a ripe, active 100% hydration starter to build the levain, so make sure your starter is nice and happy by giving it a feeding or two beforehand.
  • If you don’t have einkorn/spelt/whole wheat flour, you can omit it and increase both the bread and all-purpose flours to 142g (284g total) in the final dough ingredients.
  • If you don’t have eggnog, replace it with 100g whole milk and use milk (or cream or coffee….mmmm) for the glaze. I’ve also included my go-to cream cheese frosting for these buns if you prefer that route!
  • If you’re new to enriched sourdough breads, please read my tips here before starting! Cliff’s notes: make sure to knead your dough until it’s very strong and smooth (this will take awhile with a stand mixer) and not to rush the proofing — this will give you the softest, fluffiest, “shreddiest” rolls!
  • If you don’t plan to eat all the rolls right away, store unglazed/unfrosted rolls in a sealed plastic bag. They keep well for several days — just heat individually for about 15-20 seconds in the microwave to refresh.

Spiced Eggnog Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 9 rolls | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:

  • 18g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour

For the final dough:

  • 125 g bread flour
  • 125 g all-purpose flour
  • 34 g einkorn, spelt, or whole wheat flour
  • 35g dark brown sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 20g molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 100g eggnog, cold
  • 80g heavy cream, cold
  • All the levain
  • 7g kosher salt
  • 45g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the spiced filling:

  • 57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of kosher salt

For the spiced eggnog glaze:

  • 90g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ~1 Tbsp eggnog

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 90g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 56g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 68 g icing sugar

Method:

  1. Make the levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed, about 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Autolyse and mix the final dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together flours, sugar, milk powder, egg, molasses, eggnog, cream, and levain until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and knead on medium-low speed until the gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter about 1 tbsp at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up to medium-low and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test, about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled container.
  4. Bulk fermentation: Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Stretch and fold the dough, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.
  5. Shape and proof the rolls: When ready to shape, in a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, spices, and salt to form a spreadable paste. Lightly grease a 9 x 9–inch (23 x 23–cm) baking pan or a 9- or 10-inch (23- or 25-cm) round cake pan (preferably aluminum).
  6. Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
  7. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Turn the roll so the seam side is down.
  8. Cut into nine even pieces using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss (my preferred method).
  9. Transfer the rolls, cut side up, to the prepared pan, leaving space between each (they will grow into each other during proofing).
  10. Cover the rolls with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature, about 74-76F, until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled, about 8 hours or overnight.
  11. Preheat the oven and bake the rolls: About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake until the rolls are lightly golden and register 195 – 200F in the center, about 20 minutes. (Tent with foil partway through baking if browning too quickly.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze or frosting.
  12. Prepare the spiced eggnog glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and spices. Whisk in the eggnog a teaspoon time until you get a thick glaze that drizzles easily off the whisk (I used the full 1 Tbsp). Drizzle glaze over the rolls and serve immediately.
  13. Prepare the cream cheese frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack before spreading with frosting (or for an extra gooey situation, spread a thin layer on while they’re still quite warm then spread more on after they’ve cooled down). Serve immediately.
cinnamon roll on plate

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies! (Plus a Christmas confetti cookie recipe)

We spent the past weekend packing up white bakery boxes filled with sweet treats. Dropping boxes off on doorsteps, ringing the doorbell, and waving enthusiastically from the car when the recipients opened the door — it was heartwarming to continue a holiday tradition with a 2020 twist.

We gift about two dozen of these boxes each year, so I’m always looking for simple, non-time-intensive ways to add sparkle, texture, and color to our treat selection. Christmas confetti cookies fit the job perfectly — they’re a humble sugar/snickerdoodle at heart, but are loaded with festive flair (aka sprinkles). I make sure to whip up an extra batch of this dough because my family can’t get enough of these cookies — they’re just so good! (I’ve included a list of all the other treats we included at the bottom of this post, with recipe links where available.)

A couple other tidbits:
Tips for baking Christmas confetti cookies:
  • You can prep Christmas confetti cookie dough in advance and refrigerate it for up to 5 days (or freeze for longer storage). I like to bring the dough out to room temperature while the oven is preheating, then roll in sugar right before baking.
  • I like to use jimmies, or the long rod-shaped sprinkles, in this recipe. The color doesn’t bleed, unlike non-pareils and other sprinkle shapes. Feel free to sub in rainbow jimmies for non-holiday-themed confetti cookies!

Christmas Confetti Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 175g all-purpose flour
  • 50g red and green sprinkles (I use jimmies — the rod-shaped kind)

To finish:

  • 40g granulated sugar

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.
  2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the flour. Mix just until a few streaks of flour remain, then add the sprinkles. Use a flexible spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. Cover and chill until firm but still scoopable, about 45 minutes.
  4. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Portion the dough into twelve ping-pong sized balls, about 45 grams (3 tbsp) each. Toss each in granulated sugar, coating completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6 cm) apart.
  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and pale, about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
treat boxes

Other treats included in our boxes:

Honey and Sea Salt Marshmallows

honey sea salt marshmallows

One of my favorite parts of December is turning the kitchen into a mini candy-making factory. I love giving edible treat boxes out for the holidays; and while there’s no love lost for cookies, Christmas candies are what truly excite me. Caramels, brittle, toffee, nougat, marshmallows — I love making them all.

Marshmallows might be the ultimate form of kitchen magic. You start with granulated sugar, corn syrup or honey, water, and gelatin; and somehow you end up with fluffy edible clouds that delight people of any age. You can get super creative with marshmallow flavors, though since I just make mallows a couple times a year (once in the summer for s’mores, and once around Christmas) I normally stick to either vanilla or peppermint.

This year, though, I decided to branch out and make some honey and sea salt marshmallows; and they are lovely! The honey flavor sings loud and clear, since there’s not many other ingredients to distract. I add a generous pinch of sea salt to round out the experience — not enough to make the marshmallows salty by any means, but just to give the slightest savory hint. Next time I may go truly wild and use some brewed chai to bloom the gelatin!

marshmallows closeup

Here are a few tips for marshmallow success:

  • Read the recipe through completely a couple times before starting. Marshmallows aren’t difficult to make, but they do require close attention to temperatures and working with hot syrups. Syrups wait for no one and once you hit the right temperatures you need to move on quickly to the next step. Measure everything ahead of time and prep all your equipment. This is a project best done without small children or animals underfoot.
  • Use a digital probe thermometer for gauging temperatures. I have both a Thermoworks DOT thermometer and Polder digital probe thermometer; both work beautifully (note: these are affiliate links). Make sure that the tip of the probe is fully immersed in the syrup but not hitting the bottom of your pot to ensure accurate readings.
  • Most marshmallow recipes are pretty similar in terms of ingredients. The biggest differences you’ll notice are in the temperature for cooking the sugar syrup — I’ve seen everything from 225F to 250F. I’ve been using this method from Bravetart for years (first from her sadly archived blog and then her cookbook). Though cooling the syrup may seem like an extra step, it’s safer than pouring boiling hot syrups into a mixer. Plus it ensures that the setting power of the gelatin won’t be compromised through overheating.
  • Honey foams quite a bit when boiling, so make sure you use a pot that’s at least 3.5L to avoid overflows and sadness. I recommend using a mild honey such as clover since stronger varieties can be overwhelming in this amount. You can also replace part or all of the honey with light corn syrup (by weight) for a subtler flavor or for plain vanilla marshmallows.
  • The small amount of butter is optional — it adds a little extra flavor and tenderness.
  • While you want to whip the mixture sufficiently so your mallows are nice and fluffy, don’t whip too long or the mixture will start setting in the bowl. This makes an already sticky process even messier, plus you end up losing more marshmallow than necessary to the bowl and beater. I like to pan the mixture when it’s fluffy but still sliiiightly warm and a little fluid. A greased flexible bowl scraper is by far my favorite tool for scraping the marshmallow out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.

Honey and Sea Salt Marshmallows

Makes about thirty-six 1 1/2″ marshmallows | Adapted from Bravetart

Ingredients:

For the marshmallows:
  • 21g (3 Tbsp) powdered gelatin
  • 115g (1/2 c) cold water, for blooming gelatin
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 115g (1/2 c) water, for the sugar-honey syrup
  • 140g (1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp) good-quality, mild honey
  • 340g (1 3/4 c) granulated sugar
  • 5g (3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted (optional)
To finish:
  • 30g cornstarch
  • 30g icing sugar

Method:

  1. Prepare the pan: Lightly grease an 8×8 square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Bloom the gelatin: In a small, wide bowl, mix the gelatin with 115g (1/2 c) cool water and the vanilla extract. Stir to combine, making sure all the gelatin is saturated. Leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar-honey syrup.
  3. Cook the sugar syrup: In a 3.5 or 4 L heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 115g (1/2 c) water, honey, sugar, and sea salt. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heat-proof spatula or fork until the mixture starts bubbling, then stop stirring (stirring a boiling sugar syrup can encourage crystallization). Clip on a digital thermometer and continue cooking the syrup until it reaches 245-250F.
  4. Cool the syrup: Once the syrup reaches temperature, pour the syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer, using a flexible, heat-resistant spatula to scrape the pot. Let the syrup cool until it registers 212F, about 5-6 minutes.
  5. Whip the marshmallow: Once the syrup has cooled to 212F, scrape the bloomed gelatin into the bowl. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium low until the gelatin has melted, then increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until the mixture is fluffy, thick, and roughly tripled in volume, about 8-10 minutes. The bowl should be slightly warm to the touch. If adding the butter, reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the melted butter; then increase the speed back to medium high and mix for a few seconds just until incorporated.
  6. Pan, cure, and cut the marshmallow: Use a greased spatula or flexible bowl scraper to scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Let sit, uncovered, for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) to “cure” or set the marshmallow.
  7. When ready to cut, sift together the cornstarch and icing sugar to make the marshmallow dust. Sift some of the dust over a cutting board, then invert the pan with the marshmallow onto the board, gently tugging it free with your fingers. Sift more of the marshmallow dust over the marshmallow. Use a thin, long knife to cut the marshmallows into 6 strips (or whatever size you’d like); then cut each strip into 6 even pieces. Clean the knife between cuts for best results. Toss each marshmallow in the remaining dust to ensure it doesn’t stick. Store marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
honey marshmallows on tray

Caramel-stuffed ginger molasses cookies

Ginger molasses cookies are always at the top of my holiday must-bake list. My favorite recipe is generously spiced, chewy, and instantly makes the house smell like Christmas. On a whim I stuffed a batch with some salted butter caramels I had leftover from some recipe testing. Best/worst idea ever: best because the caramel levels up a cookie I thought couldn’t be improved — the caramel adds another level of chew in addition to a surprise hit of sweetness. Worst because these have sort of ruined me for the “regular” version.

A couple of notes:

  • You can use any kind of chewy caramel candy for stuffing, though I like to an extra dark one that has just a hint of bitterness.
  • You can refrigerate the dough (stuffed or unstuffed) for up to 5 days. I like to bring the dough to room temperature while the oven is preheating and toss in sugar right before baking. I haven’t yet tried freezing this dough with the caramel stuffing but will update this post when I do.

Caramel-stuffed Ginger Molasses Cookies

Makes about 13 large cookies | Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • 125g all purpose flour
  • 75g bread flour
  • 50g rye flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 113g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 113g fancy molasses (not blackstrap)

To finish:

  • 40g turbinado sugar
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 13 chewy caramel candies, storebought or homemade (mine were roughly 3/4″ squares)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, spices (except for the fresh ginger), and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and dark brown sugar. Add the grated ginger and rub it into the sugar with your fingers to distribute.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, molasses, and egg to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough up slightly to make it easier roll. (If refrigerated longer than an hour, let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften slightly.)
  5. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the center, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the turbinado and granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  6. Divide the chilled dough into 26 equal portions (25g each).
  7. To stuff the cookies, take two portions of dough and flatten each into a thick disc. Take a caramel and press it gently into the middle of one piece of dough (trim or squish the caramel to fit, if needed), then place the other piece of dough on top. Pinch the edges of the two pieces of dough together to seal in the caramel, then roll gently between your hands to form a ball. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
  8. Roll each ball in sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2.5 inches apart. (Cookies will spread a bit so leave plenty of room!)
  9. Bake sheets one at a time for about 9-11 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are puffed and starting to crack and the edges are set. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

triple chocolate peppermint cookies

Apologies to the half can of pumpkin still sitting in my fridge: I have moved on to candy canes and gingerbread. We’re normally a “Christmas starts in December” family, but it’s 2020 and anything goes. We picked out our tree and hung the stockings; the kids are busying themselves cutting snowflakes and making garlands.

These triple chocolate peppermint cookies made their first appearance in our annual treat boxes last year, and I think they’ve earned a permanent spot in the holiday baking rotation. They’re simple but festive — a great option for making with kids and for munching on during tree trimming or a favorite holiday movie.

A few notes:

  • If you’ve hung around here much you’ll know I like a bit of rye in my chocolate baked goods — its earthiness helps enhance the chocolate flavor. You could also swap out the rye for buckwheat — also delicious! But if you don’t have those flours on hand, just replace the rye with an additional 50g all purpose flour.
  • These cookies do best after a rest in the fridge to help hydrate the dough and prevent excessive spread. But I understand the need for instant gratification — if you just HAVE to have a cookie right away, stick the preformed dough in the freezer while you preheat the oven to quicken things along. They’ll likely still spread a little more than if you wait the full 3 hours, but it’s not the worst thing ever.
  • While I’m typically a dark chocolate lover, I really enjoy the mix of chocolates in this cookie. Using all dark chocolate can be a little intense — the pops of milk and white bring a little hit of extra sweetness. But as always, adjust the ratios to your tastes!
  • Peppermint extract varies in intensity from brand to brand, and too much can make your baked goods smell and taste like toothpaste. I used Club House pure peppermint extract here and this level was perfect for me, but if you have an especially potent brand you may want to start with a little less.
triple chocolate peppermint cookies hand

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4g (1 Tbsp) finely ground espresso (or 1 tsp espresso powder)
  • 80g chopped bittersweet/dark (70%) chocolate, divided
  • 100g (3/4 c plus 1 Tbsp) AP flour
  • 50g (1/2 c) whole rye flour
  • 25g (scant 1/4 c) Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 90g (scant 1/2 c) light brown sugar
  • 68g (1/3 c) caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 30g (1 oz) chopped semisweet/milk chocolate
  • 30g (1 oz) chopped white chocolate
  • Crushed peppermint candies/candy canes, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job.
  2. While the butter is melting, place the espresso powder and 50g of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl. Once the butter has melted, pour it over the espresso-chocolate mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg and egg yolk. Whisk in the vanilla and peppermint extracts.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the remaining 30g dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Mix just until evenly distributed.
  5. Portion the dough into ping-pong sized balls, about 55 grams (3 tbsp) each, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If the dough is too soft, cover and chill for about 30 minutes before scooping.) Cover and chill at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6.4 cm) apart and sprinkle the tops with crushed peppermint candies.
  7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and barely set, about 11 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Lemon Pie Bars with Strawberry Meringue

lemon bars with strawberry meringue

I have had so many requests for this recipe since posting this photo on Instagram, so I am sharing it with you today with one caveat: I have only tested this recipe once as written. Generally I make all recipes I post here at least twice before sharing so I can ensure it’s repeatable and work out any kinks. But I just released a cookbook and honestly, I’m so tired!

However, I realize that many of you may want to attempt this over Thanksgiving and holidays, so I’m sharing what I did along with some notes. I do plan to retest these again and will update the recipe accordingly if needed.

A few notes:

  • I made these bars with a pretty thick base, which I liked. However, I suspect most people would prefer it a little thinner so the recipe amounts below reflect that. If you’re team extra-thick base, multiply all amounts by 1.45.
  • I realize having a couple extra egg whites leftover from the filling may be annoying. However, I really liked this ratio of filling to meringue! The filling is bright and tart and stands up well to the sweet topping. I freeze extra egg whites for future meringue / financiers / macarons or macaroons or just add them to a batch of scrambled eggs. If you want to use just 4 eggs total, then multiply all filling ingredients by .67. (Sure, you could make a bigger batch of meringue but honestly I feel it would be overkill. But your bars, your ratios!)
  • Did I mention I just released a cookbook? Baked to Order is available now, wherever books are sold! And if you’ve bought the book and are enjoying it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? Reviews are incredibly valuable and help others find the book more easily. THANK YOU for your support!
lemon pie bars strawberry meringue

Lemon Pie Bars with Strawberry Meringue

Makes one 9×5 loaf pan (about 8 big slices or 16 squares) | Filling adapted from Bravetart; meringue inspiration from Erin McDowell

Ingredients:

For the graham cracker crust:
  • 120g graham cracker crumbs
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 12g light brown sugar
  • 42-56g unsalted butter (as needed), melted
For the lemon-elderflower filling:
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 53g cornstarch
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 170g freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 340g water 
  • 42g elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)
For the strawberry swiss meringue:
  • 30g freeze-dried strawberries
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 120g egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper leaving 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment. Secure the edges of the parchment with metal binder clips, if desired, to make assembly easier (they keep the parchment paper from flapping around).
  2. Make the graham cracker crust: In a small bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, salt, and sugar. Add about 42g (3T) of melted butter and stir to combine. You’re looking for a wet sand consistency — when you squeeze a bit of the mixture in your hand, it should hold together easily but not feel overly greasy. The amount of butter needed can vary depending on the brand of crumbs and how finely ground they are. Add more melted butter as needed, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.
  3. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan and use a small glass or measuring cup to press it along the bottom of the pan firmly and evenly. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until fragrant and just set. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
  4. Make the lemon-elderflower filling: Set a sieve over a medium heatsafe bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch until well combined. Add the egg yolks, zest, lemon juice, water, and liqueur and whisk to combine.
  5. Cook over low heat until steaming, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking and cooking for two full minutes (set a timer! It’s important to not skimp on the time or the filling will not set properly). Take care as the mixture will sputter and spit a bit.
  6. Strain the filling into the prepared container to remove the zest, then scrape the filling over the prepared crust. Cool at room temperature until a skin forms over the surface, about 30-45 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is cold and fully set, at least 4 or up to 24 hours.
  7. Make the strawberry meringue and assemble the bars: About an hour before serving, remove the bars from the refrigerator and transfer to a serving plate. Discard the parchment.
  8. To make the meringue, fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. While the water is heating up, combine the freeze-dried strawberries and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries are ground into a fine powder. Transfer the strawberry-sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.
  9. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler—this heats the egg mixture gently to avoid scrambling the eggs. The base of the bowl should not touch the simmering water.
  10. Heat the egg white mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a heatproof spatula, until it reaches 165°F (74C) on an instant-read thermometer. The mixture should be quite thick and the sugar completely dissolved.
  11. Remove the bowl from the double-boiler and transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the meringue has increased in size 3-4x times and holds glossy medium-stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes. (It will still be a little warm — don’t overbeat or the meringue can get a little gooey and difficult to spread.)
  12. Immediately scrape the meringue on top of the lemon filling and use a spatula or spoon to spread it over the top. Swoop and swirl as you desire.
  13. To serve, use a hot, sharp knife to slice (clean the knife with a hot, damp towel between cuts). The bars are best served immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.