Strawberry Buttermilk Layer Cake

We celebrated my older girl’s third birthday last week — how did that happen? It seems not that long ago that we were celebrating her impending arrival — and now she’s a happy, rambunctious child who loves kimchi, unicorns, pickles, rainbows, and berries.

Unlike her older brother, Hannah didn’t have too many requests regarding her birthday cake: just “strawberries.” So here we are with strawberry cake! I am happy to report it was a huge hit with the birthday girl, who usually isn’t too much of a cake person — she gasped with delight when she saw the cake, asked for seconds, and gobbled up the leftovers the next day. I think I know what her birthday cake tradition will be now.

A few notes:

  • The main challenge when baking with strawberries is that strawberries contain a lot of moisture. I chose to cook down the strawberries until they were reduced in half by weight — this concentrates the flavor beautifully. The reduction is easy to track if you use a kitchen scale. For this recipe, you’ll want to start with 240g strawberries (either fresh or frozen works), which is double the weight of the needed reduced puree. Add the strawberries to your saucepan (halved if large) and weigh the entire pan with the strawberries inside. Then subtract 120g from that number: this is how much your pan should weigh when your strawberries have reduced enough.
  • For this particular cake, I wanted a small but tall cake so I could do a rainbow effect. I divided the batter among three 4-inch pans (filled about 2/3 of the way, about 225g each), and baked off the rest of the batter as cupcakes. Pro tip: if you’re just baking a cupcake or two, pop your cupcake liners in individual ramekins so you don’t have to take out your entire cupcake pan!
  • The 4″ cake layers are thick, so I cut each in half for a total of 6 layers. You can do this with 6″ layers as well if you prefer more frosting and filling. Note that you’ll need a little extra frosting and filling if you go for additional layers.
  • For the rustic rainbow effect, I divided about a cup of swiss meringue buttercream (recipe from my book) into 5 equal parts, then tinted using gel food coloring (I mixed the colors individually, so sorry — no specific colors here). After crumb-coating and chilling the cake, I used a small offset spatula to swipe on equal bands of color, starting at the bottom. I placed Callebaut crispearls around the top edge for the gold “crown.”
  • Boxed strawberry cake has something of a cult following, but isn’t something I grew up eating. One of these days I’ll try the boxed version to see if this bears any similarities! My main objective for this cake was that it should taste like real strawberries and use real strawberries, preferably without fake extracts or difficult-to-find ingredients. I did use a tiny (1-2 drops) of red gel food coloring for a lovely pink hue — if you omit this, your cake will be tinted mauve/purple.
  • I wasn’t originally planning to blog about this cake, so sorry — I don’t have any great interior shots. The next time I make this cake I’ll update this post with more photos!

Strawberry Buttermilk Layer Cake

Makes one 2-layer, 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

For the reduced strawberry puree:

  • 240g strawberries, halved if large, fresh or frozen (but defrosted)
  • A couple pinches of granulated sugar, if needed

For the strawberry buttermilk cake:

  • 100g all-purpose flour
  • 100g cake flour
  • 120g reduced strawberry puree (see notes above)
  • 70g buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1-2 drops of red food coloring (optional, for more intense color)
  • 85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use 2/3 the amount for another brand of kosher salt or 1/2 the amount for table salt)
  • 30g neutral vegetable oil (I use grapeseed)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract

To assemble:

  • 2-3 cups of frosting, depending on your design (see notes above)
  • Strawberry jam, if desired

Method:

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree: Place the 240g strawberries and sugar, if using, in a medium saucepan. Weigh the entire pan with the strawberries inside. Subtract 120g from this weight and write this number down — this is how much the pan should weigh when your berries are sufficiently reduced. Heat the berries over medium, stirring frequently, until the berries break down and come to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue simmering and stirring until the mixture is thick like tomato sauce and the pan hits the target weight — about 25-30 minutes, but will depend on the size of your pan and heat of your stove. Scrape the bottom and the sides of the pan frequently to avoid scorching. When the berries are sufficiently reduced, transfer to a heatproof container and cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Make the strawberry buttermilk cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Line the bottoms of two 6-inch (15-cm)-round cake pans with parchment paper, then grease the pans and dust them with flour.
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the all purpose and cake flours and whisk together thoroughly.
  4. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the reduced strawberry puree, buttermilk, and food coloring (if using).
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple of times during this process. Add the oil and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
  7. With the mixer on low, add the flour and strawberry-buttermilk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed.
  8. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, about 385 grams of batter each. Use an offset spatula to smooth the tops.
  9. Bake until the cakes are puffed and set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 25 to 32 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pans are cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edges and turn the cakes out to finish cooling completely. For easiest assembly, wrap and chill the cakes in the fridge before filling and frosting.
  10. Assemble the cake: Trim the tops of the cakes to level if needed and peel the parchment paper off each one. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip with about 1 cup of buttercream. Place a dollop of frosting on a cake board, plate, or cake stand and place the first cake round on top. Pipe about ⅓ cup of buttercream onto the first cake round and spread it on smoothly using a small offset spatula. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake to create a dam. Fill the center with an even layer of strawberry jam. Finish by placing on the last cake round, top side down (this keeps the crumbs in while also ensuring a flat top). Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake to lock the crumbs in. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, until set. After the cake has chilled, frost and decorate as desired. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread with Maple and Oats

whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread

Making a 100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread has been on my baking bucket list for a long time. With cookbook recipe testing finished, the time was finally right! Although this loaf took many, many trials, I am pleased with how wholesomely delicious it turned out!

While I often replace about 30% of the flour in my go-to soft sourdough sandwich bread with whole grains, I knew making a completely whole wheat loaf would require some adjustments. One adjustment was amount of dough — because whole wheat does not rise as much as white flour, I had to increase the amount of dough in the tin to end up with slices that I considered tall enough.

Another adjustment was fermentation timetable. There is less “wiggle room” when it comes to whole wheat — the added nutrients cause fermentation to move quickly, which can cause the dough to overproof if you aren’t paying attention. Overproofing whole wheat doughs can lead to unpleasant sourness and a rougher crumb. For these reasons, I make this loaf all in one day (minus building the levain and soaker, which I prepare the night before). I experimented with refrigerating the dough partway through bulk fermentation (which I often do with other enriched doughs), but even with my fairly cold fridge the dough rose more than I expected and I ended up with overly sour loaves.

In addition to whole wheat flour, I decided to include an oatmeal soaker — I love the nutty tenderness oats add! Oats also hold on to moisture, helping this bread stay soft for days (though I especially enjoy this bread toasted)! I also used milk powder, maple syrup, and oil for additional softness and subtle sweetness. You can omit the milk powder if you want to keep this bread completely vegan, or try substituting a non-dairy milk powder. All in all, this loaf is nutty, wholesome, and just subtly sweet — — perfect for sandwiches and toast!

A few additional notes:

  • If you’ve made any of the enriched sourdough loaves on this site, you may remember that two keys to a soft crumb and good rise are thorough mixing and full proofing. This is still the case with this loaf. However, it is easy to overknead whole wheat dough, especially using a stand mixer; go slowly and check the dough often for the windowpane. (Alternatively, you can knead this dough by hand.)
  • If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I worked quite a bit on trying to eliminate some small dense areas that can show up on the bottom and sides of pan loaves, particularly when using a 9x4x4 pullman loaf tin. After talking to some other bakers, a lot of reading, and additional tests, I’ve concluded that provided your fermentation is on point, this probably happens because the dough is being compressed as it rises and bakes. I don’t notice this issue in a standard 9×5 loaf tin (see comparison photos below), which has tapered sides (allowing the loaf to relax outwards). To me, this is an aesthetic issue — I don’t notice these areas when I eat the bread. Personally, I am willing to sacrifice a “perfect” crumb for a nice, tall slice; so I will continue to happily use my Pullman pan for this loaf! Keep in mind that there may be other reasons for dense spots — underfermentation or underbaking being the main ones.
  • There are many different ways to shape a sandwich loaf; I describe one I like below. It is similar to how I shape my soft sourdough sandwich bread; but instead of dividing the dough into three pieces, I keep it in one piece — the dough seems to compress a little less this way.
  • It’s important to bake and cool this loaf fully. Make sure the very center of the loaf registers 205F — there’s a lot of moisture in this loaf with the oat soaker, and if you underbake the insides will turn out gummy and the sides may cave in. Additionally, wait for the loaf to cool fully before slicing so the crumb can fully set — I like to give it at least 3 hours.
  • As with all recipes but especially sourdough ones, the times listed below are for guidance/general ballpark. Exact timings will vary depending on the strength of your starter, how fresh your flour is, and the temperature of your environment. Paying attention to the physical cues — the appearance and feel of the dough and amount of rise — is much more important than sticking to a strict timetable!

ww sandwich loaf proofing
ww sandwich loaves two tins
ww sandwich loaf crumb comparison

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread with Maple and Oats

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:

For the stiff sweet levain:

  • 24g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 39g water, at room temperature
  • 72g whole wheat flour
  • 11g sugar (I used brown sugar)

For the oatmeal soaker:

  • 60g rolled oats (regular, not quick)
  • 150g boiling water 

For the final dough:

  • 177g water, at room temperature 
  • 34g neutral vegetable or olive oil
  • 45g maple syrup 
  • All of the stiff sweet levain
  • 336g whole wheat flour (I used half organic hard whole wheat and half Flourist sifted red spring wheat)
  • 30g milk powder
  • 9g salt
  • All of the oatmeal soaker

To finish:

  • Additional rolled oats, for garnish (optional)
  • 14g / 1 Tbsp melted butter (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the stiff sweet levain (Day 1, evening): In a medium bowl, mix together the starter, water, whole wheat flour, and sugar until well combined. It should resemble a stiff dough. Cover and ferment at room temperature (74-76F) until tripled in volume and the top is starting to flatten, about 10-12 hours.
  2. Make the oatmeal soaker (Day 1, evening): Place the oats in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to make sure all the oats are hydrated. Cover and let sit until you are ready to mix the dough. (I do this at the same time I mix the levain.)
  3. Autolyse the dough (Day 2, morning): In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, oil, and maple syrup. Tear the ripe stiff levain into several pieces and add it to the liquid. Stir with a flexible spatula to disperse and break up the levain. Add the whole wheat flour and milk powder. Stir just until all the flour is hydrated and there are no dry spots. The dough should be fairly stiff at this point. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  4. Mix the dough: Add the salt to the autolysed dough. Mix on low (speed 1 on a KitchenAid) until the salt is evenly dispersed and the dough begins to smooth out, about 3-4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium low (speed 2-3 on a KitchenAid) and mix until the dough is very smooth and supple and reaches windowpane stage, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook a couple of times during this process to make sure the dough is evenly mixed. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand — it will take longer, but this dough is easy to handle.)
  5. Add the oatmeal soaker: Add the oatmeal soaker and use your hands to squish it into the dough, folding the dough over onto itself several times to disperse the soaker evenly. Mix on low for one minute to make sure the dough is evenly mixed — do not overmix, or the gluten may start to break down. The dough may be a little sticky, but still strong and smooth and hold together easily. Transfer to a large oiled bowl or container for bulk fermentation. Desired dough temperature is 76-79F.
  6. Bulk fermentation: Let the dough rise at room temperature until it has risen 60-75%, about 2-3 hours at 75-77F. Because the dough was well-developed during mixing, there’s no need to do any stretches and folds (though you can if you want to). When ready to shape, the dough should feel airy and puffy, but still strong — do not push the bulk too far as the high whole-grain percentage can cause the dough to overferment quickly.
  7. Shape: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. To create a very tight, even crumb (my preference for sandwich breads), use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 x 13. Starting with a short edge, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Let rest 10 minutes, uncovered. Roll into a rectangle again, along the seam, and re-roll like a jelly roll as tightly as possible. (Try to get the short edge as close to 9″ as possible, but a little under is fine — the dough will relax to fill the tin.)
  8. Coat: Lightly grease a 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf pan. If you want to coat your loaf with oats, lay down a clean, lint-free tea towel and sprinkle with a thin, even layer of rolled oats. Lightly spritz the shaped loaf with water, then carefully flip the loaf onto the towel, seam side up. Use your hands to rock the loaf back and forth a few times so that the oats stick to the loaf. Transfer the loaf to the prepared pan, seam side down. Cover with lightly oiled plastic.
  9. Proof: Proof the loaf at room temperature until it has doubled in size and passes the “poke test” — when you gently poke the loaf with a floured finger, the indentation should fill back very slowly. In a 9x4x4 pan, the dough should have risen about 1 inch above the rim in the center (in a standard 9×5 pan, about 2 1/2 inches). This typically takes me about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours; but exact timing will depend on the warmth of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
  10. Preheat the oven: About 45 minutes before you anticipate your loaf being ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and a rack below (for steaming, optional). About 10-20 minutes before baking, place a few small dishtowels (preferably ratty ones) in a roasting pan. Pour enough very hot or boiling water over the towels to fully saturate them. Place the roasting pan in the oven on the lower rack. (This is optional but helps create steam in the oven. I find this gives the loaf a better rise and shiny crust without needing to use an egg wash.)
  11. Bake and cool: Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then remove the roasting pan. Turn the oven temperature down to 400F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the internal temperature of the very center of the loaf reaches 205F. (If the loaf is taking on too much color for your liking, tent it with foil midway through baking.) Once the center has reached 205F, remove loaf from the tin and return to the oven to bake for 1-2 more minutes (optional, for more color on the sides/bottom). Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and brush melted butter over the top and sides — this optional finish helps keep the crust soft and flavorful. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting, at least 3 hours. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag for 4 to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.
WW sandwich loaf pullman profile

Raspberry Lemonade Snickerdoodles

raspberry lemonade snickerdoodles

The idea for these raspberry lemonade snickerdoodles has been brewing in the back of my brain for awhile. I love a good snickerdoodle riff, starting with these gingerbread latte snickerdoodles a couple years back. After working on a classic snickerdoodle recipe + variations for my upcoming book, I’m now revisiting a few ideas that I didn’t have room to include (like these graham cracker snickerdoodles from earlier this summer). The beautiful multi-colored sugar cookies from Amy and Sarah inspired the look for this zesty and cheerful raspberry lemonade version!

Making these cookies is fairly straightforward, but for the full raspberry lemonade experience you’ll need a few special ingredients:

  • Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar is an acid (in powder form; find it in the baking/spices aisle of your grocery store). Combined with baking soda, cream of tartar leavens these snickerdoodle cookies and produces the classic snickerdoodle tang. While there are a lot of suggested substitutions for cream of tartar on the internet, I have not tried them in this particular recipe.
  • Freeze-dried raspberries: To get a concentrated amount of raspberry flavor in these cookies, I use ground freeze-dried raspberries. Freeze-dried fruit is an amazing way to amp up your baked goods as it brings intense flavor without extra moisture. I ground up whole freeze-dried raspberries into a powder and added it directly to the cookie dough. Freeze-dried fruit is available online and in many grocery stores.
  • Citric Acid: To give these cookies an extra tangy zing, I use a small amount of citric acid in the sugar sprinkle. Citric acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits (like lemons!) and is also artificially made and used as a flavoring agent and preservative. Citric acid is commonly found in the baking/spices aisle of the supermarket or in bulk food stores. Can you omit it? Sure, but your cookies will not be nearly as punchy. (You could try sprinkling a little lemon zest onto the cookies right after baking, but the flavor will be less potent.) Citric acid keeps well and can be used in many other recipes that might benefit from a little pucker!

Anyways, enjoy these summery snickerdoodles! They really put a smile on my face!

raspberry lemonade snickerdoodles unbaked
raspberry lemonade snickerdoodle stack

Raspberry Lemonade Snickerdoodles

Makes 12 cookies

Ingredients:

For the raspberry lemonade snickerdoodle base:

  • Zest of one medium lemon
  • 120g (scant 2/3 c) granulated sugar
  • 30g (2 1/2 Tbsp) light brown sugar
  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use 1/2 tsp if using another brand of kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 175g (1 1/3 c plus 2 tsp) all purpose flour
  • 6g finely ground freeze dried raspberries (1 Tbsp ground, from about 1/4 c whole freeze dried raspberries), plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
  • 1-2 drops pink/fuschia food coloring (optional, for more intense color)

For the lemonade sugar sprinkle:

  • 25g (1/8 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine lemon zest and sugars. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugars until fragrant — this releases the essential oils from the zest and intensifies the lemon flavor of the cookies.
  2. Add the butter, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt to the zest-sugar mixture. 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.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour. Mix just until combined. 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.
  5. Remove half the dough and wrap in plastic. Add the ground freeze-dried raspberries and food coloring (if using) to the remaining half of the dough and mix until combined. Wrap in plastic. Chill both pieces of dough until firm but still pliable, about 30-45 minutes.
  6. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and citric acid for the lemonade sugar sprinkle.
  8. Divide each half of dough into twelve acorn-sized balls. You should end up with a total of 24 balls, 12 of each color (about 20g each). Gently press one ball of each color together to form 12 cookies total — don’t roll them too tightly so the colors remain distinct. Toss each in the lemonade sugar sprinkle, coating completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart.
  9. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the cookies have puffed and edges are set but the centers are still soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, sprinkle a little more ground freeze-dried raspberries on the berry half of the cookie, if desired. 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 for up to 3 days.

Summer Fruit Pie with Spiced Streusel Topping

fruit streusel pie

Nothing is more quintessentially summer to me then a morning of fruit picking followed by an afternoon of pie-making. Despite an overall wacky 2020 so far, I’m thankful that we’ve still been able to make it out to the orchards. Candy-like strawberries, plump cherries, deeply hued blueberries, and blushing peaches — I love them all.

When we inevitably pick a little too much to eat out of hand (which is becoming increasingly rare — my kids are fruit fiends!), pie is the answer. I usually make one regular pie, then let my kids play with the pie dough scraps to form mini pies. When there aren’t enough scraps for a full top crust, I toss on a bit of crumb topping. Once, while enjoying one of these “scrap” pies, my husband asked me, with a twinge of guiltiness, “Is it wrong if I like crumb topped pies more than double crust ones?”

I had to laugh because I’ve suspected for awhile (and my very scientific IG polls confirm) that crumb-topped pies are the secret fan favorite. While we might ooh and ahh over intricate double-crust beauties, the crumb pies are always the first to disappear.

Now I personally love a double crust, especially a la mode. But I totally understand the appeal of a crumb topping. It’s an extra layer of texture and sweetness, and another opportunity to sneak in more flavors — spices, nuts, oats, and so on. Plus, I think crumb-topped pies keep better than double crust. I love a slice cold from the fridge after the topping has crisped up. All that to say — it’s high time for this streusel topped pie recipe!

streusel pie pre bake
A few notes:
  • Fruit preparation and amounts: It can be tricky estimating how much fruit you’ll need for a pie. I don’t think approximate numbers of fruits are very helpful because it all depends on the size of your fruit! My sweet spot for summer fruit pies (using a typical 9-inch pie plate) is roughly 1 kg (or between 2 and 2 1/2 pounds) of prepared fruit — i.e. the fruit is skinned (if needed), pitted, and sliced/chopped. So if you’re baking with something like blueberries which can be used as-is, you can just weigh the fruit directly. If you’re using something like peaches which need skinning and de-pitting, you’ll want to start with a bit more, maybe 3 1/2 pounds. When filling the dish, I’m looking for the fruit to come up to the crimps with enough to slightly mound in the center. Fruit shrinks in the oven, so this ensures a nicely filled pie after baking. For large fruits like peaches and nectarines, I slice into 1/4″ slices; large berries I halve or quarter; small berries I leave whole.
  • Pie thickeners: My personal favorite thickener for juicy fruits is arrowroot starch — it’s clear when cooked and has the least “gloopy” taste compared to cornstarch and tapioca starch. There’s a mix of art and science when it comes to thickeners, as well as personal taste. I like my pie slices to hold their shape once the pie has fully cooled, but not to be overly jelly-like. King Arthur Baking has a helpful pie thickener chart and their suggested amounts are usually pretty on for my tastes (if anything, I use just a touch less). The amount of starch below worked perfectly for both an all-peach pie and a pie with a mix of nectarines and blueberries.
  • Streusel tips: My favorite way to make streusel is with cold butter. I like the resulting texture, and the crumbs hold their shape better than streusel made with melted or room temperature butter. Keep your streusel in the fridge and don’t put it on the pie until just before you’re ready to bake — if the butter warms up, the streusel will flatten and spread. I like streusels that are roughly 1 to 1.5 : 1 : 1 ratio of flour + add-ins : sugar : butter, which results in a shortbread-like texture with mild sweetness. You can keep it as simple as all purpose flour, white sugar, and butter (and please, just a pinch of salt!); but I love having a bit of fun with my streusels. Here I’ve added oats, almond flour, and a touch of warm spices.
  • Bake your pie fully! If you’ve ever struggled with soggy bottoms and pies that don’t set up, you’re probably not baking your pie long enough. In general, with the amount of fruit I use, my full-size fruit pies rarely take under an hour to fully cook — usually closer to 70-80 minutes. You’re looking for the filling to bubble in the very center of the pie (where it takes the longest to cook). Thickeners don’t activate properly unless the liquid reaches a boil, so if the center of your pie isn’t bubbling your pie probably won’t set up. Be patient and tent your pie with some foil if the top is browning too fast.
  • Cool your pie fully! Likewise, if you’re wanting clean slices, you’ll have to let the pie cool down fully — about 4 hours. Now between you and me, if the pie is just for family, I’m not waiting quite that long — I don’t mind a messy slice, and fresh warm pie + a scoop of melting ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures. But even at home, I try to wait at least 2 hours so that the juices don’t completely run all over the place and I don’t burn my tongue.
  • Pie crusts and extra tips: My go-to pie crust recipe and method will be in my book, but I love this one or this sourdough option. For even more pie tips, see this post.

Summer Fruit Pie with Spiced Streusel Topping

Makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

  • Enough pie dough for a single 9″ crust, homemade or store bought (see notes above)
For the spiced streusel topping:
  • 100g (3/4 c) flour, all-purpose or whole grain
  • 20g almond flour
  • 30g (1/3 c) rolled oats
  • 100g sugar (1/2 c) — I like half granulated, half brown
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 98g (7 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
For the stone fruit filling:
  • About 1 kg (2.2 lbs / 7-8 cups) prepared summer fruit (see notes above)
  • 50 to 100g (1/4 to 1/2 c) sugar, or to taste
  • 50g (6 Tbsp) arrowroot or cornstarch (see notes above)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) bourbon (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice)

To assemble:

  • 1 Tbsp almond flour or cookie crumbs, or 1 tsp each all purpose flour and sugar

Method

  1. Prepare the pie crust: On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 13- to 14-inch round between ¼- to ⅛-inch thick. Roll from the center out, giving the dough a quarter turn after every roll to avoid sticking and ensure an even thickness. Dust off any excess flour. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unfurl into a standard 9-inch pie plate. Gently lift the edges and press the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate, being careful not to stretch the dough to fit. Trim the overhang to 1 inch all around, then fold the excess dough under itself to form a border. The edge should be flush with the pie plate. Crimp the edges as desired. Cover and chill until the pastry is firm, at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven: While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with a rack in the lower third. If you have a baking steel or stone, preheat that as well. If not, preheat a large foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Prepare the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, sugar, spices, and salt. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a clumpy cookie dough with no dry bits of flour remaining. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. Prepare the fruit filling: Place the prepared fruit in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, arrowroot starch, and salt (this helps prevent the starch from clumping). Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit and stir until combined. Add the bourbon and stir to combine.
  5. Assemble and bake the pie: Remove the prepared crust from the fridge and place on a foil-lined baking sheet (unless the sheet is pre-heating in the oven — see notes above). Sprinkle the almond flour over the bottom — this helps absorb extra juices and keep the crust from getting soggy. Scrape the fruit filling (and all the juices) into the crust. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 350F and continue baking until the filling is bubbling in the very center and the streusel is deeply golden, about 35-55 more minutes. Cool to room temperature before slicing, about 4 hours. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.

Chocolate-freckled coffee and rye whisky ice cream

coffee rye whisky ice cream

I’ve been obsessed with making ice cream for the past year or so, ever since one of our friends kindly gave us her ice cream maker. I grew up in an ice-cream loving household; birthday cakes were often boxes of ice cream decorated with candy (even though more than half of us are lactose intolerant).

I’d hemmed and hawed for a couple summers about getting an ice cream maker — was it worth the space? Would I really use it? And now that I have one, I honestly can say I only regret not having one sooner!

(Side note: Yes, there are lots of “no churn” ice cream recipes out there. And ways to get around not having an ice cream maker. If you can’t or don’t want to invest in a machine, might I suggest you explore semifreddo recipes? They have a beautiful smooth and mousse-like texture, and aren’t as sweet/heavy compared to typical no-churn recipes involving sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream.)

Once you find some base recipes you like, homemade ice cream is all about experimenting and creating your own flavors. Try flavoring the base with an infusion or addition, add a mix-in or three, or both! For this chocolate-frecked coffee and rye whisky batch, I infused the dairy with whole coffee beans, mixed in a little rye whisky before churning, then added in some melted chocolate at the end of churning to create chocolate “freckles.” So. Delicious. I can’t wait to make this one again!

A few notes:

  • The base here is adapted from my go-to Philadelphia-style (eggless) ice cream base from Salt and Straw. It’s super easy to make, but it does require xanthan gum, corn syrup/glucose, and milk powder. I don’t recommend skipping these ingredients because they work together to create a beautifully smooth, non-icy ice cream that lasts well in a home freezer. I can easily source all three ingredients at my local bulk food stores and supermarket.
  • There are a lot of ways to flavor ice cream with coffee, but what I particularly liked about this cold infusion method was that the coffee flavor is super clean and not bitter at all. (You also don’t end up with a brown-colored ice cream that screams “COFFEE” which I thought was kind of nice.) I recommend weighing out the coffee beans before you add them, and then weighing them after they’re strained out. The coffee beans will inevitably soak up some of the liquid, so you’ll want to replace it before churning. Weighing the coffee beans will tell you exactly how much liquid to add back.
  • For best results, use fresh coffee beans. They don’t need to be super fancy or single origin, but fresh beans will impart the most flavor. I like to use an espresso roast, but use whatever you like.

One last note: my cookbook, Baked to Order, is now available for pre-order! It comes out November 17, 2020, and contains 60 sweet and savory recipes, with variations for every mood and craving. I can’t wait to tell you more about it in the coming months, but in the meantime please find more info on the Baked to Order cookbook page. Thank you so much for your support!

Chocolate-freckled coffee and rye whisky ice cream

Makes about 1 quart/liter

Ingredients:

  • 100g (½ c) granulated sugar
  • 15g (2 Tbsp) milk powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 330g (1 1/3 c) whole milk, plus more as needed (divided)
  • 40g (2 Tbsp) corn syrup or glucose
  • 113g (1/2 c) whole coffee beans
  • 330g (1 1/3 c) heavy cream, plus more as needed (divided)
  • 30-45g (2-3 Tbsp) rye whisky
  • 90g (1/2 c) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp neutral vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Make the coffee ice cream base: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, milk powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk in 330g milk and the corn syrup.
  2. Heat over medium, whisking constantly, until the mixture is steaming and slightly thickened and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the 113g whole coffee beans, and cover. Infuse in the warm milk for 5-10 minutes. Pour the milk mixture and coffee beans into a heatproof container and stir in the 330g heavy cream. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to infuse for 12 hours.
  4. Churn the ice cream: When you are ready to churn your ice cream, strain out the coffee beans with a fine mesh sieve. Weigh the coffee beans and subtract 113g — this is how much liquid was absorbed by the beans, and how much liquid you need to add back to the strained base via the rye whisky and extra milk/cream. (My beans weighed 213g, so I needed to add about 100g of liquid back. I added 40g of rye whisky, 30g milk, and 30g cream.)
  5. Churn the base according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve (for my machine this is about 20-25 minutes). While the ice cream is churning, melt the chocolate and oil together in the microwave or over a double boiler. During the last minute of churning, drizzle in the melted chocolate in a thin, steady stream.
  6. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-friendly container (a loaf pan works well). Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.  

Buttermilk Chiffon Cake with Berries and Cream

buttermilk chiffon cake

I love a good chiffon cake — honestly, I’d probably eat it over a regular butter cake 95% of the time. Chiffon cake is light and fluffy but still moist, thanks to a bit of oil in the batter. It’s also best served simply. Regular buttercreams are too heavy for this style of cake, so I prefer to top chiffon cakes with some good old whipped cream and a handful of summer’s best berries.

A couple of notes:
  • This cake is a simple one-layer affair, though you could easily double everything and turn this into a naked 2-layer cake as well.
  • I used buttermilk in both the cake and whipped cream for a lovely tang that complements the berries. If you don’t have any on hand, substitute the buttermilk in the cake with water or regular milk (or try half water, half lemon juice plus the zest of a lemon for a lemon-flavored chiffon). You can substitute sour cream or Greek yogurt for the buttermilk in the whipped cream, or just use more heavy cream.

Buttermilk Chiffon Cake with Berries and Buttermilk Whipped Cream

Makes one single-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients:

Buttermilk chiffon cake:

  • 75 g cake flour
  • 90 g granulated sugar (preferably caster), divided
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 60 g buttermilk
  • 40 g neutral vegetable oil, such as grapeseed or canola
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar

For the buttermilk whipped cream:

  • 180g heavy cream, cold
  • 60g buttermilk, cold
  • 1-2 Tbsp granulated sugar (optional)

To assemble:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups (250-300 g) fresh berries, rinsed and cut if large
  • 1-2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Method:

For the buttermilk chiffon cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the lower third. Line an 8-inch (20-cm)-round cake pan with parchment and lightly grease the parchment, but otherwise do not grease the pan. (I like to use a pan with 3-inch sides as this helps the cake top stay nice and flat, but one with 2-inch sides should work as well.)
  2. Sift together the cake flour, 65 grams sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks to the well, and whisk until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium, and whisk until soft peaks. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the remaining 25 grams caster sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until you have glossy, firm peaks.
  4. Using a flexible spatula or whisk, carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter one third at a time. Mix just until the batter is homogeneous and no white streaks remain.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Give the pan a couple raps on the counter to dislodge any big air bubbles.
  6. Bake until the cake is puffed and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, run a thin spatula around the edge of the cake to loosen, then carefully turn out of the pan and remove the parchment. Use immediately, or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the buttermilk whipped cream:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk to medium peaks. Use immediately.

To assemble:

  1. Mix together the berries and sugar and allow to macerate for about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the cake on a serving platter. Dollop on the whipped cream and use a spoon or offset spatula to spread over the top. Top with macerated berries (leave the juices behind). Serve immediately.
buttermilk chiffon cake top down

Graham Cracker Snickerdoodles

graham cracker snickerdoodle

People often ask how I come up with ideas of what to make. I have many sources of inspiration — cookbooks, Instagram, the supermarket (moreso when it was normal to go there and just browse…one day, one day) — but perhaps the most common one is that I need to use something up. In this case, it was a small bag of graham cracker crumbs that wasn’t enough for making a pie crust or anything else semi-useful. I happened to be in a cookie-making mood (pretty common these days), so I figured I’d just chuck them in my snickerdoodle dough and see what happened.

Well, the cookies were good but not quite right; but now of course the idea of graham cracker snickerdoodles was stuck in my head. So yes, I had to go get more graham crackers to continue testing and tweaking the proportions of this recipe. And yes, now I have another small bag of graham cracker crumbs just waiting to be the muse for another recipe. Vicious cycle, tough job, someone’s gotta do it!

Anyways, about these graham cracker snickerdoodles. These cookies combine the soft chew and slight tang of a classic snickerdoodle with the pleasant wheatiness and honey-cinnamon vibes of a graham cracker. They’re the perfect mid-afternoon snack, though one of these days I’m going to test the theory that they’d make pretty fine ice cream sandwiches as well.

A few notes:

  • In the spirit of graham crackers, I use a whole wheat flour for the cookie dough. Traditionally graham flour is coarse and unsifted wheat flour, but here I’ve gone with my favorite sifted red fife flour from Flourist. It has a lovely flavor and texture, and works very well as a 1:1 swap for all-purpose flour in baked goods. I think any soft white wheat flour would work nicely here, or simply use all-purpose.
  • There are also actual graham crackers inside and out — some mixed into the cookie dough, and some in the sugar sprinkle used to roll the cookie dough balls in before baking. Don’t go overboard and add too many graham cracker crumbs to the actual dough — the dough will be too overloaded and won’t spread properly (I speak from experience). A digital scale is (and always is) your friend here.
  • If you don’t want to bake all the cookies off at once, you can refrigerate the dough up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage (in both cases, wait until right before baking to toss in the sugar sprinkle). It’s difficult to get the sugar sprinkle to stick to dough that is too cold, so I suggest taking the dough out of the freezer/fridge while preheating the oven. Roll the dough balls in your hands to slightly warm up the dough before rolling in the sugar sprinkle and baking.
graham cracker snickerdoodle stack

Graham Cracker Snickerdoodles

Makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients:

For the snickerdoodle dough:
  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 66g (1/3 c) granulated sugar
  • 66g (1/3 c) light brown sugar
  • 20g (1 Tbsp) honey 
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g (1 1/3 c) white whole wheat flour or sifted wheat flour (I like Flourist sifted red fife)
  • 50g (1/2 c) finely ground graham cracker crumbs
For the sugar sprinkle:
  • 15g (1 Tbsp) finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 15g (heaping 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, honey, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, 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. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the flour and graham cracker crumbs. Mix just until combined. 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. In a small bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and cinnamon for the sugar sprinkle.
  5. Portion the dough into twelve ping-pong sized balls, about 45 grams (3 tbsp) each. Toss each in the sugar sprinkle, 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 golden but the centers are still soft and pale, about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Immediately after baking, sprinkle on a bit more sugar sprinkle if desired. 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.

Berry buckwheat crumb bars

berry crumb bars

Crumb bars, crumble bars, streusel bars — whatever you call them, I’m a fan. Mostly because they belong to my favorite food category, rustic fruit bressert (that’s breakfast and/or dessert).

COVID lockdown has made it extra challenging this year to keep track of the date, but thankfully the seasons still change. We are in the middle of berry season here in Ontario. And while I wasn’t sure if our annual traditions of strawberry and cherry picking would be possible this year, happily we managed to do both.

My family loves fresh fruit like candy, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to actually make anything with the berries. But I squirreled away just enough to make these delightful berry crumb bars. I had some for breakfast and some for dessert and can confirm they go down equally well for either.

A few notes:
  • As with most fruit desserts, I love adding some wholegrain flour for extra flavor. If you don’t have buckwheat on hand, try rye, einkorn, or spelt! Or just substitute with more all-purpose if you don’t have any whole grains stocked.
  • For the filling, I used a mix of (very ripe) strawberries, cherries, and some miscellaneous frozen berries that I had lurking in the freezer. I fully defrosted the frozen berries and drained off the extra liquid to avoid a soggy crust.
  • Because my fruit was mostly quite ripe and juicy, I didn’t need to add much sweetener. If your fruit isn’t so ripe, adjust the sugar to taste or try mixing with a little jam.
berry crumb bars stacked

Berry buckwheat crumb bars

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

For the crumb mixture:
  • 190g (1 1/2 c) all purpose flour
  • 60g (1/2 c) buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 50g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
  • 50g (1/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 200g (14 T) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 30g (1/3 c) rolled oats
  • 30g (1/4 c) sliced almonds (or other chopped nuts)
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) turbinado sugar
For the fruit filling:
  • 400g (~2 1/2 c) mixed berries, finely diced (if frozen, thaw and drain before using — see notes above)
  • 13g (1 Tbsp) sugar (or to taste)
  • 12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with two long criss-crossed pieces of parchment, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on all sides. (This will make it easy to remove the bars later.) Lightly grease the parchment.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, salt, and sugars. Pulse to combine. Scatter the cold, cubed butter over the top. Pulse until the mixture forms clumps but is not completely smooth (this took me about 20-25 short pulses).
  3. Transfer about a third (~180g) of the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the oats, almonds, and turbinado sugar and use your fingertips to quickly pinch in, forming a clumpy streusel. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. Transfer the remaining two-thirds (~360g) of the mixture to the prepared pan. Use your fingers or the bottom of a small glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until just set. Transfer to a wire rack while you prepare the fruit filling (no need to let it cool completely).
  5. To make the filling, stir together the fruit, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon juice. Spoon the fruit mixture evenly over the par-baked crust, then sprinkle evenly with the reserved streusel mixture.
  6. Bake until the crumb topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling in the center, about 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing (for cleanest results, chill for an hour in the refrigerator). Refrigerate leftover bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days; serve cold or at room temperature.

Mango ice cream

mango ice cream

Last week I asked my 4-year-old whether he preferred chocolate or vanilla, and he replied “mango.” This is coming from a kid who really likes chocolate, so you can imagine just how deep his mango love runs. At any rate, mango desserts reign supreme in this household — whether it be mango cake, mango pudding, or this creamy and delicious mango ice cream.

This is a Philadelphia-style, or eggless ice cream. The base is super easy to make and comes together in under 10 minutes (assuming you use canned mango puree — more on that in a second). I gravitate towards Philadelphia-style ice cream when fruits are involved — as much as I love custard bases, the eggy richness tends to dull fruit flavors a bit. Not here — the mango is fresh and present!

A couple of notes:

  • I am all about using canned mango puree (or pulp). It’s super smooth and relatively cheap, and the flavor is really consistent. I’ve made a lot of mango puree over the years and it’s just not my favorite thing to do — you have to strain it to get it super smooth, and if your mangoes are a bit “meh,” the flavor of your final dessert will be lacking as well. I get my mango puree from our local Asian supermarket. Alphonso and Kesar varieties are the most common here, and both work great. Make sure you’re getting pulp or puree, not juice.
  • Of course, if you’re swimming in fresh mangoes and want to make your own, that’ll work too — just dice, blend in a food processor, and make sure to strain it for the best texture. You might have to add a little sugar to taste if your mangoes are not super sweet.
  • This ice cream base is adapted from one of my favorite ice cream cookbooks from Salt & Straw. It does ask for a few “special” ingredients — namely milk powder, corn syrup, and xanthan gum. These all help create a nice, smooth texture and increase shelf-life. I can get all these ingredients from my local supermarket, but they are all fairly easy to find online as well.
  • Note that this recipe makes a good amount of ice cream, about the max my 1.5 quart Cuisinart ice cream maker can handle. If your ice cream maker has a smaller capacity, you may want to churn in two batches or reduce everything by 1/4 to 1/3.

Mango ice cream

Makes a generous 1 quart/liter / Base recipe adapted from Salt & Straw

Ingredients:

  • 100g (½ c) granulated sugar
  • 15g (2 Tbsp) milk powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 330g (1 1/3 c) whole milk
  • 40g (2 Tbsp) corn syrup
  • 330g (1 1/3 c) heavy cream
  • 330g (1 1/3 c) mango puree (I prefer canned)

Method:

  1. Make the mango ice cream base: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, milk powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk in the milk and corn syrup.
  2. Heat over medium, whisking constantly, until the mixture is steaming and slightly thickened and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Pour into a heatproof container and whisk in the heavy cream and mango puree. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
  3. Churn the ice cream: Churn the chilled base according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve (for my machine this is about 25 minutes). Transfer to a freezer-friendly container (a loaf pan works well). Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.

Homemade Toaster Strudels

toaster strudels

In the world of packaged breakfast pastries, I have always maintained that toaster strudels > pop tarts. Give me flaky pastry and cream cheese icing over non-flaky pastry and royal icing any day, please and thank you!

My homemade version of toaster strudels feature all-butter rough puff pastry, a pleasantly tart fruity filling, and a colorful squiggle of cream cheese icing. If you want to serve these for breakfast I recommend making the pastry and jam the night before for best results — the pastry needs time to chillax (chill and relax), and you want your filling completely cold before assembling. Of course, if you wanted to serve these as dessert you could do this all in one day!

I filled my strudels with a thick rhubarb and berry jam, since that’s the fruit I had on hand. It was pleasantly tart, which contrasted excellently with the rich pastry and sweet icing. I also added a splash of elderflower liqueur for a fresh floral note — totally optional, but highly recommended if you have it on hand! If you don’t have rhubarb and berries, you could sub in your favorite jamm-able fruits or even use some storebought preserves — just make sure that you cook down the filling enough so that it holds its shape, which will make assembly much easier. I’d love to try these with sour cherries and stone fruits later this summer! If you’re really looking to save time, you could also use store-bought puff pastry (for a standard box with 2 pieces, I’d cut each sheet into 6 rectangles). However, unless you spring for all-butter store bought puff pastry (which tends to be pricey), I highly recommend taking the time to make the rough puff — the taste is so much better!

Now, I will admit that pop tarts edge out toaster strudels in presentation — who can compete with colorful icing and sprinkles? So I stole a note from the pop tart playbook and added both for a little extra cheer to my pastries. My kids’ eyes practically popped out of their heads when they saw the pastries, and they were so excited to decorate their own. In other words: TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Homemade Toaster Strudels

Makes 6 strudels

Ingredients:

For the strudels:
  • 120g chopped rhubarb
  • 160g mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp elderflower liqueur (optional)
  • 1/2 recipe rough puff pastry
  • 1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp milk or water and a pinch of salt, for egg wash
  • Extra granulated sugar, for sprinkling
For the icing:
  • 60g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 60g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, berries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and mashing the fruit frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, still stirring frequently, until the mixture is very thick and the fruit has completely broken down, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the elderflower liqueur, if using. Transfer to a heat-proof container. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 1 hour.
  2. Assemble, bake, and ice the strudels: On a well floured surface, roll the pastry into a long rectangle slightly larger than 9″ x 19.5″. The pastry should be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick. Trim the edges to neaten, then use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to cut the pastry lengthwise into 2 long rectangles (each about 4.5″ x 19.5″). Cut each rectangle into 6 equal pieces. You should end up with twelve 4.5″ x 3.25″ rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle.
  3. Once the pastry has chilled, brush the edges of 6 rectangles with egg wash. Divide the filling among the 6 rectangles, about a heaping tablespoon each. Use the back of a spoon to spread into an even layer, keeping the egg washed edges exposed. Top each rectangle with one of the remaining rectangles, pressing the edges firmly to seal. Trim the edges with a sharp knife to neaten, if needed. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges all around. Freeze the strudels until the pastry is firm, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. When ready to bake, brush the strudels evenly with egg wash. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a small venting hole on the top of each one. Sprinkle the tops generously with granulated sugar. Stack the baking sheet on top of a second baking sheet to keep the bottoms from scorching during baking.
  5. Bake the strudels for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is deeply golden. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes before icing.
  6. When ready to ice, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in a drop of food coloring, if desired. Transfer icing to a small piping bag and snip a small hole off the end. Pipe the icing onto the strudels and garnish with sprinkles, if desired. Let icing set for about 5 minutes before serving. Strudels are best served the day they’re baked.