Have you ever tried making cheese? If not, ricotta is a great place to start — it’s one of the simplest cheeses you can make at home and honestly tastes so much better from what you find in the supermarket. And all you need is some milk and an acid!
Although you can make ricotta on the stovetop, this time I used the Paderno 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Using a slow cooker offers a couple advantages. First, it allows for a more gentle heating of the milk (which you can stretch to a few hours if you are busy with other things). Second, it helps maintain a constant temperature once the acid is added.
While most ricotta recipes instruct you to let the acidified milk sit for 5-10 minutes before straining, I learned from a Serious Eats article that the yield and taste of homemade ricotta is vastly improved if you keep the mixture at a higher temperature for 20 minutes. On the stovetop, this means constant heat adjustments and pan babysitting. But thanks to the heat retention of the enamel crock and the precise temperature settings of the slow cooker, this part of the ricotta-making process is simple. Just hit a button and let the slow cooker do the work for you!
My favorite way to enjoy fresh ricotta is on fresh bread; and for these toasts, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread in the Paderno Dutch Oven. Baking bread in a dutch oven is a simple way to mimic the steam ovens commercial bakeries use. The thick walls and tight cover of the dutch oven seal in moisture and heat, allowing the loaf rise to its potential and develop a shiny, crackly crust!
Sometimes I top ricotta toasts with a drizzle of honey or swirl of jam. But during the summer (aka tomato season) you can’t beat blistered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I could honestly eat this any meal of the day — simple perfection!
A few notes:
This ricotta recipe is easily doubled; just note that it may take a bit more time initially for the milk to reach temperature.
To bake a loaf of bread in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven (with the cover) in the oven while the oven is preheating. Turn your unbaked bread dough onto a piece of parchment and score as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and take off the lid. Transfer the dough, still on the parchment, to the dutch oven and replace the lid. Return the dutch oven to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (or roughly half the baking time); then remove the lid and continue baking the bread until finished.
Homemade ricotta and blistered cherry tomato toasts
For the homemade ricotta:
4 c whole milk (substitute up to 1/2 c heavy cream if desired)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 ml) distilled white vinegar
Pinch of fine sea salt (to taste)
For the blistered cherry tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 thick slices sourdough or country-style bread, homemade or store-bought
Extra virgin olive oil
Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
For the homemade ricotta: Pour the milk into the slow cooker. Heat, partially covered, until a digital thermometer reaches 185F. This can be done over a few hours on the low or medium setting, or in 30-60 minutes on the high setting. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the sides.
Once the milk reaches 185F, turn off the slow cooker. Add the vinegar and gently stir for about 10 seconds to distribute. Turn the slow cooker back on to the low setting and maintain a temperature of 175-190F for twenty minutes without stirring. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheesecloth and suspend over a large measuring glass or bowl.
After twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the lined strainer. Allow to stand until the excess liquid has liquid has drained off, or until you reach desired texture (less time for a softer ricotta and more for drier). Add salt to the curds and gently stir to distribute. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
For the blistered cherry tomatoes: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and saute until blistered, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste.
Assemble the toasts: toast bread if desired. Spread on ricotta and top with blistered tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and fresh basil leaves.
To me, the unofficial start of summer is the arrival of fresh strawberries. To be honest, I’m not much of a summer person — I don’t like hot weather and the mosquitoes that come with it. But I love summer produce, and our family definitely looks forward to berry picking every year.
For the past several years, I’ve made a fraisier to celebrate fresh strawberries. A fraisier is a traditional French strawberries and cream cake, and to me it’s the best way to enjoy candy-sweet, ripe strawberries (after eating them straight off the plant).
With these fraisiers I tend to be a bit casual — I usually make them a little differently every time. Sometimes I use a Japanese genoise as the cake; I’ve also made a matcha sponge version that was delicious. Sometimes I make a gelee layer for the top. I’ve also learned a few things over the years — like the need for gelatin to set the cream, and to keep the cake layers on the thin side to let the strawberries really shine through.
For my 2019 fraisier, I used some fresh basil from our garden to infuse the cream. And because the spring here was quite cool and strawberries didn’t show up until practically July, I added in a few blueberries to make this a fourth of July appropriate cake. (You could definitely just use all strawberries too, though.) The sponge is a lemon-scented chiffon, which is light and fluffy and pretty simple to whip up. The result: summer in every bite.
A few notes:
For easiest assembly, I recommend a 6×3 cake ring and acetate strips. You could also use a springform pan and plastic wrap, but you’ll get the cleanest results from the ring and acetate. (I use these same tools to make Momofuku-style cakes.)
You can make the basil pastry cream base up to 5 days in advance, but wait to add the gelatin and whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the cake.
For the cake, I used a half recipe of this lime chiffon cake and baked it in a 6×3 cake pan (total baking time was about 35 minutes). Don’t use a shorter pan; it will overflow. You could probably also bake this in a quarter sheet pan and cut out two 6″ rounds, but you would need to adjust the baking time.
Berry Basil Fraisier
Makes one 6-inch cake
Half a recipe of this chiffon cake, baked in a 6×3 cake pan (I subbed lemon zest and juice for lime)
1 recipe basil cream diplomat (recipe below)
~1 c chopped strawberries, mixed with a spoonful of strawberry puree or jam; plus about 10-12 strawberries, halved (try to choose ones that are the same height, or trim to match) and 10-12 blueberries
More berries and basil leaves, to decorate
For the basil cream diplomat:
1 c whole milk
50g sugar (1/4 c), divided
20g cornstarch or custard powder
2 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1/2 – 3/4 tsp gelatin*
1/2 tbsp cold
1/2 – 1 c heavy whipping cream*
*Use 1/2 c for a thicker filling and up to 1 c for a lighter filling (I usually use 1/2-3/4 c). If you use more than 1/2 heavy cream, use 3/4 tsp gelatin.
To make the basil cream diplomat: Bring the milk and basil sprigs to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and cover. Allow basil to steep for about 45 minutes.
Strain the milk (add more to reach 1 cup if necessary) and return to the saucepan along with 40g sugar and a pinch of salt. Place a strainer over a heat-safe jug or container.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 g sugar and the cornstarch. Pour in a tablespoon or so of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking on the heat for two minutes.
Strain the pastry cream into the prepared jug or container. Whisk in the butter until combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours).
When you are ready to assemble the cake, finish preparing the cream diplomat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup (60g) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the saucepan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
Whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate while you continue assembling the cake.
To assemble the berry basil fraisier: Line a 6×3 cake ring (or same-sized springform pan) with acetate (or plastic wrap) and place on a cake board or plate. Trim the cake into layers ~3/4 inch thick (you should get three; you’ll need two for the cake. The rest is a baker’s treat!).
Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the ring and brush generously with simple syrup. Place the halved strawberries, cut side out and pointed end up, around the edge of the pan. Add blueberries between the strawberries if desired. Pipe the cream diplomat between the fruits and a layer across the top of the cake. Use a offset palette knife to smooth. Fill the center with the chopped berries + jam, then cover with another layer of cream. Place the second layer of cake on top and press down to level. Soak with simple syrup, then spread a thin layer of cream across the top. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to three days.
Just before serving remove the cake ring and acetate. Arrange the cut fruit and basil on top as desired. (If you are doing this beforehand, brush a little warmed and thinned apricot jam on the fruit to preserve their color.) Enjoy!
One of the questions I hear often is, “What do you do with all the bread you bake?” Truthfully, we normally don’t have a ton of leftovers; and if I know a loaf won’t be finished within a couple days I’ll usually freeze pre-cut slices. But every so often I wind up with a hunk of bread that’s just a little too stale for the freezer.
Sure, that bread could make some pretty fine croutons or breadcrumbs. Or it could be tossed in brown butter and sugar, baked until deliciously golden and nutty, and spun into a quart of homemade ice cream. Add a swirl of jam, and you’ve got breakfast for dessert? Dessert for breakfast? Either way — delicious.
This toast and jam ice cream starts with a creamy and slightly tangy buttermilk custard base. Once done churning, simply alternate layers of ice cream, brown butter crumbs and jam and freeze until firm. If you like toasty bits in every bite you can add the brown butter crumbs during the last minute of churning for more even distribution. You may not use all the crumbs, but save extras for sprinkling on top…if you can resist snacking on them beforehand!
Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
Make the caramelized bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat.
Crumble the bread into small, corn kernel-sized bits.
In a skillet, heat the butter until it melts, then continue to cook until it starts to brown. Remove from heat and stir in the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the bread bits are well-toasted and a deep, dark brown.
Cool completely then store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (They can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature.)
Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of jam and generous sprinklings of bread crumbs. (If you prefer, you can add the desired amount of bread crumbs during the last minute of churning.) 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. It will keep for up to 3 months.
While I love a hearty whole-grain sourdough loaf, nothing hits the spot like a fresh piece of focaccia fresh out of the oven. With a salted top, chewy interior, and crisp bottom, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. But it’s also a pretty tasty snack on its own, dipped in some good olive oil.
Focaccia is also one of the simplest breads to make, so it’s great for beginners or for days when you don’t have the time to babysit your dough. You don’t have to do much shaping or kneading for this bread — just mix, let it double, fold and let double again (this gives an extra airy, even texture); then gently turn into an oiled pan and let it rise some more before topping and baking. I’ve found that the key to really good focaccia is patience — really give it time to double twice for the best texture and flavor, and don’t be in a hurry to push it out to the edges of your pan.
For this sourdough focaccia, I used Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a flavorful bread with a crisp bottom and luscious, chewy interior. It’s especially delicious served with Carapelli Founders Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a fresh and well-balanced blend with notes of wildflower and citrus. While you can top your focaccia with anything you want, I like to keep it simple with flaky salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs and parmesan to let the flavor of the bread and olive oil really shine.
A few notes:
I typically mix and bake focaccia in the same day, but you can retard the dough overnight too. You can refrigerate the dough either after the first doubling (fold, then put in the fridge to double again, then proceed as written); or you can refrigerate the dough after it’s been turned out into the oiled pan.
If you’re baking for a crowd, you can double this recipe and bake it in two 8-inch pans or in one 9×13 pan.
Makes one 8×8 pan
95g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the pan and drizzling)
213g bread flour
10g rye flour
5g sea salt
Flaky salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and grated parmesan
Mix together all ingredients from starter through sea salt until smooth. Transfer to a well oiled container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
Let dough rise until doubled (this can take 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter). Fold, then let double again.
Pour a couple Tbsp of olive oil into 8×8 pan and tilt to cover the entire bottom.
Carefully turn dough into the oiled pan, doing your best not to let it deflate. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes, then gently press from the center out to fill the corners. (If the dough resists at all, let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.) Let rise, covered, until very puffy and airy (in my 2-inch high pan, the dough comes up halfway). This usually takes me 2-3 hours (longer if the dough has been refrigerated overnight — see notes above). About 30-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack and baking stone (if you have one) in the middle.
When you’re ready to bake, drizzle the focaccia with olive oil and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle with flaky salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves, if desired.
Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned and risen. Sprinkle on some parmesan during the last 10 minutes of baking, if you’d like.
Let the focaccia cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It’s best served fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven the next couple of days.
I try to be a “kitchen stuff” minimalist. Don’t get me wrong: my eyes light up when I discover a new bakeware store, and my idea of a good time is browsing the kitchen-related aisles of HomeGoods or HomeSense. But I usually take my time when it actually comes to buying stuff, especially appliances that take up valuable counter or storage space.
Case in point: ice cream makers. I’ve probably threatened to buy one for the past three summers. But I’ve never bit the bullet, sticking to semifreddos and extra trips to the ice cream parlor. (The texture of no-churn recipes have never really excited me.)
But this year, the new Salt & Straw cookbook arrived in the mail; and between the mouthwatering pictures of flavors like Sea Salt and Caramel Ribbon and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and pregnancy cravings for Wendy’s Frosties, I knew this had to be the Summer of Homemade Ice Cream. I mentioned to my husband that I was starting to research ice cream makers. And by the next day, with the help of a friend, he had procured a Cuisinart ICE-20 (I’ve mentioned he’s a keeper, right?). Predictably, I can’t stop churning.
One of the great features of the Salt & Straw cookbook is that it starts out with three simple base recipes: one for regular ice cream, one for sorbet/frozen yogurt/sherbet/gelato, and one for coconut (dairy free) ice cream. Most of the remaining recipes build off one of these bases; and you can actually whip up large batches of the bases and refrigerate/freeze portions for later use so you can practically churn up a pint on a whim.
I decided to start my churning journey with this strawberry swirl frozen yogurt. A ribbon of strawberry syrup adds a touch of sweetness and color to a creamy, tart fro-yo base. I can see having a pint of this deliciousness always on hand, changing up the fruit depending on the season.
A few notes:
I’ve tried this with both regular 2% Greek yogurt, and full-fat regular yogurt (strained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl). Both work well, though I slightly preferred the texture of regular Greek yogurt. Either way, do not use fat-free yogurt for this recipe.
You can also sub 1/2 cup sour cream for part of the yogurt for a little added tang and richness.
Straining the strawberry syrup is optional; if you like a more chunky frozen yogurt you can leave the fruit solids in. If you do strain the syrup, the remaining fruit can be refrigerated and used to spread on toast or top your fro-yo.
1 1/2 c (360g) super-tart Greek yogurt, very cold (see notes above)
3/4 c whole milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the strawberry syrup swirl:
8 oz / 225g trimmed and chopped strawberries
2 Tbsp / 30 g freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
6 oz / 175g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Make the base: Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1 1/4 c water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps). Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.)
Make the strawberry syrup: Combine strawberries, lemon/lime sugar, and salt in a medium pot. Note the pot’s weight at this stage so the reduction can be tracked on the scale (or you can use a digital thermometer). Mash the strawberries with a fork or metal spatula until swimming in juice.
Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and scraping along the bottom and sides of the saucier with a flexible, heat-resistant spatula. This should take about 5 minutes.
Once the mixture begins to boil, continue cooking until reduced by 4 ounces (mixture should be 220°F) for a thin, saucy ribbon or 5 ounces (224°F) for a thick, gooey ribbon. This should take about 6 minutes.
Strain the syrup into a heatproof container. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
Churn the frozen yogurt: Before churning, place a 1-quart container into the freezer, along with a spatula. Place the yogurt, milk, and salt into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the base and whisk until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can add all ingredients together and blend until smooth.) Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie.
Quickly transfer the fro-yo into the prepared container: Spoon in layers of fro-yo alternated by drizzles of strawberry syrup (I used about half of the syrup, but use as much as you want). You can use a knife to swirl the two occasionally, or leave as-is for more distinct strawberry ribbons.
Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the fro-yo-so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.
A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.
Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!
A few notes:
Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
100g granulated sugar, divided
40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
28g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
Before having kids, I really enjoyed daily dinner prep. Both my husband and I are fairly adventurous eaters, so I had fun scouring the internet and cookbooks finding new dishes and techniques to try, or riffing on our fridge contents to create interesting meals.
Nowadays, I still enjoy making dinner but my methods and priorities have definitely shifted. Speed and “will the kids eat it?” are of the essence; new recipes and unusual flavors are typically saved for the weekends or side dishes. While both my kids like to eat, we do experience the typical toddler pickiness that often changes from meal to meal. So finding meals that are palatable for both three-year-olds and thirty-somethings can sometimes be a challenge.
One thing I can always count on my kids being willing to try is anything that involves dipping. So when I was flipping through Jane Hornby’s new cookbook Simple and Classic this breaded fish and tartar sauce recipe caught my eye.
Homemade fish sticks might sound a bit fussy and labor intensive, but these actually come together fairly quickly — totally doable for a busy weeknight. And — more importantly — they are delicious! Using a firm white fish means the fish sticks are mild enough for the little people, and the flavorful crust and punchy dip makes it interesting enough for the older ones. This definitely earned a spot in the regular dinner rotation!
I’m looking forward to trying some of the other dishes in Hornby’s book — it’s packed full of straightforward, easy-to-follow recipes that are simply photographed with step-by-step shots. There’s a nice blend of familiar dishes — such as Sticky BBQ Chicken, Chocolate Profiteroles, and Cheese and Onion Tart — interspersed with more adventurous ones — say, Raspberry & Passion Fruit Mallow Meringue, Lemon Basil Gnudi with Fava Beans, and Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa. Thanks very much to Phaidon Books for sending it along!
A couple of notes:
Instead of using day-old white bread, I used panko (about 175g to account for the discarded bread crusts). I just mixed all the coating ingredients together in a bowl instead of using a food processor.
This recipe makes quite a bit of coating; I had a bit leftover. I recommend just putting some of it on a plate to coat the fish and refilling as necessary. Extras can be frozen; in fact, Hornby suggests making a double batch and freezing the remainder for the future.
4 thick slices white bread (day-old bread is best), about 7 oz. (200g)
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp mild olive oil
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese (2/3 c grated)
1 3/4 lb (800g) sustainably sourced thick white fish fillet, such as cod, haddock, or pollack
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 tsp capers
1 large or 5 small pickles (gherkins)
1/2 c (100g) good-quality mayonnaise (swap half for sour cream, if desired)
salt and pepper
salad greens or peas, to serve
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Put the bread into a food processor with half of the parsley — stems (stalks) too — and all of the oil.
Blend everything together to make oily, herbed bread crumbs. Finely grate the Parmesan and the lemon zest, then mix into the crumbs with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
Cut the fish into chunky sticks about 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ x 4 inches ( 3 x 3 x 10 cm).
Put the flour onto a plate and season it generously with salt and pepper. Break the egg into a bowl, add salt and pepper to this, too, then beat it with a fork. Dust a piece of fish with the flour, then dip it into the egg. Let the excess egg drip off into the bowl below, then roll and pat the fish in the crumbs until covered in an even layer.
Place it onto a nonstick baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the fish. Rinse and dry your hands every now and again, because they can get sticky.
Bake the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze one half, and cut the other into wedges. Finely chop the remaining parsley leaves, the capers, and pickles (gherkins), and put into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Serve the fish with the tartar sauce, lemon wedges, and some salad leaves or just-cooked peas.
Laminated dough is the perfect blank canvas for a baker. It can go sweet or savory, and you can shape it in so many ways. I’ve used this sourdough danish dough previously to make these delicious morning buns, and in this post I’m giving just a couple more ways to put this pastry to work.
While there are a ton of ways you can shape danishes, I’m partial to the pocket and diamond shapes because they accommodate a good amount of filling. I almost always fill my sweet pastries with either cream cheese filling or frangipane — both are simple to whip up and complement any number of fruits. I like using cream cheese with berries (or a dollop of jam or lemon curd) and frangipane with plums, pears, rhubarb, and apples — but experiment with what you have and come up with your own favorite combos! Enjoy!
A few notes:
The proofing time for these danishes can vary quite a bit depending on the temperature of your kitchen. For me it usually takes about 2 hours at warm room temperature (about 80F). Proof them until they’re double in size, very puffy, and jiggle when you shake the pan. The oven with the light on and a pan of warm water is a great proofing spot — just make sure to take the danishes out when preheating the oven!
To make sure the bottoms of the danishes don’t get too dark before they bake through, I bake these pastries on a two baking sheets stacked right on top of each other. If you like the bottoms extra crisp, this isn’t necessary.
I like finishing fruit danishes by brushing the fruit with a bit of simple syrup right after the danishes come out of the oven. It gives the fruit a little bit of shine and your pastries that special little bakery touch.
1 recipe cream cheese filling or frangipane filling (see below)
Fresh fruit such as berries or plums — depending on type/size of fruit, you may need several berries or several slices of fruit per danish; can also use a not-too-runny jam/preserves
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk or water and a pinch of salt for egg wash
Turbinado sugar, optional
Simple syrup, optional
Powdered sugar, optional
For the cream cheese filling:
113g cream cheese, softened (about half a block)
2 Tbsp sugar
Dash of vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Squeeze of lemon juice
For the frangipane filling:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g almond flour
15g AP flour
For the cream cheese filling:
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer also works). Mix on low until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add lemon juice a tsp at a time to taste. Transfer to a pastry bag. Filling can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before piping onto danishes.
For the frangipane filling:
In a small bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the almond and all purpose flour and fold in using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Transfer to a pastry bag. Filling can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before piping onto danishes.
For the danishes:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the danish dough into a large rectangle about 10″ x 14″. Trim the edges so you have a neat rectangle measuring 9″ x 13.5″. Cut dough into six 4.5″ inch squares. Stack, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
Stack two large baking trays together (see notes above) and line the top tray with parchment paper. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator (I like to work with 2-3 squares at a time, leaving the rest refrigerated). Shape into pockets or diamonds as desired and transfer to prepared baking sheet. (See below.)
Brush the shaped pastries with egg wash and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Place in a warm area of the kitchen (around 78-80F — no hotter than 80F or the ) to proof until doubled in size and layers are very visible — about 2-3 hours. Prepare your filling of choice while the pastries proof, if you haven’t already.
When the pastries are nearly finished proofing, preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. Pipe desired filling into the center of the pastries, about 1-2 Tbsp each. Top with fruit, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar if desired.
Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until well risen and browned. Brush the fruit with simple syrup after removing from oven, if desired. Cool for about 10 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving. Danishes are best eaten the day they’re baked, but reheat well the day after in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.
For the “pocket” shape, dab a little filling or egg wash in the center of the square. Fold the two opposing corners into the center, pressing fairly firmly to stick. Repeat with the opposite corners. If the corners pop open during proofing, gently press them back down before adding filling.
For the “diamond” shape, gently fold the pastry square on the diagonal to form a triangle, making sure the corners line up. Using a sharp knife, make two cuts parallel to the sides of the triangle, leaving about 1/4″ of pastry on the edges. Don’t let the cuts meet or you will end up with two pieces of pastry! Unfold the dough and orient the square so it is like a diamond. Fold one edge over so it meets the cut you just made. Repeat with the other edge to form a diamond. You can watch me forming this shape in my Instagram stories — look for the Diamond Danish highlight.
One of the first recipes I ever posted on this site was Chinese Cocktail Buns, or gai mei baos. These soft, fluffy buns with a buttery coconut filling were a favorite from my childhood and definitely the first item I reach for in any Chinese bakery.
It’s hard to improve on a classic, but for a long time I’ve thought that my ideal Chinese bun would have the luscious filling of a gai mei bao and the sweet cookie topping of another favorite, pineapple buns (or bo lo baos). (These buns don’t actually contain pineapple — they’re named such because of the crackly topping that vaguely resembles a pineapple.) I finally had a chance to test this theory by making these hybrid pineapple coconut buns, and let me tell you — Best. Idea. Ever. I honestly could eat these for breakfast every day! They were just divine slightly warm from the oven, but lasted very well for several days, just needing a few seconds in the microwave to restore the soft texture.
A few notes:
As written, making these pineapple coconut buns is a two day project. I prepare the levain for the bread in the morning, mix the dough in the afternoon, and shape/fill/bake the buns the next day. If you don’t have a sourdough starter or want to make this a shorter project, you can use the dough in the original Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns post — just divide into 12 pieces and shape/fill/bake as directed below.
I highly recommend using caster (or superfine) sugar for both the filling and topping for the best consistency. I make my own by just grinding regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute.
Pineapple Coconut Buns
Makes 12 buns
For the sourdough milk bread:
For the levain:
57g bread flour
Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature (6-12 hours, depending on environment).
284g bread/AP flour
52g unsalted butter, at room temperature
21g milk powder
All of the levain
For the coconut filling:
180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
80g caster sugar
50g cake flour
60g milk powder
90g unsweetened desiccated coconut
For the pineapple topping:
125g cake flour
55g caster sugar
40g lard or shortening, at room temperature
7 g milk power
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp cream (plus more, if needed)
1 tsp condensed milk (optional; use extra cream instead)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten
For the sourdough milk bread:
Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed (about 5 minutes on medium speed, using the dough hook on a stand mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading at medium speed until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into loose rounds. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour.
While the dough is resting, prepare the filling and topping. To make the filling, cream together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the cake flour, milk powder, and coconut and mix to combine. I like to chill my filling for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to handle.
To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the lard or shortening and rub it into the dry ingredients. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, vanilla, and condensed milk and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, then knead until a dough forms. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add cream a tsp at a time until everything is hydrated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
When the dough has rested, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Take the filling mixture and divide it into 12 equal portions (I like to roll it into rounds, then flatten slightly). Take a piece of dough and roll it into a circle, making the edges a little thinner than the middle. Place a portion of filling in the center, then fold the edges up and over the filling and pinch tightly to seal. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover the buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until about doubled in size, about 5-7 hours. When the buns are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F.
Just before baking, top the buns. Divide the topping dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands to form a ball. Working one at a time, flatten a piece with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll into a thin round big enough to cover a bun. (I find covering the dough with a piece of plastic wrap while rolling makes this easy to do.) Brush the top of the bun with a bit of water, then carefully place the topping round on top, using a small offset spatula. Repeat with remaining buns.
Brush the top of each bun with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until the tops are golden brown and buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 10-15 more minutes. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush with simple syrup. Leftover buns store well for a few days in an airtight container. Microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften.
March is just around the corner but here in Toronto we’re still firmly planted in winter, with a good foot of snow outside our front door. Hailing from a part of the world where daffodils often start blooming in February, I often start feeling a little color-deprived this time of year. Thank God for winter citrus! Just having a bowl of lemons, limes, and oranges around provides a truly welcome splash of color.
Since I usually get a little citrus-happy and stock my grocery cart with a few too many lemons or limes, I inevitably make some type of citrus poppyseed cake or two this time of year. My go-to recipe is the lemon pound cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible (one of my all time favorite cookbooks), but this time around I had some sour cream that needed using so I decided to try a different Rose recipe, her Triple Lemon Velvet Cake from Rose’s Baking Basics. It didn’t disappoint, with a lovely velvet crumb that keeps nicely for days. I swapped out lime for lemon since that’s what I had the most of, and added a little bit of hibiscus powder for a pretty pink glaze. Definitely a cure for the winter blues!
A few notes:
I used my favorite 6-cup Heritage bundt pan and it worked fabulously. Just be sure to grease and flour it well, and don’t wait too long to turn the cake out (about 10 minutes works for me). This cake can also be baked in a regular loaf pan; the baking time should be roughly the same.
The original recipe calls for either cake or all-purpose flour. If you use all cake flour the crumb will be a bit more fluffy; with all-purpose a bit more dense. My personal preference is a a mix of the two (50/50).
I found hibiscus powder at my local bulk/health food store, but it is also easily found on Amazon.
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan (or grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper).
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and 1/4 (30g) of the sour cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the sugar and zest. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.
Add the butter and remaining sour cream (90g). Mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened, then increase the speed to medium and beat for about a minute to aerate the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle.
Add the yolk mixture in two portions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, prepare the lime syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the lime juice and sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cover and set aside.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack. Poke the bottom of the cake all over with a skewer and brush the bottom with about 1/3 of the syrup. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining syrup.
When the cake has cooled completely, make the hibiscus glaze. Whisk the hibiscus powder into the lime juice. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Whisk in the hibiscus-lime juice, followed by the butter. Pour or drizzle the glaze onto the cake.