Apologies to the half can of pumpkin still sitting in my fridge: I have moved on to candy canes and gingerbread. We’re normally a “Christmas starts in December” family, but it’s 2020 and anything goes. We picked out our tree and hung the stockings; the kids are busying themselves cutting snowflakes and making garlands.
These triple chocolate peppermint cookies made their first appearance in our annual treat boxes last year, and I think they’ve earned a permanent spot in the holiday baking rotation. They’re simple but festive — a great option for making with kids and for munching on during tree trimming or a favorite holiday movie.
A few notes:
If you’ve hung around here much you’ll know I like a bit of rye in my chocolate baked goods — its earthiness helps enhance the chocolate flavor. You could also swap out the rye for buckwheat — also delicious! But if you don’t have those flours on hand, just replace the rye with an additional 50g all purpose flour.
These cookies do best after a rest in the fridge to help hydrate the dough and prevent excessive spread. But I understand the need for instant gratification — if you just HAVE to have a cookie right away, stick the preformed dough in the freezer while you preheat the oven to quicken things along. They’ll likely still spread a little more than if you wait the full 3 hours, but it’s not the worst thing ever.
While I’m typically a dark chocolate lover, I really enjoy the mix of chocolates in this cookie. Using all dark chocolate can be a little intense — the pops of milk and white bring a little hit of extra sweetness. But as always, adjust the ratios to your tastes!
Peppermint extract varies in intensity from brand to brand, and too much can make your baked goods smell and taste like toothpaste. I used Club House pure peppermint extract here and this level was perfect for me, but if you have an especially potent brand you may want to start with a little less.
Crushed peppermint candies/candy canes, for garnish
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job.
While the butter is melting, place the espresso powder and 50g of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl. Once the butter has melted, pour it over the espresso-chocolate mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg and egg yolk. Whisk in the vanilla and peppermint extracts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the remaining 30g dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Mix just until evenly distributed.
Portion the dough into ping-pong sized balls, about 55 grams (3 tbsp) each, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If the dough is too soft, cover and chill for about 30 minutes before scooping.) Cover and chill at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6.4 cm) apart and sprinkle the tops with crushed peppermint candies.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and barely set, about 11 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
I have had so many requests for this recipe since posting this photo on Instagram, so I am sharing it with you today with one caveat: I have only tested this recipe once as written. Generally I make all recipes I post here at least twice before sharing so I can ensure it’s repeatable and work out any kinks. But I just released a cookbook and honestly, I’m so tired!
However, I realize that many of you may want to attempt this over Thanksgiving and holidays, so I’m sharing what I did along with some notes. I do plan to retest these again and will update the recipe accordingly if needed.
A few notes:
I made these bars with a pretty thick base, which I liked. However, I suspect most people would prefer it a little thinner so the recipe amounts below reflect that. If you’re team extra-thick base, multiply all amounts by 1.45.
I realize having a couple extra egg whites leftover from the filling may be annoying. However, I really liked this ratio of filling to meringue! The filling is bright and tart and stands up well to the sweet topping. I freeze extra egg whites for future meringue / financiers / macarons or macaroons or just add them to a batch of scrambled eggs. If you want to use just 4 eggs total, then multiply all filling ingredients by .67. (Sure, you could make a bigger batch of meringue but honestly I feel it would be overkill. But your bars, your ratios!)
Did I mention I just released a cookbook? Baked to Order is available now, wherever books are sold! And if you’ve bought the book and are enjoying it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? Reviews are incredibly valuable and help others find the book more easily. THANK YOU for your support!
Lemon Pie Bars with Strawberry Meringue
Makes one 9×5 loaf pan (about 8 big slices or 16 squares) | Filling adapted from Bravetart; meringue inspiration from Erin McDowell
For the graham cracker crust:
120g graham cracker crumbs
Pinch of kosher salt
12g light brown sugar
42-56g unsalted butter (as needed), melted
For the lemon-elderflower filling:
250g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
Zest of 3 lemons
170g freshly squeezed lemon juice
42g elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)
For the strawberry swiss meringue:
30g freeze-dried strawberries
180g granulated sugar
120g egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of kosher salt
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper leaving 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment. Secure the edges of the parchment with metal binder clips, if desired, to make assembly easier (they keep the parchment paper from flapping around).
Make the graham cracker crust: In a small bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, salt, and sugar. Add about 42g (3T) of melted butter and stir to combine. You’re looking for a wet sand consistency — when you squeeze a bit of the mixture in your hand, it should hold together easily but not feel overly greasy. The amount of butter needed can vary depending on the brand of crumbs and how finely ground they are. Add more melted butter as needed, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.
Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan and use a small glass or measuring cup to press it along the bottom of the pan firmly and evenly. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until fragrant and just set. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
Make the lemon-elderflower filling: Set a sieve over a medium heatsafe bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch until well combined. Add the egg yolks, zest, lemon juice, water, and liqueur and whisk to combine.
Cook over low heat until steaming, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking and cooking for two full minutes (set a timer! It’s important to not skimp on the time or the filling will not set properly). Take care as the mixture will sputter and spit a bit.
Strain the filling into the prepared container to remove the zest, then scrape the filling over the prepared crust. Cool at room temperature until a skin forms over the surface, about 30-45 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is cold and fully set, at least 4 or up to 24 hours.
Make the strawberry meringue and assemble the bars: About an hour before serving, remove the bars from the refrigerator and transfer to a serving plate. Discard the parchment.
To make the meringue, fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. While the water is heating up, combine the freeze-dried strawberries and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries are ground into a fine powder. Transfer the strawberry-sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.
Place the bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler—this heats the egg mixture gently to avoid scrambling the eggs. The base of the bowl should not touch the simmering water.
Heat the egg white mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a heatproof spatula, until it reaches 165°F (74C) on an instant-read thermometer. The mixture should be quite thick and the sugar completely dissolved.
Remove the bowl from the double-boiler and transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the meringue has increased in size 3-4x times and holds glossy medium-stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes. (It will still be a little warm — don’t overbeat or the meringue can get a little gooey and difficult to spread.)
Immediately scrape the meringue on top of the lemon filling and use a spatula or spoon to spread it over the top. Swoop and swirl as you desire.
To serve, use a hot, sharp knife to slice (clean the knife with a hot, damp towel between cuts). The bars are best served immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.
I’ve been leaning hard into nostalgic bakes lately; and these coffee date squares are my latest crush. An oat-flecked bar cookie with a layer of sweet date filling, date squares make a perfect sweet bite alongside your warm beverage of choice.
Date squares are popular coffeehouse fare here in Canada. Apparently in some parts of the country they’re known as “matrimonial cake” — possibly because the varying flavors and textures mirror the complexities of marriage (I know…it’s a stretch), or maybe because they were frequently served at weddings.
Name speculations aside, these old-fashioned treats are simple to make and enjoy. I’ve added coffee to help balance the sweetness of the dates, but these bars just call for personalization. Try simmering the dates in a mixture of water and orange or lemon juice (add some orange zest to the crumble if you want to play up the citrus notes!), or swap in your favorite medley of warming spices.
A few notes:
I use a food processor to make the crumble mixture for speed’s sake, but if you can also rub the butter in by hand. In general, I prefer using cold butter (vs. softened or melted) for crumb bars and streusels as I find the crumbs hold their shape well and have my ideal firm-but-tender texture after baking.
If you don’t want to use nuts, you can swap in an additional 45 g (1/2 c) oats instead (add them at the end with the rest of the oats).
You can use plain all-purpose flour for the crumble, but I think whole grain flour adds extra character and flavor to these bars! I’m a big fan of Flourist sifted Red Fife in baked goods, but you could try white whole-wheat, a mix of all-purpose and whole grain, or all whole grain for a heartier texture.
Coffee date squares
Makes one 8×8 pan
For the coffee date filling:
300g (1 3/4 c) dried Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
90g (1 c) rolled oats (preferably regular, not quick)
Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 square pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on all edges. (This makes it easy to remove the squares from the pan later.)
Make the coffee date filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped dates and coffee. Cook over medium heat, stirring and mashing the dates frequently, until the dates have broken down and the mixture is thick and relatively smooth, about 10 minutes. Add the baking soda and stir to combine thoroughly. Scrape filling into a bowl and let cool while you continue with the recipe.
Make the crust and crumb: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, nuts, salt, sugar, ground coffee, and spices. Pulse several times until well combined. Scatter the cold butter over the top and pulse until the mixture starts to form small clumps. Add the oats and pulse just a few times to incorporate — you don’t want the oats to completely break down as they add a nice texture.
Assemble and bake the squares: Transfer approximately 2/3 (400g) of the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use a small glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs firmly and evenly across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just set.
Use a small offset spatula to spread the date filling evenly over the par-baked base (no need to let the base cool) and sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22-30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing — I find chilling the bars in the fridge for a couple hours makes slicing a breeze. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.
This is for the dip-your-french-fries-in-ice-cream and salted caramel folks out there — Ruffles marshmallow treats! I first tried this magical sweet-and-salty combo at Bake Shoppe in Toronto, a local favorite known for their nostalgic bakes and quirky-chic vibe. (Their retail store has since closed, but I hear they’re “baking up” some exciting new plans. Sorry not sorry.) Their ruffles marshmallow treats were a fan favorite, not just as bars but as cakes. If you’re raising an eyebrow, well, don’t knock it before you try it.
I made a small batch of these no-bake Ruffles marshmallow treats for Halloween, since my kids decided that this year needed to be all about marshmallows (we have plans for a marshmallow roast in place of trick-or-treating, provided the weather doesn’t pull a Canada and give us our first snow). These are so easy and fast to make — the perfect last-minute treat.
A couple notes:
As with my rice krispie treats, I level up these squares with browned butter. You can just melt the butter if you want, but that toasty goodness really does add a little something-something.
I also like holding back some of the marshmallows and folding them in at the end for some textural variety. Again, totally optional.
I’m sure you could make this with a mix of Ruffles and rice krispies; you’ll just want to use ~3 cups worth of dry ingredients for this amount of marshmallows. Note that Rice Krispies weigh less than chips per cup (about half as much), so don’t swap by weight or your mixture will probably be too dry. (Refer to the rice krispies treat recipe for a measurement guide.)
Feeding a crowd? Double all the ingredients for an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.
Small Batch Ruffles Marshmallow Treats for Halloween (or any time)
Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 or 9×5 pan (about 8 squares)
56g / 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
200g / 4 cups mini marshmallows, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g / 3 cups crushed Ruffles-style potato chips
Edible eyes (optional)
Line an 8 1/2×4 1/2 or 9×5 loaf pan with a parchment sling. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
Brown the butter: Cube the butter and place it in a medium, light-colored pot over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts.
When the butter has browned, immediately take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and all but a large handful of the marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the marshmallows completely, place the pan back over low heat and keep stirring until they are.
Add the crushed chips and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining handful of mini marshmallows.
Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicone spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Decorate with edible eyes, if desired. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days.
Grape ricotta danishes with walnut thyme streusel are the buttery-creamy-fruity-nutty pastry of your dreams! These homemade danishes are perfect for a weekend brunch or holiday spread and are so fun to make.
Better Baking Academy
I’m sharing these pastries with you as part of the year-long Better Baking Academy put on by Bake from Scratch and Bob’s Red Mill! Every month this year, this free educational series has been diving deep into different baking techniques — think macarons, pate a choux, and pie dough. Through detailed tutorials and clear recipes, Better Baking Academy aims to equip the home baker with a well-rounded set of skills that will set you up for a lifetime of baking success. Enroll in the Better Baking Academy now to access all the modules and recipes!
This month’s Better Baking Academy module is on fall danishes and lamination technique. While lamination may sound a little intimidating, let me assure you that it is very doable at home (there’s even a whole chapter on laminated pastries in my upcoming cookbook!). Learning how to laminate will open up a huge world of delicious baked goods — croissants, danishes, puff pastry, kouign amann, and so on. Like any other technique, lamination just takes some patience and practice. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way.
Five Tips for lamination success
Use good quality ingredients. Now is the time to splurge on fancy European-style butter (at least 82% fat)! Not only will good butter make your pastries taste better, but the actual lamination process will be much easier — European-style butter is less prone to cracking due to its low water/high fat content. Using a strong, good-quality flour is key as well — Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour is a great choice. It has a higher protein content than a lot of other all-purpose flours, which creates a strong dough that can withstand rolling and shaping and pastries that will rise high in the oven.
Plan your bake. There’s actually not a ton of hands-on work required for laminated pastries, but you will need to plan for chilling and proofing times throughout the process. Figure out when you want to bake the pastries and work backwards from there to budget your time. I suggest reading the recipe through completely a couple times in advance, and trying to visualize each step before starting. The more familiar you are with the steps before you begin, the more enjoyable the entire process will be.
Measure carefully. Pull out your kitchen scale and ruler — pastries like precision! For best results, weigh your ingredients and measure carefully when rolling out and cutting. Roll your dough to the specified dimensions, and keep your edges and corners neat and sharp — this will help you achieve uniform, professional-looking pastries!
Manage temperature. Properly managing the temperature of your ingredients is critical for successful lamination. Your butter and dough need to be at similar temperatures before you try to combine them via lamination. They should cool but pliable — if too cold, the butter will shatter when you try to roll it out; and if too warm, the butter will melt into the dough. Test your butter block before starting lamination — it should be pliable enough to bend without breaking, but cool enough to easily release from the parchment paper. If you can feel the butter starting to crack as you roll, stop and let it soften for 5-10 minutes before proceeding. If the dough starts to feel sticky/melty/warm, stop and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and try again.
Proof fully. Once you’ve shaped your pastries, proof them in a warm and humid environment. The oven with the light on and a dish of warm water on the shelf below is a great spot. (Just make sure the temperature doesn’t get above 80F degrees or the butter will melt!) When fully proofed, the pastries should look very puffy and jiggly with very visible layers. When properly proofed pastry hits the hot oven, steam from the butter will cause the layers to separate and create that beautiful flaky texture. Underproofed pastries tend to leak butter during baking and won’t have a light final texture.
Now, about these grape ricotta danishes with walnut thyme streusel! I decided to go with a classic coil shape that is simple but gorgeous. Also very important — it allows for plenty of filling! These danishes start with a ricotta filling spiked with honey and black pepper (one of my favorite punchy flavor combos!), which is then topped with fresh grapes. I used a seedless concord variety which were just perfect — after roasting in the oven they’re intensely jammy, but still retain some texture. I think blueberries, cranberries or even thinly sliced pears would work nicely here too — but do try the grapes if you can!
These danishes are generously sprinkled with a nutty streusel before hitting the oven. You’ll never find me saying no to streusel — not only does it taste delicious, but it adds a crisp layer of texture that complements the creamy ricotta and juicy fruit.
For a final bit of bakery style shine, brush your danishes with a little warm honey as soon as they’re out of the oven. Wait just long enough so that you don’t burn your tongue, then enjoy! These danishes are *chef’s kiss* perfect still warm from the oven and honestly so satisfying to make.
⅓ cup (67 grams) plus 1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon (9 grams) kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
1 cup (227 grams) plus 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, softened and divided
2 large eggs (100 grams), room temperature and divided
For the ricotta filling:
1/2 c (120 g) full fat ricotta cheese
1½ Tbsp (30 g) honey
1 large egg yolk
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1½ Tbsp (12 g) all-purpose flour
For the walnut thyme streusel:
1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp (50 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 c (50 g) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp (42 g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 Tbsp (25 g) chopped walnuts
1 cup (240 g) seedless concord grapes (or similar variety), halved if large
2 Tbsp (40 g) warm honey, for glazing, plus more for drizzling
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
Make the danish dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup (125 grams) flour, ⅓ cup (67 grams) sugar, salt, and yeast.
In a medium saucepan, heat milk and 3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 120°F (49°C) to 130°F (54°C). Add warm milk mixture to flour mixture, and beat at medium-low speed until combined. Add 1 egg (50 grams), beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add 2½ cups (313 grams) flour, beating just until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
Switch to the dough hook attachment. Beat at low speed until a soft, somewhat sticky dough forms, 5 to 7 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl and dough hook; add up to remaining ½ cup (62 grams) flour, 1 tablespoon (8 grams) at a time, if dough is too sticky. Cover and let rise until slightly puffed, 10 to 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly dust with flour.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a 9-inch square, and place on prepared pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Prepare the butter block: Using a permanent marker, draw an 8-inch square on a sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over. Place remaining 1 cup (227 grams) butter on prepared parchment. Cover with a second sheet of parchment, and shape butter to fit inside drawn square, keeping edges straight and even. Keep wrapped in parchment paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Freeze dough for 15 minutes; let butter block stand at room temperature until pliable, about 15 minutes.
Laminate the dough: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch square. Unwrap butter block, and place on dough so corners of butter block touch center of sides of dough. Fold dough over butter block, meeting in middle, and press lightly to seal dough around butter block. Straighten dough and immediately roll into an 18×12-inch rectangle. Fold each short end to meet in center; fold in half. Turn dough 90 degrees, and roll out again. Repeat folding. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1½ hours; freeze for 30 minutes. (See Notes.)
While dough is resting, make the ricotta filling and walnut thyme streusel. To make the ricotta filling, whisk together all ingredients until combined (for smoothest filling, pulse in a food processor). Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the walnut thyme streusel, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, thyme, and salt in a small bowl. Scatter the cold, cubed butter over the top. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until moist clumps form. Mix in the walnut pieces. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Shape, proof, and bake the danishes: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 17×13-inch rectangle. Trim ½ inch off each side so rectangle is 16×12 inches. Cut dough in half lengthwise, and return one half to pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Cut remaining dough lengthwise into six 12″ x 1⅓” strips.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon (5 grams) water and remaining 1 egg (50 grams).
Brush a strip with egg wash. Twist strip; shape into a coil, making sure to keep it flat. Tuck end under, and place on prepared pan. Repeat with remaining strips. Brush shaped pastries with egg wash. Repeat with second half of dough.
Let pastries rise in a warm, draft-free place (75-80°F/24-26°C) until danishes are puffy and jiggly and the layers are very noticeable. This may take as little as 20-30 minutes or as much as 1-2 hours, depending on how long it takes you to shape your pastries and the warmth of your kitchen.
While pastries are rising, position oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
Right before baking, brush pastries with a second coat of egg wash. Pipe a generous tablespoon of ricotta filling in the center of each danish. Press several grapes into the filling and sprinkle with a generous tablespoon of walnut thyme streusel. (Don’t skimp — the pastries will expand in the oven and you want to have plenty of filling and streusel in each one.)
Bake, one batch at a time, until just starting to brown, 8-10 minutes. Rotate pan, and reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Bake until deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes more. (See Notes.) (Increase oven temperature to 425°F [220°C] before baking second batch.) Brush the grapes and exposed pastry with warmed honey. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzling with additional honey and sprinkling with fresh thyme leaves just before eating, if desired. Best served same day but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (See Notes.)
If you want to serve these for breakfast or an early brunch, instead of refrigerating for 1½ hours and then freezing for 30 minutes, just refrigerate overnight (no need to freeze).
Some ovens bake the bottoms darker than others, place a second pan under prepared pan when baking to prevent overbrowning. Not sure how your oven will bake? Can test with one on a sheet pan or just go ahead and double pan just to be safe.
Reheat stored Danish in a 350°F (180°C) oven before eating.
Last week we celebrated Isabelle’s first birthday. As I’ve looked back on the photos and videos from this past year and cheered her on as she’s started taking her first steps, I realize — despite the seeming never-endingness that is 2020 — time marches on.
Naturally, there was cake. We’re still sticking to very small gatherings here, so I made a petite birthday cake and a very petite one for Isabelle to “smash.” (Though let’s be honest — this is our third kid and this was hardly her first taste of cake!) It was the perfect size.
Buttermilk Ermine Frosting
Let’s talk for a minute about the buttermilk ermine frosting. If you’ve never made ermine frosting (sometimes called flour buttercream or boiled icing… uh, yum?) you really must try it! It’s fluffy and not too sweet, almost like a sturdy whipped cream in texture. This old-school frosting starts with a flour-milk-sugar roux that’s cooked to a thick paste on the stove. Once cooled, it’s beaten together with softened butter. I promise, it’s much tastier than it sounds! Ermine frosting is softer than Swiss meringue buttercream so it’s not the best for super sharp edges and intricate piping, but it’s tops for eating. Using buttermilk instead of regular milk gives it cream cheese frosting vibes; I’m totally using it the next time I make a red velvet or carrot cake!
A few notes:
The measurements for this cake are a bit odd because it’s scaled down / adapted from this old favorite vanilla cake recipe. The cup conversions are super awkward so I’ve just stuck with grams. I recommend baking by weight whenever possible — it’s much more accurate and quicker/cleaner than breaking out all the measuring cups! A scale is truly my favorite kitchen tool and a worthwhile investment.
To make the cakes pictured, I split the batter among two 6-inch cake pans and two 4-inch cake pans. For the most even layers, weigh the batter (told you the kitchen scale is handy!). Here’s how I do it: before baking, I weigh the bowl in which I’ll be mixing my batter. After I’ve finished mixing my batter, I’ll weigh the bowl with the batter, then subtract the weight of the bowl to find out how much my batter weighs. Then I divide the batter weight by however many pans I’m using. In this case, I first divided by 3 — this is how much batter I put in each of the two 6″ pans. Then I divided the remaining third of the batter between the two 4″ pans. Note that if you’re using different sized pans, they may bake at slightly different rates; though in this case all my layers finished around the same time. Not making a smash cake? You can just use three 6″ pans!
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute plain milk (either lowfat or whole should work nicely) for a plain, delicious vanilla frosting.
Mini vanilla cake with buttermilk ermine frosting (plus a smash cake!)
Makes one 2-layer 6″ cake plus one 2-layer 4″ smash cake (or one 3-layer 6″ cake)
For the vanilla cake:
119g all-purpose flour
136g cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
250 g granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
204g sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
136g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g neutral vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
For the buttermilk ermine frosting:
42g all-purpose flour
140g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
About 1/3 cup peach preserves (or other thick fruit jam)
Sprinkles, for decorating
For the vanilla cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) with a rack in the middle position. Line the bottom of two 6″ pans and two 4″ pans with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.
In a glass measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and 50 grams of the sour cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Mix on low for 30 seconds to combine.
With the mixer still on low, add the butter a spoonful at a time, followed by the oil and the remaining 154 grams of sour cream. Once all the flour is moistened, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds. The batter will be very thick at this point. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle.
With the mixer on low, add half of the egg and sour cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.
Fold the batter a couple of times with a flexible spatula to ensure everything is well incorporated. Divide the batter among the prepared pans (see notes above) and smooth the surfaces with a small offset spatula. Place the pans on a baking sheet.
Bake until the cakes are puffed and springy, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 28-35 minutes. (These cakes don’t brown much.) Cool 10-20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. For easiest assembly, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator completely before filling and frosting.
For the buttermilk ermine frosting:
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until well combined. Add the buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil. One the mixture starts boiling, cook for an additional two minutes. It should be thick and glue-like; if you run a spoon through the middle of the mixture, the line should remain for a second before slowly filling again.
Remove from the heat and use a flexible spatula to scrape into a pie plate (using a wide, shallow pan speeds the cooling process). Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Cool completely to room temperature before proceeding.
Place the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the cooled pudding a spoonful at a time. Once all the pudding has been added, scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Continue mixing until smooth.
Switch to the whisk attachment and add the vanilla. Whip on medium speed until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 3 more minutes. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week (or freeze for up to 6 months). Bring back to room temperature and rewhip before using.
If you plan to pipe words or other decorations on your cakes, set aside a small amount of buttercream (I only needed a couple spoonfuls to pipe “One” and “1”). Transfer about 1 cup of buttermilk ermine frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Level the cakes if needed using a sharp serrated knife or cake leveler. Place one 6-inch round on a cake board or serving platter. Pipe a dam around the edge and fill the center with peach preserves. Place the second layer cut side down. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting to lock the crumbs in, then chill for about 15 minutes. Repeat process with the 4″ cake layers.
Frost the cakes and decorate as desired. I tinted my reserved frosting with a drop of Americolor Dusty Rose and piped the text using a #2 Wilton tip (I recommend practicing a couple times on a piece of parchment paper). Cake is best enjoyed at room temperature.
Last week I was in desperate need of a fall spice fix. I’d recently found my donuts pans while cleaning out my baking supplies and we had a two large jugs of local apple cider, so the solution was obvious — apple cider donuts!
There’s a plain baked donut recipe from the early days of this blog, and this version is a direct descendent. I remember trying several baked donut recipes at the time of that original post, and the base recipe from The Kitchn was our clear favorite. It uses both yeast and baking powder for leavening, taking a page from southern-style angel biscuits. I love the texture of these donuts — they’re light, but still have the pleasing heft of a cake-style donut thanks to a good dollop of sour cream. To “apple ciderify” the base, I swapped out some of the sugar for light brown, added a good dose of apple pie spices, and used some reduced apple cider for the liquid. I also like to use a little bit of wholegrain flour to hint at rustic heartiness.
These donuts are most delicious still a little warm from the oven, though I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying one the next day with my morning coffee. Maybe I shouldn’t have small batched them… (FWIW, the recipe is easily doubled.)
A few notes:
You can use either instant or active dry yeast for this recipe. If you’re using active dry, there really isn’t a need to activate the yeast in liquid beforehand as long as you know it’s still good. If you’re unsure, you can bloom it in a couple tablespoons of the apple cider, then whisk the bloomed yeast-cider mixture into the wet ingredients in step three. (Remember to subtract the amount of cider you use for blooming from the total cider called for in the recipe.)
Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. I know many people dislike cloves, but it’s a spice that reminds me of mulled cider so I like to add a pinch. Cardamom would be nice here too, if that’s your jam. I do think that fresh nutmeg is a crucial spice not just for apple-y things, but for donuts in general. Freshly grated makes all the difference.
The most time consuming part of this recipe is reducing the apple cider and letting it cool. If you want fresh apple cider donuts in the morning, I suggest doing the reduction the night before and letting it cool at room temp overnight.
25 g (3 Tbsp) einkorn flour (can substitute whole wheat, spelt, or more all-purpose)
1 tsp instant yeast (or active dry)
50 g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
50 g (1/4 c) light brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand; use 2/3 the amount for another brand of kosher salt or sea salt and 1/2 the amount for table salt)
1 large egg, at room temperature
70 g (scant 1/3 c) reduced apple cider, at room temperature (see Notes)
70 g (scant 1/3 c) sour cream, at room temperature
28 g (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
50 g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of cloves
42 g (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Grease a 6-count donut pan (I have this one) with baking spray and dust with flour. Make sure to grease and flour the raised center of each cavity too, as that is where donuts like to stick.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, instant yeast, sugars, baking powder, spices, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk the egg, reduced apple cider, sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Transfer the batter to a disposable piping bag and pipe into the prepared pan. Each well should be about 3/4 full. (You can also spoon the batter into the pan, but a piping bag is much easier and cleaner.)
Bake the donuts until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. While the donuts are baking, whisk together the granulated sugar and spices for the topping.
When the donuts are done baking, remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the donuts from the pan to the wire rack — I use a small offset spatula to gently dislodge them, then turn onto the rack. They should turn out easily if your pan was well prepared.
While the donuts are still warm, use a brush both sides with melted butter and sprinkle with the spiced sugar. Donuts are best enjoyed still slightly warm from the oven, preferably with coffee or warm apple cider.
Note: To make reduced apple cider, simmer 240g (1 c) apple cider over medium heat, stirring occasionally,until it has reduced to 80g (1/3 c). This is easiest to do if you weigh the pot with the non-reduced cider before starting to simmer. Subtract 160g from this number — this is your target weight after reduction. Exact time will depend on the size of your pan and how warm your stove is — start checking around 15 minutes. Pour reduced cider into a heatproof container and cool to room temperature before using. I make a little more than is called for in the recipe to account for small amounts that might be left in the pan.
As the mornings and evenings begin taking on a chill, I inevitably find myself adding an extra shake of cinnamon to my banana bread and searching out my jewel-toned sweaters. It’s fall, y’all — my favorite season! Even though this year continues to perplex in so many ways, I take comfort in the constants: crimson-colored leaves, fresh apples, slowly simmered soups, pumpkin patches.
There will be apple and pumpkin pies, for sure, but first — these salted, malted oatmeal cookies! These cookies are inspired by the spelt and honey oatmeal raisin cookies in my upcoming cookbook, Baked to Order — consider it a bonus variation! If you’d like to learn more about Baked to Order or to pre-order (incredibly helpful for authors these days!), please head over to my dedicated cookbook page — it has more information specifically about the book along with a list of places you can purchase all over the world. Also, I’ve got some some previews and giveaways planned closer to the launch date, so follow along on Instagram to get in on the fun!
OK, back to this recipe! To inject fall vibes into these cookies, I reached for malted milk powder, a mix of grain extracts and milk powder. (For a more detailed description, read this excellent article by Stella Parks.) Adding malted milk powder to baked goods imparts a roasty, toasty caramelized flavor — perfect for fall!
I like these cookies with lots of toasted nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts would be excellent too) and a hint of milk chocolate. Substitute a different type of chocolate if you prefer, but I enjoyed how the sweetness of the milk chocolate complemented the robust malty flavor. But your cookies, your choice!
A couple of notes:
A little inverted sugar gives these cookies the perfect amount of chew. I used golden syrup here — its caramel notes work so well with malt. Find golden syrup at your local British food store (many major supermarkets also carry it), or online. In a pinch you can substitute honey.
Malted milk powder increases browning, so it can be a little tricky to judge when these cookies are done. You want the edges to be set but the centers should be a little soft and lighter in color — the cookies will continue to set up outside the oven. Whenever I make a new cookie recipe, I like baking a single test cookie to test the perfect amount of time in my oven; that way you avoid an entire batch of over or under-done cookies.
A couple tips for beautiful looking cookies: first, for perfectly round cookies, use a round cookie cutter, offset spatula, or spoon to nudge the cookies into shape right after you take them out of the oven (do this right away before they completely set). Second, hold back a little bit of the mix-ins (nuts and chocolate) and stick a few pieces on top right before baking to give each cookie some visual interest. (And don’t forget the flaky salt!)
You can chill unbaked dough in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage. For oatmeal cookies in general, I prefer letting the chilled dough soften at room temperature before baking (I take them out 30-60 minutes before baking, or at least while the oven is preheating if I forget to do it sooner). I find they spread better that way.
Salted Malted Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies
113 g (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use 2/3 the amount for another brand of kosher salt or half the amount for table salt)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
125 g (1 cup) all purpose flour
150 g (1⅔ cup) rolled oats (not quick)
120 g (1 cup) toasted pecans, chopped
85 g (½ cup) chopped milk chocolate
Flaky salt, for garnish
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, golden syrup, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, espresso powder, malted milk powder, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.
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.
With the mixer on low, add the flour. When there are just a few streaks of flour remaining, add the oats, followed by the pecans and milk chocolate. 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 just firm, about 45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Portion the dough into ping-pong sized balls, about 55-60 grams each. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6 cm) apart.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and golden but the centers are still soft and pale, about 13 to 15 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
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
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
2-3 cups of frosting, depending on your design (see notes above)
Strawberry jam, if desired
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.
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.
In a small bowl, sift together the all purpose and cake flours and whisk together thoroughly.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the reduced strawberry puree, buttermilk, and food coloring (if using).
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.
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.
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.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, about 385 grams of batter each. Use an offset spatula to smooth the tops.
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.
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.
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
Makes 12 cookies
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and citric acid for the lemonade sugar sprinkle.
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.
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.