Plush Sour Cream Pound Cake: Simple Perfection

plush pound cake
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I’ve been on a pound cake bender this year, baking and tweaking and baking and tweaking to define my ideal. Pound cake may not rank high on anyone’s sexy, exciting baking list, but I love their unassuming simplicity — perfect any hour of the day, just begging to have a sliver sliced off each time you spot it on the kitchen counter.

As with the perfect chocolate chip cookie or the perfect brownie, the definition of “perfect pound cake” varies from person to person. My ideal pound cake is buttery with a dense but smooth / creamy / plush crumb. It should be moist but not overly so, and just sweet enough to enjoy without accompaniment (though a glaze can glam it up for show). Finally, a pound cake should boast a beautifully golden crust with an attractive crack down the center. Let’s dive into my formula and top tips for pound cake perfection!

My formula for plush sour cream pound cake

Traditional pound cake formulas use equal parts (by weight) butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. While you can make a delicious cake using these proportions, many modern bakers (including myself) like to tweak things a bit to create a recipe that aligns with our personal tastes. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients in my pound cake:

  • Fats: Pound cake equals rich, buttery flavor, so I use mostly unsalted butter in this recipe. Just a touch of neutral oil adds a little extra moisture.
  • Leavening: Pound cakes traditionally don’t call for any leavening, hence its characteristic dense crumb. I add a small pinch of baking powder for a little lift, but the lion’s share of the rise comes from proper creaming of the butter and sugar (more on this later).
  • Sugar: For cakes in general, I prefer using superfine / caster sugar as the extra-fine granules dissolve quickly during the creaming process and produce an ultra-fine texture. I usually make my own by processing regular granulated in a food processor for about a minute.
  • Eggs: I use a combination of whole eggs and yolks for a rich texture that’s not overly bouncy or dry from too much egg white. The yolks add a little extra fat and emulsification power, which allows for more liquid in the cake overall without compromising the structure.
  • Flour: For this pound cake, I use bleached cake flour. I tested with all purpose and a mixture of cake and all purpose, but using all cake flour by far produced the most even and tender crumb. All-purpose flour in Canada is usually made from hard wheat, which normally doesn’t pose much of a problem in my recipes. But in this case, I noticed that cakes made with all purpose flour would routinely have a few gummy, dense streaks and a less even crumb overall. It’s possible that bleached and lower protein all-purpose flours would work fine, but I haven’t been able to test them out yet. Cake flour tends to clump, so I always recommend sifting it before mixing. For a thorough explanation on cake flour, see this article on Serious Eats.
  • Dairy: My main change to the classic pound cake formula is replacing some of the fat and eggs with full-fat sour cream, which both adds flavor and keeps the cake tender for days. I add a touch of milk as well so the cake doesn’t get too heavy. I do not recommend substituting the sour cream with low-fat varieties, yogurt or any other dairy product.
  • Extracts/flavoring: I love the combination of vanilla and almond extracts for a classic bakery-style flavor. Use pure, not imitation, extracts — imitation almond extract in particular can taste harsh and…well, fake. If you don’t like almond extract, replace with more vanilla. As always, a bit of salt helps round out the flavor and keep the sweetness in check.
  • Pan size: My pan of choice is a 9x4x4 pullman pan, which results in a beautifully tall cake with straight sides. You can substitute a 9×5 loaf pan. Do not use a smaller pan or your cake may overflow; if you only have a smaller loaf pan (8×4 or 8.5×4.5), fill the pan so there’s an inch of space at the top and bake extra batter in mini loaf pans or cupcake tins.

Baker’s Notes:

  • Use room temperature ingredients! Ensuring all your ingredients are at room temperature is crucial to a properly mixed cake. Butter and sugar will cream up to the right texture without overmixing, and ingredients will blend properly. Butter should be cool but soft enough that it’ll hold an indent if pressed. It should not feel greasy or oily. (If you have an instant-read thermometer, you’re aiming for 60-65F.) Bring eggs and dairy out of the fridge for 1-2 hours before mixing. You can bring eggs up to temperature quickly by soaking them in warm water for a few minutes. You can warm the sour cream/milk on 30% power in the microwave in short bursts; just take care not to go too far (again, aiming for temperature around 65F).
  • Don’t rush the mixing process. Cream your butter and sugar until it’s noticeably expanded in volume and lightened in color. Proper aeration of the butter is what will give your cake a good rise and even crumb, so don’t cut your creaming short! Mix on medium speed and scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl periodically to make sure no dense pieces of butter remain. When adding the eggs, go slowly — you’re trying to force liquid and fat together, two things which don’t normally like to mix. I like to lightly beat my eggs and extracts together so I can stream them in gradually. If your eggs are at the proper temperature, they should easily mix into the butter-sugar mixture without breaking. While a curdled batter isn’t the end of the world and should still result in a delicious cake, a properly emulsified batter will bake up with the best crumb and texture.
  • Bake the cake fully. Pound cakes are thick and dense, so they take a long time to bake — more than an hour! Start checking for doneness until your kitchen smells of buttery goodness and the cake is well risen and golden. Cracks in the surface will be pale, but not wet; a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.
  • Cool completely. The crumb of the cake will continue to set as it cools. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, turn the cake out and wrap in plastic to cool completely before serving. I find pound cakes taste best on the second/third day: the moisture is well distributed and the flavor has time to bloom.
plush sour cream pound cake slice

Plush Sour Cream Pound Cake

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:
  • 140g full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 50g milk, at room temperature
  • 150g (about 3 large) eggs, at room temperature 
  • 54g (about 3 large) egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • scant 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 300g granulated sugar (preferably caster or superfine)
  • 28g neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
  • 250g cake flour, sifted

For the glaze (optional):

  • 70g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp hibiscus powder (optional, for color)
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk or cream, plus more as needed

Method:

  • Preheat oven and prepare pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Grease a 9×4 pullman pan or 9×5 loaf pan (I recommend aluminum, not glass or ceramic) and dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
  • Prep ingredients: In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup, mix together the sour cream and milk. In a glass measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and extracts.
  • Cream the butter and sugar: Place the butter, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer back to medium and add the sugar in a gradual stream. Once all the sugar has been added, continue mixing on medium until pale and very fluffy, about 5-6 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl 2-3 times during this creaming process to ensure even mixing. Add the oil and mix well to combine.
  • Add the eggs: With the mixer on medium, slowly stream in the egg mixture about a tablespoon at a time, letting each addition fully incorporate before adding more. Take your time — adding too much liquid at once can cause the mixture to curdle and affect the final texture of the cake. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl 2-3 times during this process. Once all the eggs have been added, continue mixing for about 30 seconds to make sure the batter is well combined.
  • Alternate the flour and liquid: Turn the mixer down to low. Add the flour and sour cream-milk 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 and no pockets of flour remain.
  • Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Run a chopstick or skewer through the batter to pop any large air pockets, then use an offset spatula to smooth the top. (Note: If desired, rub a butter knife with a little softened butter and slice down the center of the cake — this encourages the cake to split in the middle. Totally optional.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 65-85 minutes. (This is a fairly tall and rich cake; err on the side of a few extra minutes in the oven to make sure it’s fully baked through. The pullman pan will take a little longer than a 9×5 pan.)
  • Cool the cake: Cool the cake for 15 minutes in the pan, then run a thin knife around the edges and turn onto a wire rack. Wrap in plastic and allow to cool completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Glaze (optional) and serve: If glazing, unwrap cooled cake and place on a serving platter. Whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and hibiscus powder (if using) in a small bowl. Drizzle in liquid of choice a couple teaspoons at a time, whisking well after each addition, until you reach the desired consistency. Pour or drizzle over cake. Allow glaze to set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Caramelized White Chocolate and Walnut Cookies

caramelized white chocolate and walnut cookies

Hello! Just dropping in here with a new cookie recipe for you all: caramelized white chocolate and walnut! These are a quick-and-easy, must-have-cookies-ASAP recipe — it uses melted butter and cold eggs, so you can whip them up on a whim.

These cookies are a variation on the triple chocolate peppermint cookies I posted in December, but here we’re highlighting caramelized white chocolate (or blonde chocolate) — some melted straight into the dough, and more folded in at the end for maximum impact. Caramelized white chocolate has been a trending flavor in the dessert world for about a decade now — while plain white chocolate tends to taste overly sweet and one-note, roasting it produces more complex and toasty flavors. You can make your own caramelized white chocolate by simply chopping up high quality white chocolate and baking it (stirring often) at a 250F until golden and toasty (see this tutorial from David Lebovitz). Or you can buy something like Valrhona Dulcey.

To complement the caramelly sweetness of the chocolate, I added toasted walnuts and a generous pinch of flaky salt. If you don’t have walnuts, I think either toasted hazelnuts or pecans would work nicely here — or even macadamia nuts if you’re a fan of the white chocolate macadamia nut pairing! And while flaky salt is normally an optional garnish, I highly HIGHLY recommend it here. It really helps balance out the cookie and veer it ever so slightly into the salty-sweet category.

After mixing the dough, just a short chill (30 minutes in the fridge, or even 10 minutes in the freezer) helps control spread and produces cookies with a thick, blondie-ish centers. If you bake them straight after mixing, the cookies will spread more and not be quite as soft overall. In the photo below, the top cookie was baked from dough that was chilled for half an hour; the bottom cookie was baked straight after mixing.

These cookies don’t brown much, so just keep an eye on them and bake just until the edges are set but the centers still look soft. They’ll continue to cook and set up on the pan. Enjoy slightly warm with a cup of black coffee (or milk)!

Baker’s notes:

  • For perfectly round cookies, use a round cookie cutter slightly larger than your cookie or even a spoon or offset spatula to nudge the cookies into shape right after baking. You must do this right when the cookies come out of the oven when they are still a bit malleable.
  • Don’t want to bake all the cookies off at once? You can keep unbaked dough balls in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage. For cookies chilled longer than half an hour, I find they spread best if you bring them to room temperature before baking (just pull them out while the oven is preheating).

Caramelized White Chocolate and Walnut Cookies

Makes about 15 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 150g chopped caramelized white or blonde chocolate (such as Valrhona Dulcey), divided
  • 175g (1 1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Flaky salt, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job.
  2. While the butter is melting, place the espresso powder and 50g of the chopped caramelized white chocolate in a large bowl. Once the butter has melted, pour it over the espresso-chocolate mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg and egg yolk. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, 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 100g caramelized white chocolate and walnuts. Mix just until evenly distributed. Cover and chill for half an hour, or until firm but not solid.
  5. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into 15 ping-pong sized balls, about 50 grams each. (At this point, the dough balls can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for longer storage. For best results, bring dough to room temperature before baking — see notes above.) Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops generously with flaky salt.
  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and barely set, 10-11 minutes (the cookies will not brown much). 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 for up to 3 days.

Sour Cream Cardamom Donuts

sour cream cardamom donuts

When it comes to donuts, I’m a sucker for the good old-fashioned sour cream glazed variety. I remember my parents buying clamshell packs every so often from Safeway; and as we didn’t have sweet breakfasts too often, those were real treat days!

I’d never really considered making cake donuts at home (confession: I don’t like the smell from deep frying so I make my husband do that part ;D). But when I got my friend and fellow blogger Kelsey’s lovely new cookbook The Farmer’s Daughter Bakes, her sour cream cardamom donuts immediately caught my eye. I’m so glad we made these — they’re so easy and delicious (the spelt and cardamom add a sophisticated woodsy flavor that I love), and absolutely perfect with coffee.

The Farmer’s Daughter Bakes

Let’s talk a little more about Kelsey’s book — it’s amazing! Kelsey grew up (and continues to work) on a farm in British Columbia, and her book is filled with recipes, photos, and stories inspired by the seasonal produce she and her family grow. The Farmer’s Daughter Bakes is packed full of fruit-forward recipes I can’t wait to try; and I love how there are little nuggets of gardening/preserving advice peppered throughout the pages. Congrats on your beautiful book, Kelsey — I look forward to baking through the seasons with it! Be sure to visit Kelsey’s wonderful blog and snag a copy for yourself.

Baker’s Notes:

  • I don’t have a deep fryer or electric skillet (Kelsey’s preferred frying methods – see note at the bottom of the recipe), so I used a Dutch oven to fry the donuts. 350F was my temperature sweet spot using this method. As Kelsey suggests, definitely fry a test donut so you can adjust the temperature as needed.
  • I’m a big sucker for nutmeg in donuts so I also added some freshly grated nutmeg in the dough. So good!
  • I rolled the chilled dough between two pieces of parchment paper — this worked really well and kept flouring to a minimum. I ended up with 8 regular sized donuts plus a bunch of donut holes (I could have gotten more regular ones but was lazy about rerolling).
  • I like a generous coat of glaze on both sides of the donuts so I made a 1.5 batch of the glaze.

Sour Cream Cardamom Donuts

Makes about 10-12 donuts | Reprinted with permission from The Farmer’s Daughter Bakes

Ingredients:

For the donuts:
  • 57g (1/4 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 c) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 120g (1/2 c) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 125g (1 c) all-purpose flour
  • 125g (1 c) spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • Neutral oil, for frying (I used canola)
For the glaze:
  • 120g (1 c) powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) milk, plus more as needed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, or to taste

Method:

  • Make the donuts: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce to low and add the egg. Mix until will combined. Add the sour cream and mix together on low. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure everything is evenly combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, spelt flour, salt, baking powder, and ground cardamom. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet and mix until almost combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to finish mixing the dough together. The dough will be sticky, and that’s just right! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge for about 1 hour, or until you can roll it out easily.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. When the dough is chilled, roll it out onto a lightly flour surface to 1/2-inch thickness. Use a donut cutter or two round circle cutters (one large and one small) to cut the donut shapes. Place donuts onto the parchment-lined baking sheet as your work. Gently press together any leftover dough scraps, roll them out again, and cut more donuts. When all the dough is used up, place the baking sheet into the fridge to chill.
  • In a deep fryer, an electric skillet, or a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil to 350-375F. There should be enough oil that your donuts will float about 2 inches above the bottom, while being about half immersed. Line a wire cooling rack with a few sheets of paper towel to absorb the oil, place the rack over a large baking sheet (this will catch any large oil drips) and move it beside the fryer. If you aren’t using a deep fryer with a basket, then a spider strainer works perfectly for dropping the doughnuts into the oil as well as removing them.
  • Once your oil is up to temperature, remove the donuts from the fridge and fry 2 or 3 at a time, being careful not to crowd them. They should initially sink to the bottom of the fryer and then float for the majority of the cook time. Always try frying a test donut first. Allow the test donut to cool slightly, and then cut it open to check its doneness. If you oi is too hot, the donut may get too dark but be undercooked inside; but if it’s not hot enough, it will take too long to cook and you’ll end up with an oily donut. Fry the donuts for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place onto the paper towel-lined cooling rack. Repeat with all the donuts.
  • While the donuts are cooling, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and cardamom. Add ore milk or powdered sugar if necessary until the desired consistency is reached. Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch the excess glaze, and dip each donut in the glaze and place onto the rack. The glaze will set in 5 to 10 minutes, and they’ll be ready to serve. As with all donuts, these are best served immediately or at least the same day.
  • Note: A deep fryer works best, although I’ve use an electric frying pan for many years as well. These both control the temperature for you, and I find them safer to use compared to a pot on the stove. If you use a pot on the stove, make sure it’s a heavy-bottomed one, which will absorb and distribute heat more evenly and help keep the temperature steady. You will need a candy/deep fryer thermometer on hand to keep an eye on the temperature.

Strawberry Mango Cream Puffs

strawberry mango cream puffs

Whether you’re looking for a Valentine’s treat or something sweet to chase away the winter blues, these strawberry mango cream puffs are the perfect baking project! They are so, so fun to make and incredibly fresh and delicious. Thanks to a couple magical ingredients, these sweet little pastries boast an intense fruity flavor that will transport you to a tropical location (or at least bring to mind memories of warmer days!).

Pâte à choux

Pâte à choux, or choux pastry, is really a magical thing. Mastering choux opens up a whole world of cream puffs, eclairs, crullers, gougeres and other delicious pastries; so it’s really worth spending time to get comfortable making it. (I’ve even got a whole chapter of choux recipes in my cookbook!) Honestly, making choux is not hard; as long as your recipe is solid you just need to make it a few times to get a sense of the visual cues and dough consistency, and to work out the best practices for your oven. If you’re new to choux, I recommend reading this tutorial at IronWhisk and this article on Serious Eats for a plethora of useful tips. Then just practice! Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

Craquelin

If you’ve ever wondered how professional bakeries get perfectly round cream puffs with that pretty crackly top, the answer is craquelin! Craquelin is basically a simple cookie dough. You roll it out thinly, then punch out little round cookies the same size as your piped choux dough. These cookies are placed on top of the choux right before baking; as the pastries bake, the craquelin bakes onto the puff, crisping and cracking along the way. Craquelin adds a hint of sweetness and texture (plus extra wow factor!) to your cream puffs, but feel free to omit it.

Specialty Ingredients

To make these strawberry mango cream puffs as written, you’ll need a couple of special ingredients. The first is strawberry couverture chocolate — I used Valrhona Strawberry Inspiration. This type of chocolate is made with freeze dried fruit for an intense and natural fruit flavor. It is truly delicious — I have to hide mine to keep my kids from snacking on it! I bought mine from a local baking supply store, but Strawberry Inspiration is readily available online. If you can’t source this ingredient, you can substitute regular good-quality white chocolate and make a whipped white chocolate ganache instead.

The second specialty ingredient is freeze-dried mango. I got freeze-dried mango at Trader Joe’s, but again it’s fairly easy to find online or at specialty food shops. You cannot substitute regular dried fruit or puree in this recipe as the water content and flavor intensity is not the same. However, you can substitute another freeze-dried fruit or just omit the freeze-dried fruit if you prefer; the filling will still be delicious.

Baker’s Notes

  • While there are a lot of components in this recipe, none of the steps are very hard and you can spread out the work over a couple of days. I like making the strawberry ganache and craquelin a day ahead, then the rest of the components the day of serving. I’ve also included make-ahead notes in the recipe for additional options.
  • If you’re short on time, you can make just one of the fillings! If you do just the strawberry ganache, I would cut off the top third of each puff with a serrated knife, then pipe the filling inside. Replace the tops after adding the filling. Alternatively, fill the puffs with lightly sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream.
  • I have large baking sheets and can bake off this entire batch at once. Depending on the size of your baking sheets, you may need to bake on two sheets. I prefer to bake one sheet at a time for best results. The second sheet of piped choux can be kept at room temperature while the first bakes (wait until right before baking to put the craquelin on). Raise the oven temperature back up to 425F before baking the second sheet. Alternatively, bake both sheets at the same time on racks in the upper and lower thirds. Bake the puffs for at least 25 minutes before rotating the sheets.

Strawberry Mango Cream Puffs

Makes about 18 medium cream puffs

Ingredients:

For the whipped strawberry ganache:
For the craquelin topping:
  • 42g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50g all-purpose flour
For the choux pastry:
  • 75g water
  • 75g milk
  • 70g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 100g all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 150g eggs (about 3 large), at room temperature and lightly beaten to combine
For the mango cream:
  • 50g freeze dried mango
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 78g cream cheese, cold and cubed
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 300g heavy cream, cold
To finish:
  • Sprinkles, freeze-dried fruit bits, fresh fruit slices (optional)

Method:

  • Make the strawberry ganache: Finely chop the strawberry inspiration chocolate and place in a heatsafe bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream until steaming. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then gently whisk until combined. Cool to room temperature, then press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.
  • Make the craquelin topping: In a small bowl, beat the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll dough to about 1/16″ thickness . Freeze while you prepare the choux. (Craquelin can be made up to 1 month in advance; freeze, well wrapped, until ready to use — no need to defrost.)
  • Make the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and line a large baking sheet (see baker’s notes) with parchment paper.
  • 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.
  • Return the pot to low heat. Continue stirring vigorously until the mixture clears the side of the pot and forms a ball and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should register 170-175F on an instant-read thermometer and be stiff enough that if you stick a small spoon in it, the spoon remains upright. Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on low speed for 1 to 2 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 one-third of the beaten eggs in a slow, steady stream. Mix until the egg has been completely absorbed, then add more egg 1 tbsp at a time, mixing each addition in completely before adding more. When you’ve added most of the egg and the dough has taken on a glossy sheen, 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—I usually have 1 to 2 tbsp leftover.
  • Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe mounds of dough about 1 3/4 in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each.
  • Cut the craquelin rounds: Once all the puffs have been piped, remove the craquelin dough from the freezer. Let stand at room temperature for a minute or two to soften slightly, making it easier to cut. Use a round cutter the same diameter as the puffs to cut out circles of dough, one per puff. Gather and reroll the scraps as needed. Place one craquelin round on each puff, pressing lightly to adhere.
  • Bake the choux: Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the puffs are completely golden brown and feel hollow when you pick one up. About 5 minutes before the puffs are done, use a skewer or small knife to poke a small hole in each puff to help them crisp (avoid opening the oven door before this as the heat loss may cause the puffs to collapse!). Once the puffs are done, turn the oven off, prop open the door, and allow to cool in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can freeze baked choux buns in an airtight container for up to 2 months; defrost at room temperature right before filling. You can make them a day ahead and store at room temperature for up to a day, but you’ll want to recrisp them in a 325F oven for about 10 minutes as the pastry will soften. Cool completely before filling.)
  • Make the mango cream: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the freeze-dried mango and sugar. Pulse until the mango has broken down into a fine powder, about 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and salt and pulse to combine. Scrape down the sides of the food processor. Add the cold cream and process until the mixture resembles very thick yogurt, about 45-60 seconds. Be very careful not to over-process as you’ll end up with a fruit butter! Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until needed.
  • Whip the strawberry ganache: Using a handheld mixer or whisk, whip the chilled strawberry ganache until it thickens, lightens in color, and holds medium-stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a french star tip. Refrigerate until needed.
  • Assemble the strawberry mango cream puffs: Use a chopstick to poke a hole into the bottom of each puff. Snip off the tip of the piping bag holding the mango cream. Insert the tip into the hole and pipe in the mango cream until the puff feels heavy. Repeat until all puffs have been filled. Pipe a swirl of whipped strawberry ganache on top. Garnish with sprinkles, chopped bits of freeze-dried fruit, or slices of fresh fruit. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate and enjoy within 4 hours of assembly. The puffs will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, but the pastry will get progressively soggier with time.

Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

earl grey caramel slice

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

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

Infusing earl grey flavor

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

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

earl grey caramel slice slabs

Baker’s Notes:

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

Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

Makes one 9″ x 5″ pan

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six years of blogging, and a madeleine recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citrus and honey madeleines: simple is best

madeleines tea

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

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

Madeleine recipe ratios and mixing methods

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

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

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

The coveted madeleine hump

madeleine humps

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

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

Baker’s Notes:

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

Citrus & Honey Madeleines

Makes about 16 medium madeleines

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Confetti Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients:

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

To finish:

  • 40g granulated sugar

Method:

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

Other treats included in our boxes:

Honey and Sea Salt Marshmallows

honey sea salt marshmallows

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

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

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

marshmallows closeup

Here are a few tips for marshmallow success:

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

Honey and Sea Salt Marshmallows

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Caramel-stuffed ginger molasses cookies

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

A couple of notes:

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

Caramel-stuffed Ginger Molasses Cookies

Makes about 13 large cookies | Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

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

To finish:

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

Method:

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

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

triple chocolate peppermint cookies

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

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

A few notes:

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

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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