Three years, and Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

chocolate chunk cookiesHappy New Year, folks. We’re in Seattle visiting my family for a couple weeks. Despite a long travel day due to weather, we got to wake up to a white Christmas — possibly my first ever! All of my brothers eventually made it in town and we spent the day opening gifts, eating our fill of prime rib and cookies, watching Marcus race his new fire engine toy all over the house, and falling asleep to “Jingle All the Way.” So basically, a perfect Christmas. Since then, we’ve been keeping it pretty low key — catching up with old friends, trying old and new coffee shops and bakeries, and going to sleep long before midnight.

And guess what? Cook Til Delicious is turning three years old! I’ve never celebrated this blog’s birthday before because I’m generally too lazy to blog while on vacation. But in reality, CTD was started as sort of a new year’s resolution to document recipes and become a better baker. When we first started out here, I had never made a layer cake, let alone a wedding cake; I had yet to bake a good sourdough loaf, choux pastry was far out on the horizon, and I didn’t own a tart pan. My to-bake list is still a mile long, but progress has been made — one bake at a time.

One of the things I’ve been focusing on more this past year (and hopefully into the next) is building a library of solid “base” recipes — go-to scones, everyday brownies, and the like. And, of course, chocolate chunk cookies.

I definitely believe in different recipes for different occasions. My “special occasion” chocolate chunk cookie is a riff on Sarah Kieffer’s now-famous pan-banging chocolate chip cookie recipe. But this recipe here is my everyday go-to. You don’t need to soften butter, and you don’t need a mixer. This is the recipe I turn to when I want to make cookies for a crowd (I actually made dozens of these for my brother’s wedding), or just need to refill the cookie jar at home.

Notes:

  • For the gooiest, chocolatiest cookies, I definitely recommend using chocolate callets or chopping up chocolate bars — unlike chocolate chips, they melt into puddles, which is definitely a good thing. I like Callebaut 70%, but I often just use good quality chocolate bars.
  • I love experimenting with different flours in this recipe. My favorite combination is to use 1/3 AP flour, 1/3 spelt flour, and 1/3 bread flour — the spelt adds some wholesome nuttiness and the bread provides height and chew. But all AP definitely works, if that’s what you have on hand — the cookies will just be flatter.
  • I love subbing a little bit of turbinado sugar for some of the brown — it adds a delightful crunch (I learned this from Not Without Salt’s recipe, which I also love.); espresso powder or finely ground coffee adds a slight bitterness that offsets the sweetness beautifully.
  • If you keep the total add-ins to ~240-300 grams, you can certainly make this cookie your own by adding in toasted nuts, dried fruit, toffee bits, etc. The base itself is plenty sweet so I sometimes cut both the sugars by a couple tablespoons if I am adding sweeter add-ins, or just feel like being slightly healthier.

Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies | Adapted from Tara O’Brady, with a HT to Not Without Salt

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 415g all-purpose flour (see note above)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder, or very finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 300g light brown sugar (optional: swap out 50g for turbinado sugar)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240g chopped semi or bittersweet chocolate (I recommend at least 55%)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder/coffee (if using). Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. Use the lowest heat possible — you don’t want to boil or brown the butter or lose any more moisture than necessary.
  3. Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar all at once and whisk until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to combine. Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir to combine, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is almost all incorporated, stir in the chocolate. Mix only enough to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl and scooping from the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Chill the mixture for five minutes while you line three cookie sheets with parchment or Silpats.
  6. Portion cookie dough into golf ball-sized rounds (~50 grams or 3 Tbsp) and place on prepared cookie sheets (I can fit 9 cookies on a normal sized cookie sheet). Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Place cookie sheets in the freezer and preheat the oven to 360F (yes, 360!) with an oven rack in the middle. If you don’t have enough room in your freezer for all three sheets, put all the pre-shaped cookies on one sheet and remove 9 at a time to bake, using a cold/room temperature sheet for each batch.
  8. Bake each sheet one at a time for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cookies should be lightly golden and cracked, but still soft in the center.
  9. Sprinkle on a little more flaky salt, if desired (I like to sprinkle some on any large chocolate puddles), and allow to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Rice Krispies Snowmen: Treats for Toys

Rice Krispies Snowmen

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

I grew up in the mild Pacific Northwest, where snow doesn’t necessarily make an appearance each winter. So when it did snow, it was a huge deal — school would get cancelled for the lightest of dustings, and we’d all bundle up and head outside to make snow angels and build snowmen (largely because there was hot chocolate waiting for us afterwards). My Canadian-born kids, on the other hand, will probably build more snowmen before kindergarten then I did my entire childhood.

But whether you have half an inch or twenty inches of snow outside, you can make these cute Rice Krispies Snowmen! They’re a breeze to whip up (no oven required!) and are a great creative activity for the little ones in your life. This is the second year that I’ve made something for the Kellogg’s Treats for Toys campaign (remember last year’s DIY Christmas Forest?), which donates funds to provide real toys for children in need. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this season, I encourage you to make your own Treats for Toys, either using this recipe or something from your own imagination! It’s simple: create a toy-inspired Rice Krispies treat, upload it to the Treats for Toys site or social media (using the #treatsfortoys hashtag), and Kellogg’s will donate $20 to the Salvation Army to buy real toys for children in need.

A few notes:

  • These Rice Krispies snowmen are easy to make, but you have to work fast! The cereal mixture is easiest to mold within the first 5-8 minutes, so it definitely helps to have an extra pair of hands — one person can portion out the cereal and the other can shape the portions into balls.
  • Grease your measuring cups and hands well — otherwise you will spend more time scraping sticky marshmallow than making snowmen.
  • Use a skewer or chopstick to make light indents for facial features and arms. This makes it much easier to stick your candies/pretzels in place.

rice krispies balls

snowmen undressed

snowmen couple

Rice Krispies Snowmen

Ingredients

  • 56 g / 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 250 g marshmallows (I used mini)
  • 168 g / 6 c Rice Krispies cereal
  • Flaked coconut
  • Pretzel rods
  • Assorted candies for decoration (such as mini chocolate chips, gummies, mini candy canes)
  • Melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue (optional)
  • Measuring cups
  • Cooking spray
  • Parchment paper

Method

  1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot (big enough to hold the Rice Krispies).
  2. When the butter is melted, add the marshmallows, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. When the marshmallows are melted, turn off the heat, add the cereal, and stir with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon to coat evenly.
  3. Using well-greased measuring cups, portion out cereal in a few different sizes (I used 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 cup measures) onto the prepared sheet pan. When all the cereal is portioned out, use well-greased hands to shape the portions into round balls. Pack firmly but not so hard as to crush the cereal.
  4. Roll each ball in flaked coconut for a snowy effect. Press two or three balls together to form snowmen of various sizes. Use a bit of melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue, if desired.
  5. Use pretzels and candies to decorate snowmen as desired. Some ideas:
    • Pretzel sticks for arms
    • Mini chocolate chips for eyes and mouths
    • Small orange gummies or candy corn for noses
    • Small round candies for buttons
    • Mini candy canes for skis

Matcha Mint Oreos


Matcha mint Oreos! I’m pretty excited about these cookies, because homemade Oreos have been on my baking bucket list for awhile now. I’ve tried a few different recipes in the past, but none of them really did it for me. But the base recipe for these Oreos comes from Stella Park’s fantastic book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, and they are the real deal. Bake a batch of these and your house will smell like an Oreo factory.

For a festive twist, I decided to go with a matcha mint filling, inspired by the perennially popular Candy Cane Joe Joe’s from my favorite grocery store not in Canada (sad face). I added matcha mostly for color, but its earthy flavor also tempers the sweetness from the candy canes.

matcha mint oreos

A few notes:

  • When making the wafers, I find it easiest to roll the dough to the desired thinness right after mixing. Divide the dough in half and roll each half between two sheets of parchment paper. Stick the rolled out dough in the fridge for about half an hour just to firm it up, then cut your rounds. This way, you don’t have to use any extra cocoa powder for rolling and you can use the parchment to line your sheet pans.
  • Make and completely cool your wafers before making the filling, as the filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. (The wafers keep really well, so you can definitely make this recipe over a couple of days.)
  • Crush your peppermint candies really finely. Otherwise your piping tip will get clogged when you fill the cookies and it’ll be hard to get your cookies to lie flat. Also, someone could break a tooth.
  • Matcha powders vary quite a bit in potency. I liked how my filling tasted with 1 Tbsp, but if you’re unsure start with less and add more to taste. You can also omit the peppermint extract if you want a more prominent matcha flavor.

Matcha Mint Oreos

Adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts | Makes about 20 2-inch sandwich cookies

Ingredients

For the Oreo wafers:

  • One batch of this recipe, cut into 2-inch rounds and completely cooled

For the matcha mint filling:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 240g powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/3 c finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Method

For the matcha mint filling:

  1. Before making the filling, flip half the chocolate wafers upside down so they can be filled immediately after preparing the filling.
  2. Sift the matcha powder and icing sugar together and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, completely melt butter over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula, while butter hisses and pops; if you notice brown bits forming along the edges, reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring until butter falls silent, then strain into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the peppermint extract and salt, followed by powdered sugar and matcha. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. If your filling is runny, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to stiffen slightly (this should only take a few minutes). Stir in the peppermint candies. Transfer to a heavy-duty pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip and use immediately.

To assemble:

  • Pipe about a tablespoon of filling onto each upturned wafer, then sandwich with the remaining halves. Gently twist the cookies to evenly distribute the filling. Allow cookies to set for about half an hour before serving. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container. They keep well at room temperature for about a week. (For longer storage, keep in refrigerator or freezer; serve at room temperature.)

Matcha Mint Oreo stack

Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a batch of brownies, and I was flooded with requests for the recipe. I get it — as much as I love tinkering with flavors and techniques, hands down the dessert I crave most often is a good old brownie.

I realize that what constitutes a good brownie varies tremendously from person to person, which is why this is the millionth brownie recipe on the internet. To me, a good brownie is crackly-topped, chewy but tender, and deeply chocolatey. Oh, and well-salted.

brownie in hand

These brownies check all those boxes for me. I still have some tweaks I want to try so I won’t go as far as to call them “perfect,” but for the time being this is the batch to beat.

Without getting too brownie-nerd on you (there’s plenty out there should you wish to delve into that world), here’s a little bit of the rationale behind this recipe:

  • Both butter and oil for a mix of flavor and moisture
  • Both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, the first for a rich chocolate flavor and the second for texture and that crackly top
  • A touch of brown sugar for moisture, flavor, and chew
  • A modest amount of flour to keep things from getting too cakey, but enough so we’re not completely in fudge territory
  • Espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • The eggs and sugar are whipped together to provide structure and also to aid in getting that crackly top
  • Baked in an 8×8 square pan for thick, non-wimpy brownies

brownie cut

This recipe is the result of a lot of tinkering, which is why the measurements are a bit weird. I developed it using gram measurements (I bake by weight 99.9% of the time), but the cup measurements are below as well — just know I haven’t tested them myself.

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75g neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut 70%)
  • 100g (3/4 c + 2 tsp) AP flour
  • 57g (2/3 c) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 169g (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 56g (1/4 c + 1 tsp) brown sugar
  • scant 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 square pan with foil and lightly grease.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and chocolate. Melt over low heat, then set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
  3. Combine all ingredients from the sugar through the espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low briefly to combine, then crank up the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (about 5 minutes).
  4. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a silicone spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, and bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few wet crumbs (not raw brownie batter, but not completely dry), about 25-30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes — baking these just the right amount of time is critical to getting the right texture!).
  6. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze for later. (I actually like chilling my brownies in the fridge for an hour before eating — I find this gives them the perfect amount of chew!)

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

pear cranberry frangipane tart

This recipe is part of a Pie Squad Party organized by Nate at Terminatetor Kitchen. Be sure to check out the delicious pies created by fellow bloggers via the links at the bottom of this post!

It’s no secret around here that I love frangipane. I used to think frangipane was some secret ingredient bakeries used to make their pastries and tarts extra fancy. Then I learned that it wasn’t all that fancy — basically just equal parts butter, sugar, eggs, and ground nuts. Plus, it’s really easy to make, which kind of makes me want to put frangipane in everything. (The price of nuts keeps me in check, though.)

This tart is a twist on the classic French pear and almond tart, one of my all time favorite desserts. I’ve added some cranberries for color and tartness, which balances out the buttery richness of the frangipane and the mellow sweetness of the pears. All the elements of this tart can be made in advance and it’s best served at room temperature, making it a great candidate for Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday potluck.

spreading frangipane
pear cranberry frangipane tart unbaked

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

Makes 1 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the Poached Pears:

  • 150g / 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 100g / 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 4 c water
  • 4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • Optional poaching spices: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  • 8 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/3 c ginger ale (or water, or orange juice if you prefer)
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • A few gratings of orange zest

For the Almond Frangipane:

  • 115g / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130g / 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

To finish:

  • A handful of fresh or frozen cranberries, for garnish
  • Icing sugar or honey, for serving

Method

For the Poached Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve all the sugar.
  2. When the liquid is at a simmer, add the poaching spices and pears. Cover the pears with a round piece of parchment paper with a hole cut in the center. (This keeps the pears submerged in the liquid while still allowing steam to escape.)
  3. Simmer pears for 10-15 minutes, turning ever 5 minutes or so, or until just tender.
  4. Allow pears to cool in the liquid. (Pears can be refrigerated in the poaching liquid for a few days.)

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. When the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened to your liking (about 5 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest, if using. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated up to a week in advance.)

For the Almond Frangipane:

  1. Beat butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the first in thoroughly and scraping down the bowl before adding the second. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  3. Fold in the almond flour until just combined. (The frangipane can be made ahead and refrigerated a couple days in advance. Bring to room temperature before using.)

To assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spread an even layer of cranberry sauce over the bottom of the tart shell (you won’t need all the sauce — save the rest for accompanying turkey,or for spreading on toast). Spread the frangipane evenly over the sauce.
  2. Arrange the pears on top of the frangipane, pressing them in lightly. You can thinly slice and fan them out as pictured or leave the halves intact — up to you. (Depending on the size of your pears and your mode of decoration, you may not use them all.) Add a few cranberries on top, if desired.
  3. Bake until the frangipane is browned and puffed, about 45 minutes. While the tart is still warm, you can glaze the pears with some of the poaching liquid or some warmed apricot jelly for a bit of shine.
    Serve at room temperature with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzle of honey.

More Pie Squad Creations:

Cloudy Kitchen:
Chocolate Cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream

Cook Til Delicious:
Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

DisplacedHousewife:
Five-Spice Cran-Apple Handpies

The Farmer’s Daughter:
Apple Ginger Pie

Harvest and Honey:
Apple Apple Pies

Lyndsey Eden:
Maple Cream Cheese Pear & Pistachio Galette

Salvialimone:
Tarta Tine with White Chocolate Caramelized Pears

TermiNatetor Kitchen:
Brown Butter Chai Pumpkin Pie with Sugared Sage

Topless Baker:
Apple & Blackberry Flower Lattice Pie

The Wood and Spoon:
Chocolate Chess Pie

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

pumpkin apple butter pie

Today is all about pumpkin, because it’s the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party! If you’re not a pumpkin fan or totally over pumpkin spice, hopefully this recipe (and the ton of other creative pumpkin-y recipes hitting the interwebs today) will inspire you to give pumpkin another chance.

When it comes to pie, are you Team Apple or Team Pumpkin? I quick-polled this question on Instagram Stories a couple weeks ago, and it seems that most of my followers are apple pie devotees. I, personally, am a proud member of Team Both. I also believe that a slice of cold pumpkin pie the day after Thanksgiving is one of life’s simple pleasures.

But as a nod to all you apple lovers out there (well, that and the several jars of apple butter in my fridge…), I’ve included apple butter in today’s pumpkin pie recipe. While you could go equal parts pumpkin and apple butter, I prefer a little heavier on the pumpkin, with the apple butter adding a subtle fruity sweetness and another layer of flavor.

Pumpkin pie is pretty easy to make, but here are a few tips to getting it just right:

  1. Don’t overbake! Seriously, turn off the oven when the middle is still a little wobbly. Otherwise it’ll be tough and probably crack when it cools.
  2. Speaking of cracks, the best way to avoid them is to cool it gradually (like you would a cheesecake). I had the best results when I left mine in the turned off oven for a few minutes before cooling at room temperature. That being said, a few cracks aren’t the end of the world and that’s why whipped cream (or, even better, homemade marshmallows or marshmallow meringue) exists.
  3. Use butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Maybe this is a little sacrilegious considering this recipe is for a Virtual Pumpkin Party…but I think butternut squash (or other flavorful winter squashes) taste better than pumpkin in pie. I definitely prefer the texture and color of butternut as well. And hey — if you’re using the canned stuff (which totally works), chances are it’s got some non-pumpkiny squash in there too.
  4. I prefer a cookie crust to a traditional all-butter crust with pumpkin pie because I like the contrast of textures. (However, according to another of my Insta-quick polls, I’m in the minority, heh.) Whichever you prefer, I definitely recommend taking the extra step of pre-baking the crust to prevent sogginess.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (either all-butter or cookie-based), pre-baked (optional but recommended)
  • 280g pumpkin (or butternut squash) puree
  • 200g apple butter
  • 130g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c heavy cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all the ingredients from pumpkin through salt in a food processor and process until smooth (you can also use an immersion blender). Add the cream and eggs and process until just combined.
  2. Scrape the filling into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just warm. You don’t want to cook the filling — just heat it through so the custard bakes more quickly and smoothly.
  3. When the filling is warm, pour it into the prepared pie shell. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still wobbles, about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door, and let the pie cool for 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. For the cleanest cuts, refrigerate uncovered before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This recipe was created as part of the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party. Don’t forget to check out the many other fantastic pumpkin recipes created by food bloggers around the world!

Apple Butter Bundt Cake

apple butter bundt cake

I made this little bundt cake for one of our Sunday family dinners. It was a snap to put together — no mixer required! no softening of butter! — and had a lovely soft texture that complemented the warm fall spices. The original recipe called for applesauce, but apple butter worked perfectly as a substitute (as would pumpkin puree, I suspect). The cake also keeps beautifully — I sneaked a piece a few days later and it was still just as moist as the first day. I have a bit of apple butter left, so this is on my re-make list — perhaps sneaking in some whole grain flour and swapping the allspice for cardamom or nutmeg (though the amount of spice here is perfect in my opinion).

apple butter bundt cake slice

Apple Butter Bundt Cake

Adapted from Food 52 | Makes one 6-cup bundt (6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

For the bundt cake:

  • 120g AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 65g light brown sugar
  • 180g apple butter
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tbsp salted caramel sauce or maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream, plus more if needed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through allspice). In a large bowl, whisk together egg and sugars until light. Whisk in the apple butter, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Using a silicone spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Cool cake for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool cake completely before glazing.
  5. When the cake is cool, prepare the glaze. Combine the cream cheese, salted caramel sauce, and salt in a food processor until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the cream. Add cream 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Transfer glaze to a small ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe the glaze over the cake.

Maple Eclairs

maple eclairs

I’m relatively new to choux. I never had much interest in cream puffs and eclairs, because most of the ones I’d eaten before were just doughy puffs filled with whipped cream and unceremoniously dusted with icing sugar. I’d much prefer a slice of pie or cake, and being lactose-intolerant I’d rather suffer for eating ice cream over whipped cream.

But earlier this year I made choux pastry for the first time and I realized, this is really fun. Maybe I’m a little weird (ok, not maybe), but I find making choux very relaxing. I enjoy watching the dough transform from a curdled mess into a smooth paste and trying to pipe uniform shells. And it’s super satisfying seeing those doughy lines transform into light, airy shells ready to be filled with whatever your heart desires (though my 2-year-old will gladly gobble them up plain).

choux pastry

When the Maple Guild sent me a bottle of their organic bourbon barrel aged maple syrup to try, I thought an eclair would be a fun way to highlight the pure deliciousness of maple. Maple is definitely the star of this dessert, so please use the best quality syrup you can find!

A few notes:

  • The ingredient list and instructions may look long, but you can easily break the work up over a few days. I suggest making the pastry cream and praline first, as those can both be held in the fridge for a few days. Make the choux the day you plan to serve these eclairs.
  • If you’re new to choux pastry, I highly recommend reading this tutorial for choux tips! This is the recipe I’ve had best success using, though I’ve made a couple of changes (salt content and baking temperatures).
  • I typically make pastry cream with whole milk, but because we’re using a liquid sweetener (maple syrup), I’ve used part heavy cream for a thicker final texture. If you use all milk the final product may be a little looser and you’ll need to spoon the cream into the shells rather than pipe it.
  • I really like adding a crunchy element to eclairs (in this case, the praline) to add texture. If you’re pressed for time, I think a sprinkling of crushed pretzels would work well — something with a bit of salt to balance out the sweetness of the maple. If you go the pretzel route, add it right before serving or it’ll get soggy.

filled eclairs

Maple Eclairs

Makes 12 4-inch eclairs

Ingredients

For the Choux Pastry:

  • 75g water
  • 75g milk
  • 75g butter
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g bread flour, sifted
  • 150g eggs (about 3 large), room temperature and lightly beaten
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

For the Maple Pastry Cream:

  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 25g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 25g flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp maple extract (optional)
  • 28g unsalted butter, softened

For the Almond Praline:

  • 150g toasted almonds, chopped
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • Flaky sea salt

For the Maple Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cream, plus more if needed

Method:


For the choux pastry:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a ruler to draw twelve 4-inch lines, spaced by about 2 inches, to serve as a piping guide. Flip the parchment over so you don’t get pen/marker on your pastry.
  2. Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a strong simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture is simmering, remove the pot from the heat and dump the flour in all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is completely incorporated.
  3. Return the pot to low heat and continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pot, 1-2 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 170F. Immediately transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. Mix the dough on low speed for a couple of minutes to release the steam. An instant-read thermometer should read no warmer than 140F (any hotter and you’ll cook the eggs when adding them!). When the dough has cooled sufficiently and with the mixer still on low, add about half of the eggs. Mix until the egg has been completely absorbed, then add more egg about a tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding more. When you’ve added most of the egg, check the dough consistency — a finger dragged through it should leave a trough and a peak of dough should form where the finger is lifted. Once the dough passes this test, it’s ready. (You may not need all the egg.)
  5. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe the eclairs onto the prepared sheet. Once all the eclairs are piped, dust them with icing sugar.
  6. Bake the eclairs for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the shells 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 shells may collapse. After the shells 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 shells to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before glazing and filling.

For the maple pastry cream:

  1. Combine the milk, cream, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in a ladleful of the milk mixture.
  3. Bring the milk mixture just to the boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, sift the custard powder and flour over the yolk mixture, and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is just at boiling, remove from the heat. Add a ladleful of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, whisking continuously. Pour the remaining milk mixture into the yolks in a slow, steady stream, continuing to whisk constantly. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the entire mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Continue cooking over low heat for one minute after the mixture starts bubbling, then strain into a clean container. Whisk in the extracts and butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before using.

For the almond praline:

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Have a silicon spatula, your chopped almonds, and flaky sea salt ready to go.
  2. Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook without stirring (occasionally swirling the pan is fine), until the sugar melts and eventually turns a deep amber color. Once the sugar is caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the almonds to coat. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it as thinly as possible with your spatula (don’t touch, trust me — it’ll hurt). Immediately sprinkle with a generous amount of flaky sea salt. Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces, either with a mallet or food processor. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer; or you can grind the remainder into praline paste.

For the maple cream cheese glaze:

  • Combine the cream cheese, maple syrup, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Add cream a teaspoon at a time until the glaze is thick and spreadable.

To assemble the maple eclairs:

  1. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk to loosen. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (alternatively, you can just spoon the cream in).
  2. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the eclair shells and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells. Pipe the cream into the bottom of the shells.
  3. Spread roughly a tablespoon of glaze onto the top of each shell. Place the tops back on the filled shells and garnish with almond praline. Refrigerate until serving — these really are best within a few hours of filling, though if you have to hold them longer wait until the last minute to add the praline.

maple eclairs on plate

Apple Frangipane Galette with Salted Caramel

Thanks to moving, prepping for baby #2, and some unusually mild Canadian weather, this summer has disappeared just like that. I can’t say I’m sad about it. While there’s nothing like summer produce, fall is by far my favorite season. I love the crisp mornings, changing colors, and chunky sweaters.

Oh, and apple pie.

I don’t usually make my first apple dessert until a little later in the year. But last week I took my little guy to a nearby farm, and to my surprise they had a couple varieties of apples ready for picking. I couldn’t resist taking home a small bag full of Zestars! (yes, the “!” is an official part of its name), which I’d never tasted before but read were good for eating and baking. And they are lovely — mildly tart and crisp with a firm texture that holds up well in the oven.

I didn’t quite have enough apples for a full-on pie, but these babies were just begging to be baked up in a buttery crust. (OK, maybe that was me begging.) And so this galette was born.

I know galettes are supposed to be unfussy and casual; and the many components of this one may be off-putting. But seriously. I think this is one of the best apple desserts I’ve ever made, and it really looks harder than it is. You could definitely use store bought salted caramel sauce if you wanted, but it’s so delicious and easy to make yourself that you really won’t regret cooking up a batch. (Plus, this recipe makes more than enough for the galette so you’ll have extra for stirring into coffee, drizzling over ice cream, or just eating from the jar.) I’m also having a moment with frangipane — not only is it just plain delicious, but in the case of a galette it acts as a moisture barrier, keeping the bottom crust beautifully crisp.

Speaking of the crust — it may sound weird to use sourdough starter in a pastry recipe, but trust me, it’s delicious! I really do believe sourdough adds a depth of flavor to pie crust; and if your starter is healthy and fresh you shouldn’t notice any tang. But if you don’t have sourdough starter lying around, you can certainly use your favorite pie crust recipe instead.

Apple Frangipane Galette with Salted Caramel

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the sourdough crust (makes enough for 2 galettes):

  • 300g flour (I use 100g whole grain, 200g AP)
  • 227g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 200g ripe sourdough starter, cold (100% hydration)
  • 2 Tbsp cold milk or water

For the salted caramel sauce:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 54g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

For the frangipane:

  • 95g almond flour
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 20g flour (AP or whole grain)
  • 30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

For the fruit:

  • 3 medium-large baking apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp AP flour
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 c salted caramel sauce

To finish:

  • 1 Tbsp cream
  • 1 Tbsp coarse sugar
  • Salted caramel sauce

Method

For the sourdough crust:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and smash into flat pieces with your fingers, tossing to distribute evenly. Don’t overwork — you want to keep the butter pieces fairly large (nickel to quarter size) for flakiness.
  2. Use a fork to whisk the cold milk/water and starter together. Pour the wet mixture over the butter-flour mixture and, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, gently toss to combine. The dough will seem shaggy at first, but should hold together if you squeeze it. If not, dribble in additional cold water/milk a teaspoon at a time (tossing after each addition) until it does.
  3. Using the heel of your hand, take handfuls of dough and smear them up the side of the bowl (this “fraisage” method creates streaks of butter that makes for an extra flaky crust). Once all the dough has been smeared, divide the in half and gently press and flatten each portion into a circle. Wrap one half in plastic and chill or freeze for a future galette or pie. If your remaining dough feels at all soft or melty at this point, wrap it in plastic and chill for about 10 minutes before proceeding (you want it cold, but not hard).
  4. On a piece of floured parchment paper or Silpat, roll the dough into a circle about 12-14 inches in diameter, about 1/4-in thick. Roll from the middle and rotate the dough about 1/4 turn between rolls to help keep the shape and even thickness. Flour your pin and dough as needed to avoid sticking. When you’re done rolling, transfer the dough still on the parchment/Silpat to a sheet pan, cover with plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours before assembling the galette.

For the salted caramel sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan occasionally for even heating.
  2. When the sugar reaches a copper color, remove it from the heat and add the salt and butter, whisking continuously. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up! Return the pot to medium-low heat and whisk for a minute or so.
  3. Still continuously whisking, add the cream in a slow, steady stream — again, taking caution as the mixture will bubble and rise. Continue whisking over medium-low heat to thicken the mixture slightly.
  4. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat-safe container. Once cool, cover and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Rewarm in the microwave for about 20 seconds for easy pouring.

For the frangipane:

  • Whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the egg and vanilla and mix with a spatula to combine.

For the fruit:

  • Juice the lemon into a medium bowl and add the apple slices, tossing to coat. Add the sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss to combine.

To assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge. Spread the frangipane evenly in a circle in the center of the pastry, leaving a 1.5-2 inch border. Starting from the outermost edge of the frangipane, arrange the apple slices in concentric, overlapping circles. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling to create a crust. Refrigerate the galette for 15-20 minutes to firm the pastry.
  2. When the pastry is firm, brush the crust with the heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Drizzle 1/4 c of salted caramel sauce over the apples (not on the crust). Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the pastry is a deep, golden brown and the apples are bubbling. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve at room temperature with extra salted caramel sauce.

Cherry Berry Almond Crumble

cherry berry almond crumble

Every summer I tend to have a fall-back dessert: something quick and simple that can easily be adapted to whatever fresh fruit is hanging out in the fridge. Previously there’s been cobbler and fruit crumb bars; and this year it’s a good old fashioned crumble.

cherries

It’s about as unfussy and simple as it gets: toss fruit with a little sugar and spice, and mix up a quick, buttery crumb to sprinkle on top. No softening of butter or mixer needed. Eat with yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for dessert, warm or cold. Repeat.

cherry berry almond crumble 2

Cherry Berry Almond Crumble

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • ~6 c cherries and/or berries, pitted and sliced/halved if necessary (I used equal parts sour cherries, sweet cherries, and strawberries)
  • 60-100g / 1/3-1/2 c sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit and preferably a mix of brown and granulated
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
  • 3 Tbsp arrowroot or tapioca starch

For the almond crumble:

  • 120g / 1 c AP flour
  • 4T almond flour
  • 113g / 8 Tbsp butter, cold and diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g / 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 25g / scant 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Stir together all filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside while you prepare the crumble.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together all crumble ingredients except for the butter. Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture begins forming crumbs. Squeeze the mixture together to form large clumps.
  4. Pour the filling into an 8×8 square pan. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top.
    Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool for about an hour before serving, if you can.