Homemade Toaster Strudels

toaster strudels

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

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

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

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

Homemade Toaster Strudels

Makes 6 strudels

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

A simple sourdough chocolate cake

sourdough chocolate cake no sprinkles

Simple. Small-batch. Sourdough. Chocolate. Cake. That’s all there is to this recipe, but it seems to be everything we’re craving right now.

This is a riff on the chocolate cake that will be in my cookbook, scaled down and adapted to use sourdough discard, AKA the portion of starter that you normally discard every time you do a feeding. I usually collect all my discard in a container in the fridge and use it within a week or before it starts to develop an overly acidic smell / layer of liquid “hooch” on top.

For the best cake texture, I like to use discard that has fallen and no longer bubbly. The discard is just here for flavor and not leavening; and using a super active starter can make for a “bready” texture — not what we want here.

I frosted this cake with about a cup of silky fudge frosting I had left in the freezer, but you could certainly enjoy this plain, with a simple dusting of icing sugar, or maybe some whipped cream and berries. Whatever you pair it with, I hope you enjoy!

sourdough chocolate cake slice

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Makes one single-layer 8″ cake

Ingredients:

  • 57g (1/4 c) unsalted butter
  • 28g (2 Tbsp) neutral vegetable oil
  • 120g (1/2 c) 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 63g (2/3 c) rye flour (all-purpose works too) 
  • 34g (1/3 c) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 160g (3/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 c)sour cream, at room temperature
  • 60g (1/4 c) hot coffee

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the pan again and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the oil, starter, and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edges and turn the cake out to finish cooling completely.
sourdough chocolate cake sliced

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats, and Some News!

Hello, hi, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted here! I hope you all are staying safe and well during this crazy, confusing time. A lot of you are baking bread and making sourdough starters, which is certainly a bright spot amongst all the madness. As the days start to meld together, the rising and falling of my own starter provides a comforting rhythm to the days.

I’ve been baking a lot, though in smaller batches since I can’t give away extras as easily any more. Banana bread and brownies always, plus a lot of new recipes for my cookbook.

Sorry, I buried the lede there — I’m working on a baking cookbook! I can’t share too many details right now, except to say it’s a collection of 60+ recipes from cookies to cakes to yeasted and sourdough breads to pastries. It’s been a wild ride (I didn’t expect finding butter and eggs to be one of the challenges I’d face, but there you go) and I’ve questioned my sanity more than a few times. But now that the first draft of my manuscript is almost finished I’m starting to feel excited! There’s still a lot of work to do, but I can’t wait to see it all come together in the coming months.

I wanted to share a recipe for some funfetti rice krispie treats that I made a couple months back (pre-social distancing…) for a bake sale. These are a colorful variation of my brown butter rice krispie treats, and they never fail to put a smile on my face. If you want to add a sweet-salty kick you could sub some (or all) of the rice krispies with lightly crushed Ruffles potato chips. SO GOOD.

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

Makes one 8×8 or 9×9 pan

Ingredients

  • 113g / 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 400g / 10 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (use artificial if you want to emphasize the funfetti flavor)
  • 160g / 6 cups crispy rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (about half a 12-ounce box)
  • 40g / 1/4 c rainbow sprinkles, plus more for the top

Method

  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with foil. Lightly butter or oil the foil for easy removal. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
  2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, brown the butter. Place the cubed butter in a large, light-colored pot over low-medium heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts.
  3. When the butter has browned, immediately take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and 8 cups of marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the marshmallows completely, turn the heat back to low.
  4. Add the cereal and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining two cups of mini marshmallows, followed by the 1/4 c rainbow sprinkles. Don’t overmix once you add the sprinkles or the colors will bleed.
  5. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicone spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Garnish with extra sprinkles. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares.
  6. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days. I’ve heard you can refrigerate or freeze them, well wrapped, for longer storage, though they haven’t lasted long enough around here for me to test that.

Linzer cookies

Linzer cookies are one of those classic Christmas cookies I’d never gotten around to making until recently. I love sandwich cookies, but to be honest they can be time-consuming with all the chilling / rolling / stamping / filling. I recommend making them on an afternoon when you don’t have a ton of other baking to do; just throw on your favorite tunes and enjoy the process.

A couple notes:
  • This dough contains a high proportion of nuts, which makes it very delicious but also extremely delicate. I found it easiest to roll between pieces of plastic and chill overnight before cutting and baking. I also recommend using simple cookie cutter shapes (i.e. circles and squares) for best results (I used this set).
  • Linzers are traditionally made with almonds and raspberry jam; I used walnuts because I had a lot on hand and filled them with the ends of jam jars I always have lurking around in the fridge.
  • You can bake these cookies several days in advance (store them at room temperature in an airtight container), but I recommend filling them on the day you plan to serve them as the cookies will gradually soften once they’re filled.
  • If you don’t want to bother rerolling the scraps, you can shape leftover dough into thumbprint cookies instead. Just roll into balls, indent with your thumb or the back of a wooden spoon, and bake until golden. Fill indents with jam once cooled.

Linzer Cookies

Makes about thirty 2-1/2″ sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 105g (scant 1 c) toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 281g all purpose flour
  • 225g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c jam or preserves
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, sugars, and salt. Pulse together until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is the texture of damp sand.
  2. Add the flour and pulse to combine.
  3. Scatter the butter cubes over the top and pulse until the butter is well incorporated, with no large pieces remaining. Scrape down the sides of the food processor a couple times during this process.
  4. Whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and pulse just until a dough starts to form.
  5. Transfer about half of the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Pat into a square about an inch thick. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top and roll the dough to about 3/16″. Lift and replace the top piece of plastic occasionally to avoid creases in the dough. Repeat with other half of dough. Slide one sheet of dough onto a baking sheet (still sandwiched between pieces of plastic) and slide the second sheet of dough on top. Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours or up to 24.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge. Peel off the top piece of plastic, invert the dough onto one of the parchment-lined baking sheets, and peel off the other piece of plastic. Use a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter to punch out as many rounds as possible. Remove the excess dough and set aside. Repeat with the second sheet of dough. Use a small round or other decorative cutter to punch out the centers of half the circles. Reroll and repeat process with dough scraps until you’ve used up all the dough (follow rolling process in step 5, chilling as necessary). If the dough is still firm, proceed straight to baking; otherwise, chill first until firm, about 15 minutes.
  7. Bake sheets one at a time for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are just barely golden on the edges. Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Sift icing sugar over the cookies with the center cutouts. Using a small spoon or offset spatula, spread about a teaspoon of jam on the flat sides of the bottom cookies. Top each with a sugared cookie. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper until serving. I recommend filling cookies the day you plan to serve them (see notes above).

Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

oatmeal raisin pretzel cookies

One of the questions I get most often is, “How do you find time to bake?” I’ll admit, it can be a bit of a juggling act. Since starting this blog, we’ve gone from zero to three children, ages 4 and under. Baking projects that I used to finish in an evening are now slo-o-o-o-wly pieced together over the course of several days. I could write a book about it, but thankfully, I don’t have to — Michelle Lopez’s new cookbook, Weeknight Baking will teach you everything you need to know about baking to fit your schedule.

weeknight baking and cookies

I received Michelle’s book as a literal birth day present — it arrived the same day our third child, Isabelle, did! Weeknight Baking was actually the perfect cookbook to help ease me into the new reality of baking with another tiny human around, because each recipe is either quick to make OR broken down into 15-to-30 minute tasks that you can piece together over a few days. And, as my family will attest, the recipes are delicious! So far, we’ve easily polished off a pan of her cheesecake bars and a batch of these oatmeal cookies.

I have always been partial to a good old fashioned oatmeal cookie, and I’m delighted to add this recipe to our rotation. These babies take about half an hour from start to finish — no chilling required! I made a couple small changes — first, I used sifted spelt flour instead of all purpose; and second, I popped a mini pretzel on each cookie (before baking) because I’m all about that salty-sweet combo. Feel free to go traditional with just raisins, or play around with the mix-ins — Michelle gives several fantastic sounding options. Whatever you do, make these cookies! And congrats, Michelle, on your new book!

Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

Makes 20 cookies | Adapted from Weeknight Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Oatmeal Cookie Mix-In of your choice (I used raisins and mini pretzels)
  • 1 1/4 c (5.65 oz) all-purpose flour (I used sifted spelt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 c (5 oz) tightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
  • 1/3 c (2.35 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c (6.15 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats
Oatmeal cookie mix-ins
  • Classic oatmeal raisin: 1 c (5.5 oz) raisins
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip: 8 oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, Cranberry, and White Chocolate: 1 c (6 oz) dried cranberries and 3 oz white chocolate, from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, cherry, and pistachio: 1 c (5 oz) dried cherries and 1/2 c (2.5 oz) shelled pistachios
  • Oatmeal and crystallized ginger: 1/2 c (3.5 oz) crystallized ginger, chopped into 1/4-to-1/2-inch pieces

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Place the mix-in of your choice in a shallow bowl and toss to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars and butter. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2-3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low, add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Scrape down bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Add the oats all at once and beat on low until combined, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to fully incorporate oats. Add the mix-in all at once and beat on medium-low until the mix-in is evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute.
  5. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into 20 balls (about 45 g each, but may vary depending on mix-ins), placing them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough (or freeze it to bake later). Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

peach crisp ice cream in container

Before we round the corner into September (!!), I have one last ice cream recipe for you. Churning frozen treats has definitely been my summer 2019 obsession — I’ve been making frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, eggless ice creams, and custard ice creams as fast as we can consume or share each batch. It’s just so addicting (and delicious)!

I’ve especially enjoyed trying to incorporate various seasonal fruits into ice cream. While either sorbet or an eggless (“Philadelphia”) ice cream base has been my modus operandi when incorporating fruit — I find the lack of eggs helps the fruit flavor shine through better — this time I was going for a peaches and cream vibe and wanted a bit of extra richness. I used the same buttermilk custard base from the toast and jam ice cream, but added in a honey-sweetened roasted peach puree. Swirls of peach jam amp up the “peachiness” while sprinkles of crisp oat streusel add texture and nuttiness. It’s like eating a peach crisp a la mode!

A few notes:

  • This makes a fairly large batch of ice cream — probably the largest amount my home ice cream maker can handle. If you have a smaller machine you will want to churn in two batches (or reduce the recipe by 25-30%).
  • The oat streusel recipe is adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and makes way more than you need for this batch of ice cream. But! It freezes beautifully and I have absolutely loved having a big batch on hand to layer in other ice creams / sprinkle on sundaes / snack on. So I definitely recommend just making the full batch and patting yourself on the back later.
  • My favorite containers for storing ice cream are these Cambro 1-quart Poly Rounds. They don’t take up a lot of room in the freezer and they’re the perfect size for a typical home batch. But you can use a loaf pan, empty yogurt container, or similarly-sized freezer-safe vessel. Whatever container you choose, I recommend sticking it in the freezer while you are churning your ice cream to help minimize melting!
peach crisp ice cream in cone

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

Makes a generous 1 quart | Inspired by Salt & Straw and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk custard base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the roasted peach puree:
  • 12 oz ripe peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 80g (1/4 c) honey
For the crisp oat streusel:
  • 227g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 188g AP flour (swap in whole grain if you’d like)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 135g old-fashioned rolled oats
To finish:
  • ~1/2 c peach jam, homemade or store-bought

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the peach puree: Preheat oven to 350F. Spread the chopped peaches in a single layer on a quarter-sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with honey.
  6. Bake peaches for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the released juices have thickened. (The peaches shouldn’t be browned at all.) Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, scrape the peaches and all the syrupy juices into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold.
  7. Make the crisp oat streusel: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  8. In a large bowl, whisk together the all dry ingredients except the oats. Add the cubed, chilled butter and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the oats and stir to combine well. Spread the mixture in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet, aiming for clumps about 1/4″-1/2″ in size.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and browned. Cool completely on a wire rack, then freeze in a ziplock bag or airtight container until ready to use.
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt and chilled peach puree into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of peach jam and generous sprinklings of oat streusel. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.

Berry Basil Fraisier

berry basil fraisier

To me, the unofficial start of summer is the arrival of fresh strawberries. To be honest, I’m not much of a summer person — I don’t like hot weather and the mosquitoes that come with it. But I love summer produce, and our family definitely looks forward to berry picking every year.

freshly picked strawberries

For the past several years, I’ve made a fraisier to celebrate fresh strawberries. A fraisier is a traditional French strawberries and cream cake, and to me it’s the best way to enjoy candy-sweet, ripe strawberries (after eating them straight off the plant).

hannah eating strawberry

With these fraisiers I tend to be a bit casual — I usually make them a little differently every time. Sometimes I use a Japanese genoise as the cake; I’ve also made a matcha sponge version that was delicious. Sometimes I make a gelee layer for the top. I’ve also learned a few things over the years — like the need for gelatin to set the cream, and to keep the cake layers on the thin side to let the strawberries really shine through.

For my 2019 fraisier, I used some fresh basil from our garden to infuse the cream. And because the spring here was quite cool and strawberries didn’t show up until practically July, I added in a few blueberries to make this a fourth of July appropriate cake. (You could definitely just use all strawberries too, though.) The sponge is a lemon-scented chiffon, which is light and fluffy and pretty simple to whip up. The result: summer in every bite.

A few notes:
  • For easiest assembly, I recommend a 6×3 cake ring and acetate strips. You could also use a springform pan and plastic wrap, but you’ll get the cleanest results from the ring and acetate. (I use these same tools to make Momofuku-style cakes.)
  • You can make the basil pastry cream base up to 5 days in advance, but wait to add the gelatin and whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the cake.
  • For the cake, I used a half recipe of this lime chiffon cake and baked it in a 6×3 cake pan (total baking time was about 35 minutes). Don’t use a shorter pan; it will overflow. You could probably also bake this in a quarter sheet pan and cut out two 6″ rounds, but you would need to adjust the baking time.
berry basil fraisier top down

Berry Basil Fraisier

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

  • Half a recipe of this chiffon cake, baked in a 6×3 cake pan (I subbed lemon zest and juice for lime)
  • 1 recipe basil cream diplomat (recipe below)
  • Simple syrup
  • ~1 c chopped strawberries, mixed with a spoonful of strawberry puree or jam; plus about 10-12 strawberries, halved (try to choose ones that are the same height, or trim to match) and 10-12 blueberries
  • More berries and basil leaves, to decorate
For the basil cream diplomat:
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 50g sugar (1/4 c), divided
  • 20g cornstarch or custard powder
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp gelatin*
  • 1/2 tbsp cold
  • 1/2 – 1 c heavy whipping cream*

*Use 1/2 c for a thicker filling and up to 1 c for a lighter filling (I usually use 1/2-3/4 c). If you use more than 1/2 heavy cream, use 3/4 tsp gelatin. 

Method:

  1. To make the basil cream diplomat: Bring the milk and basil sprigs to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and cover. Allow basil to steep for about 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the milk (add more to reach 1 cup if necessary) and return to the saucepan along with 40g sugar and a pinch of salt. Place a strainer over a heat-safe jug or container.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 g sugar and the cornstarch. Pour in a tablespoon or so of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking on the heat for two minutes.
  5. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared jug or container. Whisk in the butter until combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours).
  6. When you are ready to assemble the cake, finish preparing the cream diplomat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup (60g) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the saucepan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  7. Heat the cream until it is 120F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  8. Whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate while you continue assembling the cake.
  9. To assemble the berry basil fraisier: Line a 6×3 cake ring (or same-sized springform pan) with acetate (or plastic wrap) and place on a cake board or plate. Trim the cake into layers ~3/4 inch thick (you should get three; you’ll need two for the cake. The rest is a baker’s treat!).
  10. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the ring and brush generously with simple syrup. Place the halved strawberries, cut side out and pointed end up, around the edge of the pan. Add blueberries between the strawberries if desired. Pipe the cream diplomat between the fruits and a layer across the top of the cake. Use a offset palette knife to smooth. Fill the center with the chopped berries + jam, then cover with another layer of cream. Place the second layer of cake on top and press down to level. Soak with simple syrup, then spread a thin layer of cream across the top. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to three days.
  11. Just before serving remove the cake ring and acetate. Arrange the cut fruit and basil on top as desired. (If you are doing this beforehand, brush a little warmed and thinned apricot jam on the fruit to preserve their color.) Enjoy!

Toast and Jam Ice Cream

toast and jam ice cream in a bucket


One of the questions I hear often is, “What do you do with all the bread you bake?” Truthfully, we normally don’t have a ton of leftovers; and if I know a loaf won’t be finished within a couple days I’ll usually freeze pre-cut slices. But every so often I wind up with a hunk of bread that’s just a little too stale for the freezer.

Sure, that bread could make some pretty fine croutons or breadcrumbs. Or it could be tossed in brown butter and sugar, baked until deliciously golden and nutty, and spun into a quart of homemade ice cream. Add a swirl of jam, and you’ve got breakfast for dessert? Dessert for breakfast? Either way — delicious.

This toast and jam ice cream starts with a creamy and slightly tangy buttermilk custard base. Once done churning, simply alternate layers of ice cream, brown butter crumbs and jam and freeze until firm. If you like toasty bits in every bite you can add the brown butter crumbs during the last minute of churning for more even distribution. You may not use all the crumbs, but save extras for sprinkling on top…if you can resist snacking on them beforehand!


toast and jam ice cream

Toast and Jam Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Tartine

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk ice cream base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the caramelized bread crumbs:
  • 168g (~2 slices) day-old bread (I used sourdough)
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) butter
  • 67g (1/3 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of kosher salt
To finish:
  • ~1/2 storebought or homemade jam

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the caramelized bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  6. Crumble the bread into small, corn kernel-sized bits.
  7. In a skillet, heat the butter until it melts, then continue to cook until it starts to brown. Remove from heat and stir in the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  8. Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the bread bits are well-toasted and a deep, dark brown.
  9. Cool completely then store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (They can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature.)
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of jam and generous sprinklings of bread crumbs. (If you prefer, you can add the desired amount of bread crumbs during the last minute of churning.) Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.
toast and jam ice cream scoop

Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

strawberry swirl frozen yogurt cone

I try to be a “kitchen stuff” minimalist. Don’t get me wrong: my eyes light up when I discover a new bakeware store, and my idea of a good time is browsing the kitchen-related aisles of HomeGoods or HomeSense. But I usually take my time when it actually comes to buying stuff, especially appliances that take up valuable counter or storage space.

Case in point: ice cream makers. I’ve probably threatened to buy one for the past three summers. But I’ve never bit the bullet, sticking to semifreddos and extra trips to the ice cream parlor. (The texture of no-churn recipes have never really excited me.)

But this year, the new Salt & Straw cookbook arrived in the mail; and between the mouthwatering pictures of flavors like Sea Salt and Caramel Ribbon and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and pregnancy cravings for Wendy’s Frosties, I knew this had to be the Summer of Homemade Ice Cream. I mentioned to my husband that I was starting to research ice cream makers. And by the next day, with the help of a friend, he had procured a Cuisinart ICE-20 (I’ve mentioned he’s a keeper, right?). Predictably, I can’t stop churning.

One of the great features of the Salt & Straw cookbook is that it starts out with three simple base recipes: one for regular ice cream, one for sorbet/frozen yogurt/sherbet/gelato, and one for coconut (dairy free) ice cream. Most of the remaining recipes build off one of these bases; and you can actually whip up large batches of the bases and refrigerate/freeze portions for later use so you can practically churn up a pint on a whim.

I decided to start my churning journey with this strawberry swirl frozen yogurt. A ribbon of strawberry syrup adds a touch of sweetness and color to a creamy, tart fro-yo base. I can see having a pint of this deliciousness always on hand, changing up the fruit depending on the season.

A few notes:
  • I’ve tried this with both regular 2% Greek yogurt, and full-fat regular yogurt (strained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl). Both work well, though I slightly preferred the texture of regular Greek yogurt. Either way, do not use fat-free yogurt for this recipe.
  • You can also sub 1/2 cup sour cream for part of the yogurt for a little added tang and richness.
  • Straining the strawberry syrup is optional; if you like a more chunky frozen yogurt you can leave the fruit solids in. If you do strain the syrup, the remaining fruit can be refrigerated and used to spread on toast or top your fro-yo.


strawberry swirl frozen yogurt in a scoop
Marcus eating frozen yogurt

Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 3 pints / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Serious Eats

Ingredients:

For the base:
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 c (80g) light corn syrup
For the frozen yogurt:
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c strawberry syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups base
  • 1 1/2 c (360g) super-tart Greek yogurt, very cold (see notes above)
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the strawberry syrup swirl:
  • 8 oz / 225g trimmed and chopped strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp / 30 g freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 6 oz / 175g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Method:

  1. Make the base: Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1 1/4 c water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps). Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  2. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.)
  3. Make the strawberry syrup: Combine strawberries, lemon/lime sugar, and salt in a medium pot. Note the pot’s weight at this stage so the reduction can be tracked on the scale (or you can use a digital thermometer). Mash the strawberries with a fork or metal spatula until swimming in juice.
  4. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and scraping along the bottom and sides of the saucier with a flexible, heat-resistant spatula. This should take about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the mixture begins to boil, continue cooking until reduced by 4 ounces (mixture should be 220°F) for a thin, saucy ribbon or 5 ounces (224°F) for a thick, gooey ribbon. This should take about 6 minutes.
  6. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
  7. Churn the frozen yogurt: Before churning, place a 1-quart container into the freezer, along with a spatula. Place the yogurt, milk, and salt into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the base and whisk until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can add all ingredients together and blend until smooth.) Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie.
  8. Quickly transfer the fro-yo into the prepared container: Spoon in layers of fro-yo alternated by drizzles of strawberry syrup (I used about half of the syrup, but use as much as you want). You can use a knife to swirl the two occasionally, or leave as-is for more distinct strawberry ribbons.
  9. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the fro-yo-so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Zeppole

zeppole

A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.

Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!

A few notes:

  • Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
  • If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
  • Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
choux pastry rings
baked zeppole

Zeppole

Makes about 10 zeppole

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe choux pastry (prepared through step 4)
  • 1 batch vanilla pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Thick fruit jam or preserves (I used strawberry)
  • Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 100g granulated sugar, divided
  • 40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
  4. As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
  6. Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
  7. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
  8. Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
  9. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
  10. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
baked zeppole with garnish