Toasted Milk Ice Cream

toasted milk ice cream

If you’ve hung around here or my Instagram much, you’ll know I have a thing for toasted milk powder. It’s magical stuff, my secret weapon for injecting extra brown buttery, caramelly, hazelnutty flavor into baked goods.

If the concept is new to you, here’s a crash course. Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid).

I first came across the idea of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s old blog (sadly it’s no longer online), though have since read about it in older articles on other sites such as Ideas in Food. The concept is brilliant — by toasting milk powder, you’re able to add more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma without adding additional fat or liquid! I do think toasted milk has its own unique taste, with hints of caramel and toasted nuts. It’s a special flavor that I’ve come to love, and am always thinking of new ways to include it in my bakes.

My latest obsession is this toasted milk ice cream. It truly is like no other ice cream flavor I’ve had, deceptively plain-looking but with an intriguingly rich flavor. I did tests with an added ripple of fudge and toyed with the idea of adding a milk jam or butterscotch swirl, but in the end I like it best on its own.

How to toast milk powder

I prefer to toast nonfat milk powder in either instant pot (pressure cooker) or the microwave for the most even and controlled results. (Please see my toasted milk banana cream pie post for instructions on those methods.) You can also toast milk powder as you would nuts, either in a dry saucepan on the stove, or in a single layer on a sheet pan in the oven at 325F, stirring often. Milk solids burn very easily, so either way make sure you stir often and keep an eye on it.

Note that I always use nonfat or skim milk powder as I only want to add the milk solids and not any additional fat to my recipes. While I have had readers say they’ve used toasted whole milk powder with success I personally have not tried it.

Chasing texture

I went through quite a few tests chasing the perfect texture for this ice cream. I knew from previous recipes that toasted milk powder doesn’t always dissolve easily in milk products. I suspect this is because it’s not fat-soluble; but TBH I’m still fuzzy on the exact reasons because I have had some cases where it dissolved easily. (Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact brand of milk powder I was using.) Depending on the application, this might not be a big deal. For example, in my banana cream pie I didn’t have a problem with it because of all the other textures involved in that dessert.

However, for this ice cream, I really wanted something silky smooth. I thought just grinding down the milk powder really finely and straining out any big bits would work, but unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. I tried an immersion blender, a regular blender, blending cold, blending hot, double straining, etc. While blending helped some, in the end I could still detect some little granules and it was bumming me out.

Milk powder as an infusion

What finally worked for me was to treat milk powder like an infusion: I first heated the dairy with the toasted milk powder, let it infuse in the fridge overnight, then strained and made sure it was grit-free before mixing up my ice cream base. A regular sieve was not effective in straining out all the particles, but a double layer of cheesecloth does the trick perfectly!

Other ingredients for custard ice cream

I opted for a custard ice cream because I wanted that rich, slightly chewy texture from an egg yolk base. Most of the ingredients are common and self-explanatory, but a couple warrant a little explanation:

  • Glucose or light corn syrup: Using an inverted sugar such as glucose or light corn syrup gives frozen desserts a more viscous, less icy texture. I almost always use it for a portion of the sweetener in my ice creams. Many people shy away from these products because they associate it with high fructose corn syrup. They are NOT the same thing; high fructose corn syrup is corn syrup that has been further treated to contain more fructose and is sweeter than regular corn syrup (or glucose). Check your local baking supply store or online for glucose; in my area corn syrup is available in most grocery stores. In a pinch you can replace the inverted sugar with the same weight of granulated sugar, though the ice cream will be more sweet and icy.
  • Xanthan gum: Don’t let the name scare you — xanthan gum is just a natural gum that in this case works as a stabilizer, inhibiting the growth of ice crystals. Just a tiny bit drastically improves the texture and shelf life of homemade ice cream. I found mine at the local grocery store and online. If you can’t find xanthan gum, you can replace it with 5g of tapioca starch whisked with 20g cold milk. Stir this slurry into the custard base after it reaches temperature, before straining.
toasted milk ice cream

Toasted Milk Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 16 hours
Total Time: 16 hours 50 minutes

A creamy custard ice cream infused with toasted milk powder for a caramelly, nutty, brown-buttery flavor.

Ingredients

For the infused dairy:

  • 440g whole milk
  • 330g heavy cream (35%), plus more as needed
  • 50g deeply toasted nonfat milk powder

For the toasted milk custard base

  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional but recommended for best texture)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 50g glucose or corn syrup
  • 100g egg yolks (about 5 large)
  • 700g infused dairy
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Infuse the dairy: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cream, and toasted milk powder. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently to prevent scorching, until steaming. Remove from heat, cover, and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to infuse for at least 12 but preferably 24 hours. (You can transfer to a smaller container, if needed.)
  2. Strain the dairy: When ready to cook the custard, strain and measure the infused dairy. Weigh the container or large measuring cup into which you will be straining the dairy. Place a fine mesh strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth over the container. Strain the dairy, then carefully gather up the sides of the cheesecloth and gently squeeze the saturated milk powder solids to eke out as much of the infused dairy as you can without letting any solids pass through. Discard the milk powder solids.
  3. Weigh the dairy: Now weigh the container with the infused dairy. Subtract the weight of the empty container, which will tell you how much dairy you now have. Add additional cream if needed to total 700g.
  4. Make the custard base: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the glucose and egg yolks and whisk until well combined. Stream in the infused dairy and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, frequently stirring and scraping the pot with a flexible heat-resistant spatula, until the custard is hot to the touch and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (170-180F). Strain the custard into a heat-safe container and stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Chill the custard base: Cover the container and refrigerate the custard until well-chilled. at least 4 hours. (If you're in a hurry, you can chill the custard over an ice bath.)
  6. Churn the custard base: Before churning, place a freezer-friendly container in your freezer (a loaf pan works well). Churn the chilled base according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve (for my machine this is about 20-25 minutes). 
  7. Freeze the ice cream: Transfer ice cream to the chilled container. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it against the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm and scoopable. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months, but good luck with that.  

    Related recipes:

    Meyer Lemon Custard Bars with Poppyseed Crust

    The idea for these meyer lemon custard bars have been bouncing around in my head for a year, or since the last time meyer lemons were in season and readily available in the supermarket. I’m game for good lemon desserts anytime; but they’re especially welcome in January as a foil for the warm spices and heavy flavors many of us enjoy in the months prior. The cheerful color helps too.

    These particular bars straddle the line between classic American style lemon bars and a British style lemon tart, with the ease and portability of the former and the mellow creaminess of the latter. Tastewise, this is not a face-puckering lemon bar. If you think of the difference between sorbet and ice cream, these bars are like ice cream. Cream mutes the lemon flavor but also helps it linger on the palate. Still, I’ve tried to bump up the lemon flavor as much as possible by infusing the cream with lemon zest and adding some to the crust as well.

    I used meyer lemons as they’re a January treat around here, less acidic than regular lemons with a gentle floral note. (They’re thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.) But if you can’t find meyer lemons in your area, regular lemons will work here too.

    meyer lemon custard bars

    Baker’s notes:

    • For a silky smooth, glassy custard, remove all the air bubbles before placing it in the oven. After straining the custard, I like to bounce a spoon across the surface. This helps any bubbles lurking within the custard rise up to the surface and eventually pop. Keep bouncing until you don’t see any bubbles coming up anymore. You can also wave kitchen torch across the top to pop any stubborn bubbles.
    • Don’t overbake the custard! Overbaking can lead to cracks and an unpleasant finished texture. Turn off the oven when there’s still a good wobble in the center and let the bars cool down slowly with the oven door cracked open. It will continue to set as it cools.
    • Taste your poppyseeds and make sure they are fresh! Nothing ruins a bake like rancid seeds and poppyseeds spoil especially quickly. I store mine in the freezer.

    Related recipes:

    meyer lemon custard bars

    Meyer Lemon Custard Bars

    Yield: 16 2-inch bars
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 50 minutes
    Additional Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

    A silky lemon custard on a poppy seed shortbread base, these simple yet elegant meyer lemon custard bars are a cross between American-style lemon bars and a British lemon tart.

    Ingredients

    For the infused meyer lemon cream:

    • Zest of one meyer lemon
    • 150g heavy cream (35%)

    For the poppyseed crust:

    • Zest of one meyer lemon (reserve juice for custard)
    • 50g granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 Tbsp (10g) poppyseeds
    • 142g all-purpose flour (I used half emmer, half all-purpose)*
    • 113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for egg wash (reserve yolk for filling)

    For the meyer lemon custard filling:

    • Zest of 1 meyer lemon
    • 175g granulated sugar
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 5 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
    • 150g meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed (from about 3 medium meyer lemons -- zest them before juicing!)
    • All of the infused cream

    Instructions

    1. Prep the oven and pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment, leaving 2-3 inches of overhang on at least two of the sides for easy removal.
    2. Infuse the cream: Place the zest of one meyer lemon in a small saucepan and add the heavy cream. Stir to combine. Warm the cream over medium-low heat until steaming, then remove from the heat and cover the pot. Allow the cream to infuse while you prepare the crust.
    3. Make the poppyseed crust: In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and the zest of one meyer lemon. Rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant and damp to release the essential oils from the rind, which will intensify the lemon flavor. Whisk in the salt, poppyseeds, and flour until well combined.
    4. Pour in the melted butter and stir with a fork until no spots of dry flour remain. Scatter dough across the base of the prepared pan and use your fingers or a flat bottomed cup to press into an even layer.
    5. Bake the crust: Bake the crust until dry and golden, 20-25 minutes. Brush a layer of egg white over the crust to help water-proof it, then cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F.
    6. Make the custard: Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl or large measuring jug with a spout (such as a 4-cup Pyrex).
    7. In a medium saucepan, combine the zest of one meyer lemon and granulated sugar. As you did with the crust, rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant and damp to release the essential oils from the rind. Whisk in the salt, followed by the eggs and egg yolk. Whisk in the lemon juice and the infused cream (no need to strain out the zest right now).
    8. Cook the custard mixture over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the pan frequently with a heat-resistent spatula, until it registers 160F on a digital thermometer. Strain the custard into the prepared measuring jug. Discard the zest.
    9. Bounce the back of a spoon across the top of the custard to pop any air bubbles. Pour the custard into the pan. If any bubbles remain on the surface of the custard, skim them off with a spoon.
    10. Bake the bars: Bake until the edges of the custard are set but the center still wobbles, about 20-30 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door with a wooden spoon. Let the bars cool for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature. Chill the bars in the refrigerator for another 1-2 hours for easiest slicing.
    11. Slice and serve: Use a sharp knife to slice bars into desired size (I usually do a 4x4 grid for a total of 16 bars), wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Bars are best enjoyed the day they're baked, but can be stored refrigerated up to 3 days. The crust will soften over time.

    Notes

    *I used half emmer flour, half all purpose for a little extra flavor and nutrition. This crust is very forgiving; you can try substituting another whole grain flour such as spelt or whole wheat, or just use all-purpose.

    Pumpkin Crème Fraîche Scones

    pumpkin cremè fraîche scones

    Along with apple pie and pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones are one of my autumnal must-bakes. I crave them every fall when the first frost approaches. Thankfully, unlike pies, these scones come together in less than an hour, making them the perfect cozy baking project for chilly mornings or when you just want the aroma of warm spices filling your kitchen.

    pumpkin scones side

    These pumpkin scones are based on the scone recipe in my book, with a few subtle tweaks. Pumpkin puree obviously makes up a decent portion of the liquid; so I add a bit more butter to compensate for the lower fat content of pumpkin vs. cream or sour cream. I also like using crème fraîche for tangy richness, which I usually have on hand for making pumpkin pie. But if you don’t have any, simply replace it with an equal weight of heavy cream. (By the way, you can easily make your own crème fraîche by combing 1 Tbsp of buttermilk with 1 c of heavy cream and letting it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours, or until pleasantly tangy and thickened. Store in the refrigerator.) Add a generous amount of autumnal spices and you’ve got yourself a winner!

    You can keep the scones plain, but I like adding some texture with toasted pecans and chocolate chips. Swap in any nut you like, or sub in some dried cranberries or a different type of chocolate. (I also think this would make a great savory scone if you cut the sugar in half, played around with the spices, and added some cheese and/or chopped herbs!)

    I’ve kept the sugar content of the actual scone fairly low because I like to double down on both coarse sugar and a glaze for topping. The coarse sugar adds wonderful texture and the glaze gives just the right amount of initial sweetness and visual impact. Trust me, using both won’t make these scones too sweet!

    pumpkin scones side

    Pumpkin Crème Fraîche Scones

    Yield: 8 scones
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 40 minutes

    Flaky, tender, and warmly spiced, these pumpkin scones make the perfect autumn breakfast.

    Ingredients

    For the pumpkin scones:

    • 250g all-purpose flour
    • 63g spelt flour (or substitute another whole-grain flour, or more all-purpose flour)
    • 30g granulated sugar
    • 30g light brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp baking powder
    • ¾ tsp kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 113g chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
    • 80g crème fraîche, cold
    • 120g pure pumpkin puree, cold
    • 1 large egg, cold
    • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 85g pecans, toasted and chopped
    • 85g semisweet chocolate chips
    • Milk or cream, for brushing
    • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

    For the creme fraiche glaze:

    • 60g icing sugar, sifted
    • 2-3 Tbsp cremè fraîche

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) with a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder, salt, and spices.
    3. Add the cold, cubed butter to the dry ingredients and cut it in using a pastry cutter or your fingers. You should have varying sizes of butter pieces, ranging from pea to nickel shaped.
    4. In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche, pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and gently fold in with a spatula until just combined. The dough should be a bit shaggy, but should hold together.
    5. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to bring it together. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch (30-cm) square. Flour the dough and pin just enough to avoid sticking.
    6. Brush off any excess flour. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter, rotate 90 degrees, then fold in thirds again so you have a 4-inch (10-cm) square. Transfer to a baking sheet or plate and freeze for 10 minutes.
    7. After chilling, return the dough to your lightly floured surface. Roll it again into a 12-inch (30-cm) square. Sprinkle the pecans and chocolate chips evenly over the dough, then roll it up like a jelly roll. Turn the dough so the seam side is down, then gently pat it into a 12 x 4-inch (30 x 10-cm) rectangle. If the dough feels soft or sticky at all, freeze for 5 to 10 minutes to make it easier to cut.
    8. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into four
      equal pieces, then cut each piece on the diagonal to create 8 triangular scones. Cut straight down to preserve the layers and help the scones rise evenly in the oven. Transfer scones to the prepared baking sheet and freeze while the oven finishes preheating.
    9. When the oven is ready, brush the tops of the scones gently with milk or cream and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar.
    10. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the tops and bottoms are golden brown. Cool on a wire
      rack for 10 minutes before glazing.
    11. To make the crème fraîche glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and 2 Tbsp of crème fraîche until smooth. Add more cremè fraîche as needed, a teaspoon at a time, to form a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle the scones with the glaze and let set for 5-10 minutes before serving.
    12. Scones are best freshly baked, but you can store them well wrapped at room temperature for a few days. Reheat for 5 to 10 minutes in a 350°F (175°C) oven. You can also freeze scones unbaked and bake them straight from frozen (you may need to add a few minutes of baking time).

    Notes

    • Crème fraîche can be substituted with heavy cream.
    • Be sure to use pure pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.
    • If you find that the bottoms of your scones tend to get too dark, try stacking an extra baking sheet underneath.
    • The above recipe makes enough glaze to drizzle each scone as pictured. If you prefer more glaze, make 1.5-2x the amount.

    pumpkin scone on plate

    Related recipes and links:

    Lemon Almond Poppyseed Muffins

    lemon almond poppyseed muffin

    In the realm of breakfast treats, muffins aren’t my go-to. I’m much more likely to spring for a scone, cinnamon roll, or danish; or spend the time making waffles.

    But sometimes a lemon poppyseed muffin really hits the spot. And as lazy summer mornings turn into busy fall ones, there’s no denying the convenience of a portable muffin breakfast.

    My muffin rules

    For someone who isn’t a huge muffin fan, I do have some strong opinions about them. Number one: No creaming butter and sugar. That’s too much work for a muffin. Liquid fat all the way (whether it be oil or melted butter or a mixture of the two).

    Number two: Moist muffins. Just say no to dry and crumbly. For these particular lemon poppyseed muffins, almond flour, sour cream, and lots of poppyseeds contribute to a moist and tender interior.

    Number three: Nice domes. There are lots of tricks for getting bakery-worthy muffin tops. Some people swear by chilling their muffin batter overnight. I’m sure this works (if you try it with this recipe let me know) but I’m too impatient for that; so I just do the following three things:

    1. Fill the muffin wells up to the top.
    2. Only fill every other well so that each muffin has lots of air circulation around it, helping them to rise and set more quickly.
    3. Start with a high oven temp to maximize that initial rise, then lower it to help them bake through without scorching.

    Baker’s notes:

    • Good quality lemon oil is one of my tricks for injecting lemon flavor into baked goods. I use Boyajian brand (if you’re in the US, I’ve bought it at Sur La Table). I can’t comment about swapping out with lemon extract as I’ve never found one I really like.
    • This recipe uses a lot of poppyseeds. Please make sure they’re fresh! Poppyseeds turn rancid fast so I always recommend storing them in the freezer (same goes for other seeds, nuts, and nut flours).
    • Don’t skip the glaze! These muffins aren’t overly sweet and the glaze really helps deliver an immediate lemon punch.
    • Want to make a loaf instead? Try my lemon almond poppyseed cake! Or for a nut-free version, make the lemon poppyseed loaf in my book.
    lemon almond poppyseed muffins
    lemon almond poppyseed muffins cut
    lemon poppyseed muffins

    Lemon Almond Poppyseed Muffins

    Yield: 12 muffins
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 35 minutes

    Bakery style lemon almond poppyseed muffins with a moist, tender crumb and lemon glaze.

    Ingredients

    For the Lemon Almond Poppyseed Muffins:

    • 250g all purpose flour
    • 50g almond flour
    • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 210g granulated sugar
    • Zest of 3 large lemons (~3T zest) -- reserve lemon juice for glaze
    • 85g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 60g neutral oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3/4 tsp lemon oil, such as Boyajian
    • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
    • 180g sour cream, at room temperature
    • 60g whole milk, at room temperature
    • 45g poppyseeds

    For the lemon glaze:

    • 100g icing sugar, sifted
    • Pinch of salt
    • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (+/- as needed)

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven and prep the pan: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. For the most dramatic muffin tops, line two standard 12-count muffin pan with 6 muffin liners each, skipping every other well. Lightly grease between the wells. If you only have one muffin pan, you can either bake them all in one pan (the rise will be a little less dramatic, but the muffins will stilll taste great); or bake the muffins in two batches. The batter will hold fine at room temperature.
    2. Make the muffin batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt. Whisk very well for at least 30 seconds to ensure everything is well combined and lump-free.
    3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant and damp to release the essential oils from the rind, which will intensify the lemon flavor. Whisk in the butter, oil, eggs, extracts, sour cream, and milk until smooth.
    4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and use a silicone spatula to gently fold the two together. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the poppyseeds, stirring just to combine. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides and fold from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
    5. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pan(s), filling each cup to the top -- about 90g per muffin. Fill any empty wells with a little water (less than half is fine), which will promote even baking.
    6. Bake the muffins: Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 375F and bake for a further 10-12 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
    7. Carefully remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack before glazing.
    8. Glaze the muffins: When the muffins have cooled, whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and lemon juice to form a smooth, spoonable glaze. (I needed 2 Tbsp of lemon juice to reach my desired consistency, but recommend adding a teaspoon or two at a time for the best control.) Use a spoon or fork to drizzle over the muffins. Let the glaze set for about 5 minutes before serving. Muffins are best the day they're made, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

    Brown Butter Carmelitas

    brown butter carmelitas

    This has been the summer of the bar cookie. My kids are all very into helping in the kitchen, so for my sanity I’ve kept our bakes simple. A big lifesaver has been simply pressing cookie dough into the pan vs. individually portioning it out; because do you know how long it takes to get through a recipe with three children all wanting their turn for each step?

    For the most part, I don’t mind. But I do have a renewed appreciation for the humble bar cookie. Focusing on tray bakes also reminded me of a few recipes sitting in my “to try” file, most notably carmelitas: a buttery oatmeal and brown sugar bar cookie filled with chewy caramel and chocolate.

    Of course I had to put a little bit of a spin on it. First: brown butter! Since we’re melting butter for the crust/topping anyways, just take the extra couple minutes to brown it, thereby adding some delicious nutty complexity to these bars. Maillard reaction FTW!

    Second, homemade caramel! Most carmelita recipes call for using either caramel ice cream topping or chewy caramel candies melted down with cream; but I think it’s worth it to make your own salted caramel sauce. You can control the darkness of the caramel (go dark! It helps tame the sweetness of these bars.), plus it only takes a few minutes. Seriously, once you start making your own caramel, it’s hard to accept anything less than homemade.

    brown butter carmelitas top down

    Baker’s Notes:

    • Since we’re only making a small amount of salted caramel, I strongly prefer the dry method (i.e. not adding water to the sugar at the beginning) for speed. Your sugar may clump and look a bit questionable, but it’s fine, everything is fine! Stirring is fine! Just turn down the heat if you need to and let any lumps liquefy, then turn the heat back up to get that caramelization going. As always, whenever you’re making caramel, have all your other ingredients measured out and ready to go before you start heating the sugar.
    • You can make the salted caramel sauce ahead of time (it lasts for ages in the fridge); just gently reheat to a pourable consistency when you’re ready to assemble the carmelitas.
    • Be generous with the salt, both in the caramel and with the garnish on top! These bars need it!
    • Cool and chill the carmelitas completely before cutting. I know it’s tempting to dig in ASAP, but if you cut these bars before they’re completely cool you will have a gooey mess on your hands. I like to pop the whole tray in the fridge for an hour or two to make cutting a breeze.
    brown butter carmelitas

    Brown Butter Carmelitas

    Yield: One 8x8 pan
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Additional Time: 2 hours
    Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

    A delightfully buttery oat bar cookie stuffed with chocolate, salted caramel, and toasted nuts.

    Ingredients

    For the salted caramel sauce:

    • 160g granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt
    • 45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100g heavy cream (35%), at room temperature
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    For the base and topping:

    • 150g unsalted butter, cubed
    • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 125g all purpose flour
    • 100g light brown sugar
    • 90g rolled oats (regular, not quick or jumbo)
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda

    To finish:

    • 150g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or a mix of semisweet and bittersweet)*
    • 55g well-toasted nuts, finely chopped**
    • Flaky salt, for garnish

    Instructions

    1. Make the salted caramel sauce: In a medium heavy-bottomed, light-colored saucepan, sprinkle the sugar in an even layer. Place over medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to drag the melted parts toward the center of the pan. Continue dragging and swirling the pan to make sure the sugar is melting evenly and not scorching. If the mixture gets very lumpy and grainy, don't panic! Turn the heat down and stir until the chunks melt. Once all the sugar has liquified, you can turn the heat back up.
    2. As soon as the melted sugar turns the color of an old copper penny, remove it from the heat and add the salt and butter, stirring continuously. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble up!
      Whisk until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth and combined.
    3. Still continuously stirring, add the cream in a slow, steady stream—again, taking caution as the mixture will bubble and rise. Return the pot to medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, to thicken the sauce slightly.
    4. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a heat-safe container and let cool while you prepare the rest of the carmelitas.
    5. Make the base and topping: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8x8 pan with foil or two criss-crossed pieces of parchment, leaving 2-3 inches of overhang on at least two of the sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the foil or parchment.
    6. To brown the butter, place the cubed butter in a small, light-colored saucepan 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. This process takes about 8-10 minutes total, but the butter can go from browned to burnt in a flash—so keep an eye on it.
    7. Pour the butter and all the toasty bits into a small bowl or glass measuring cup and whisk in the espresso powder (if using) and vanilla. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes (it can be warm, but not piping hot when you add it to the rest of the ingredients).
    8. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and baking soda. Pour in the brown butter mixture and stir with a fork until all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
    9. Bake the crust: Transfer about 60% of the mixture (~260g) to the prepared pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup or small glass to press it firmly and evenly along the bottom. (Reserve the rest for the topping.) Bake for 10 minutes.
    10. Finish assembling and baking the bars: Remove the base from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate and nuts over the top. Pour the caramel sauce in an even layer over the chocolate and nuts. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top.
    11. Bake until the topping is lightly browned and the caramel is bubbling on the edges, about 18-20 minutes. Cool at room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours until firm.
    12. Cut into desired sizes and serve lightly chilled or at room temperature. Store leftover bars in an airtight container in the fridge or at room temperature for up to 5 days; freeze for longer storage.



    Notes

    *Chocolate chips are fine; I recommend something in the 55-70% cacao content range. I used a mix of semisweet chocolate chips and Callebaut 70% callets.

    **I used almonds, but any nut you like will work here.

    Key Lime Bars with Mango Topping

    key lime mango bars

    Ah, key lime pie. It’s one of my husband’s favorite desserts, so I’ve spent time fiddling with the recipe in search of my ideal version. If I’m being honest, I’ve always found key lime pie…hmmmm, a little lacking? Now I wouldn’t turn down a slice, but the classic proportions feel off (not enough filling to crust, but if you double the filling it’s overload) and I get bored after a couple bites.

    So, you fiddle. I’ve tried adding different dairy products, folding in egg whites, etc. but in the end I think the classic egg yolks + condensed milk + lime juice + zest can’t be beat for its combination of ease and taste. (But I do beat the egg yolks really well to get a nice airy texture.) I also prefer baking the pie as bars in an 8×8 pan for what I think is a better crust to filling ratio. Bonus: it’s also easier to slice.

    And finally, I like to add some sort of extra layer. This time around I went with a mango gel layer for some color and sweetness; and I loved it! But you could go with straight lime curd to really lean into the tartness; and of course good old whipped cream is always a safe option. I also think a fresh berry layer could be fun! (I didn’t say I was done fiddling, did I?)

    Whatever you choose, these key lime bars are a great, simple, make-ahead dessert anytime of the year. Enjoy!

    Baker’s Notes:

    • I typically use regular old limes for the filling because juicing a couple dozen tiny key limes feels like punishment. Yes, that makes them lime bars instead of key lime bars. Oh well.
    • I don’t find my bottom crust gets too soggy even after a few days in the fridge (it does soften, but not in an unpleasant way). But if you want extra insurance, you can brush the baked crust with a layer of egg white and return it to the oven for 1-2 minutes. Then pour in your filling and bake as directed.
    • I am staunchly on team canned mango puree (or pulp). The texture, consistent flavor, and convenience is totally worth it for me. I buy either alphonso or kesar varieties at my local grocery store (look in the international aisle). You can also find it online. Look for something that has just mango pulp, sugar (or sugar syrup or sugar and water), and citric acid as the ingredients. Canned puree is typically lightly sweetened; so if you’re making your own puree you may need to add additional sugar to taste.
    key lime mango bars

    Key Lime Bars with Mango Topping

    Yield: One 8x8 pan
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes
    Additional Time: 4 hours
    Total Time: 4 hours 55 minutes

    Ingredients

    For the graham cracker crust:

    • 175g graham cracker crumbs
    • 12g granulated sugar
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • 56 g unsalted butter, melted

    For the key lime filling:

    • 5 large egg yolks
    • 1 Tbsp lime zest (from 3-4 regular limes)
    • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • 170g freshly squeezed lime juice (from 6-8 regular limes or about 20 key limes)

    For the mango topping:

    • 35g cold water
    • 7g powdered gelatin (2 1/4 tsp or 1 packet)
    • 270g mango purée (I used canned and lightly sweetened)
    • 5g lime juice
    • 12g granulated sugar (might need to increase if using homemade purée)

    Instructions

    1. Make the graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with one
      rack in the middle and one below. Line an 8-inch square pan with at least 2-inch (7.5-cm) sides and line with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches (7.5 cm) of overhang on all sides for easy
      removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment
    2. Stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. The mixture should hold together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shouldn’t feel overly greasy. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add more melted butter 1 teaspoon at a time until it does. If overly greasy, add more cracker crumbs, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you get the right texture.
    3. Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of
      the pan, using a measuring cup or shot glass to compact the crumbs firmly and
      evenly.
    4. Bake until just set, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling.
    5. Make the key lime filling: Place the egg yolks and lime zest in a medium bowl. Using an electric handheld mixer, whisk together on medium speed until well combined. Add the condensed milk and whisk on medium to medium-high speed until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the lime juice and mix on low speed until combined.
    6. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and gently shake side to side to level. For the smoothest top, bounce a spoon over the top of the filling to bring up and pop any air bubbles that might be trapped in the filling.
    7. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the center has just a slight jiggle. Cool at room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate uncovered for one hour before preparing the mango topping.
    8. Make the mango topping: Pour the cold water into a small, shallow bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and allow to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
    9. In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, 70g mango purée, and lime juice. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until just steaming. Turn off heat, add bloomed gelatin, and whisk until dissolved. Add remaining 200g mango purée.
    10. Carefully pour the mango topping onto the chilled bars. Use a skewer to pop any air bubbles. Refrigerate to set, at least 3 hours or overnight, before slicing.
    11. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. (The crust will soften with time.)



    key lime bar with mango fork

    Chocolate cherry tart

    chocolate cherry tart

    One of our favorite annual traditions is cherry picking. Every July, we wake up early one morning and drive about an west hour to a gorgeous orchard that boasts a stunning variety of cherry trees, sweet and sour. Most of the sweet cherries we pick are enjoyed by the bowlful over the next week or so; but I try to sneak a few handfuls to make some kind of treat. This year I really wanted to celebrate the classic chocolate + cherry + cream combination, but wasn’t really feeling black forest cake. It had been awhile since I’d broken out the tart pan, so I dreamed up this chocolate cherry tart.

    Sometimes my random dessert ideas need a bit of tweaking before I feel comfortable sharing any kind of recipe, but this one was an instant home run. The chocolate creme legere is one of my favorite fillings ever (I can eat it by the spoonful); and sandwiched between a rich ganache and fresh cherries it is just next level delicious.

    Baker’s notes:

    • The pate sucree recipe makes enough for two 9″ tarts. You can halve the recipe if you want, but future me loves having an extra portion of dough in the freezer for easy dessert prep!
    • There are a few elements to this tart and you can spread the work over a couple days (make and bake the tart case on day one and make the fillings on day two). However, it also comes together easily in a morning or afternoon if you use the resting times for different components to prepare other parts of the recipe. I’ve indicated in the recipe when I would prep each element if I were making this tart in one day.
    • Like many fruit tarts, the success of this dessert largely depends on the freshness and quality of your fruit. I suggest using ripe but firm sweet cherries for the topping — personally, I like ones that have a touch of acidity to them. If cherries aren’t in season, I imagine raspberries or currants would be delicious!
    chocolate cherry tart

    Chocolate cherry tart

    Yield: One 9" tart
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

    A stunning summer tart filled with rich cherry ganache, lush chocolate creme legere, and tons of fresh cherries.

    Ingredients

    For the chocolate pate sucree:

    • 250g all-purpose flour
    • 22g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    • 100g icing sugar
    • ½ tsp kosher salt
    • 175g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • 1 large egg, cold
    • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

    For the chocolate creme legere:

    • 300g whole milk
    • 60g granulated sugar
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • 20g cornstarch
    • 10g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    • 2 large egg yolks + 1 large egg
    • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
    • 21g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • 85g bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
    • 200g heavy cream
    • 25g sour cream (or substitute more heavy cream)
    • 20g icing sugar

    For the cherry ganache:

    • 8g unsalted butter
    • 35g fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
    • Splash of kirsch, amaretto, or amaro (optional)
    • 40g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)
    • 30g heavy cream (35%)

    For garnish

    • Lots of fresh (ripe but firm) sweet cherries, pitted and halved
    • Apricot jam (optional)

    Instructions

    Make the chocolate pate sucree:

    1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar, and salt in
      the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
    2. Scatter the butter over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is about the size of peas.
    3. Whisk together the egg and vanilla. Add the egg mixture in three stages, pulsing after each addition. Once all the egg is added, pulse in 10-second increments until the dough forms clumps but is not completely smooth. Once the dough reaches this stage, remove half of the dough and place on a piece of parchment. (You only need half the dough for this recipe, so you can wrap and freeze the remainder for the future or try one of my ideas for extra tart dough!)
    4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Use your hands to press the dough into a round, then roll it out into a roughly 12-inch (30-cm) circle about ¼-inch (6-mm) thick. Lift and replace the top piece of plastic occasionally to avoid creases in the dough.
    5. Slide the sheet of dough onto a baking sheet (still sandwiched between the parchment and plastic). Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. (This is a good time to make the chocolate pastry cream base.)
    6. Once chilled, remove the unbaked crusts from the fridge and let it stand for about 5 to 10 minutes, just long enough to make it pliable. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart tin. Turn the dough into the tart tin. Gently lift the edges and press the dough into the bottom and sides of the tin. Don’t worry if it cracks or breaks here and there; the dough is forgiving and you can gently press it back together.
    7. Trim the edge of the dough even with the top of the tart tin (you can gently roll a rolling pin over the top or use a small paring knife). If there are any tears or cracks, use some of the extra dough to patch it up; reserve the extra dough for repairing any cracks that might appear after baking. Pierce the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, then wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
    8. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the middle. Remove the chilled tart dough from the freezer. Lightly grease the dull side of a piece of foil and fit it firmly over the chilled tart dough. Place the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil (if the crust has risen at all, press it down gently with the back of a spoon). If any cracks have formed, use some of the reserved dough to patch them. Bake the crust or another 5 to 10 minutes, or until firm and dry. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before filling.


    Make the chocolate creme legere:

    1. Place a strainer over a medium heat-safe bowl or container.
    2. Off heat, combine the milk, 20g of the sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 45g sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa powder. Pour in about 2 tbsp of the milk mixture and whisk to form a smooth paste. Add the egg yolks and whole egg and whisk until smooth.
    4. Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from the 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, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes.
    5. Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, butter, and chocolate. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until set (at least two hours, or up to 3 days). (This is a good time to bake and cool the tart crust and make the cherry ganache.)
    6. When ready to fill the tart, whip the heavy cream, sour cream, and icing sugar to medium peaks. Whisk the pastry cream to loosen, then use a flexible spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream in three additions. Fold just until homogenous and no streaks of cream remain. Use immediately.


    Make the cherry ganache:

    1. Prepare the ganache once the tart case is baked and cooled. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the cherries and saute, stirring frequently, until soft and the juices have released, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the liqueur, if using. Let cool for 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender or small food processor to blitz until smooth.
    2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and cream. Heat in 20-second intervals, stirring well after each burst, until the chocolate is 80% melted. Continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is emulsified. Stir in the cherry puree (you can use an immersion blender if you want the ganache extra smooth). Pour ganache into the cooled tart case and tilt to cover the entire bottom. Chill in the refrigerator to set (this should happen within 10 minutes as the layer is thin).

    To finish:

    1. Spread the chocolate creme legere over the set ganache. (You may have a little extra; enjoy as a baker's treat!) Press a piece of plastic over the top and chill for at least an hour to set.
    2. Right before serving, decorate with fresh cherries. (If not planning to eat the entire tart that day, you can brush the cherries with some apricot jam to keep them from drying out and discoloring.) Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.










































    Notes

    Chocolate pate sucree recipe is from Baked to Order.

    Cherry ganache recipe is adapted from Mad about Macarons.

    Sourdough discard jammy crumb bars

    sourdough discard jammy crumb bars

    This recipe was born out of the convergence of portable dessert season and a full jar of sourdough discard in my fridge. Bonus points if I could also use up one of my half-consumed jams and the small stash of roasted hazelnuts leftover from the last round of recipe testing. So I present to you: sourdough discard jammy crumb bars!

    These bar cookies come together in a snap, thanks to cold butter and the food processor. I used a high proportion of nuts in the crust for flavor and fat — hazelnuts and almonds because it’s what I had, but I think you could easily swap them out for whatever you have on hand and what would match the flavor of your jam. Since pre-made jams are usually quite sweet, I’ve pulled back on the sugar in the crust. If you prefer something a little more indulgent, you could dust these with powdered sugar or make a quick glaze to drizzle over the top!

    You can use whatever jam you have on hand, something a little tart and not too runny is my preference. I also like to add a little squeeze of lemon juice to the jam to brighten it up a touch. If your jam is thick and hard to spread, warm it up in the microwave or a small saucepan to loosen.

    The 1/8 sheet pan

    I’ve spoken before about my love for small sheet pans, and for this recipe I used the cutest of them all: the 1/8 sheet pan! Since these bars aren’t too thick, the short edges of the pan make removing the bars very easy. Ff you need a little convincing as to why you should invest in 1/8 sheet pans, let me give you just a few ways they are used in our house:

    • Toasting small amounts of nuts or flour
    • Baking a couple of cookies from the freezer stash to satisfy a late-night craving
    • A casual serving plate for BBQ’s (I see them used a lot at burger joints!)
    • They fit in standard toaster ovens so great for single-serving meals too!

    The interior dimensions of an 1/8 sheet pan are roughly 9.5″ x 6″, so if you don’t have an one you could use a 9×5 loaf pan for similar results (the bars will just be slightly thicker). Alternatively, you can increase everything by 25-30% and bake in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan. Note that the bake times may vary depending on the size of pan you use, so rely on visual cues to determine doneness.

    Sourdough discard

    The starter in this recipe is primarily for flavor, not leavening, so its ok to use discard that’s a little old. I just try to use my discard within a week, before it starts developing a layer of alcohol on top or smelling too acidic. For these bars, use discard straight from the fridge as we want to keep the butter nice and cold.

    Want more sourdough discard recipes? I’ve got you covered:

    sourdough discard jammy crumb bars
    Sourdough Discard Jammy Crumb Bars

    Sourdough Discard Jammy Crumb Bars

    Yield: 8 large bars
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 35 minutes
    Total Time: 45 minutes

    A simple bar cookie using sourdough discard and your favorite jam!

    Ingredients

    • 40g hazelnut meal (or whole roasted and skinned hazelnuts)
    • 64g almond meal
    • 40g granulated sugar
    • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 60g all purpose flour
    • 60g spelt flour
    • 68g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • 80g 100% sourdough discard, cold
    • 200g jam
    • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
    • 1 Tbsp coarse sugar

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 1/8 sheet pan or 9x5 loaf pan with a parchment sling, leaving enough overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment.
    2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the nut meal (or whole nuts), sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine (or if starting with whole nuts, until the nuts are finely ground). Add the flour and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until big chunks of butter are no longer visible and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cold sourdough discard over the top and pulse until the mixture starts coming together in big clumps.
    3. Transfer about 250g (~60%) of the mixture to the prepared pan (reserve the rest for the topping). Use a small measuring cup or glass to press it into an even layer. Prick the entire surface with a fork.
    4. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack while you prepare the jam filling (no need to let it completely cool).
    5. If your jam is on the sweet side, add a couple teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and stir to combine. If the jam is difficult to spread, you can warm it briefly in the microwave or in a small saucepan.
    6. Evenly spread the jam over the bottom crust. Scatter the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top, followed by the coarse sugar.
    7. Bake until the top is set and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. For easiest slicing, I like to further chill the bars in the fridge for another hour or so.
    8. Slice into desired sizes and enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

    Toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread

    toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread

    Do you have a house banana bread? You know, the one that’s comfy like your favorite t-shirt. You’ve made it so many times that the recipe is committed to memory, and will never let you down. I do — it’s the banana bread in my cookbook; it’s whole grain, and so easy my kids can make it mostly unsupervised.

    Today’s toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread recipe is…not a t-shirt recipe. It’s more like the LBD of banana bread, that fancy thing that you keep in your closet for special occasions. I mean, there’s a mixer involved. And toasted flour! And hazelnuts! And let’s not forget the streusel! But hopefully it’s worth keeping around; because like the LBD, I think this recipe will make you look good and never let you down.

    toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread

    Toasted Oat Flour

    I love sneaking oats into baked goods for taste and nutrition. While you can use oats plain, soaked, or even after cooked into a porridge, this time I’m adding oats as a flour — basically, oats ground into a flour consistency. Oat flour behaves similarly to wheat flour so it’s a great ingredient to try swapping in to your favorite recipes. It’s readily available at regular supermarkets and online these days (I like Oak Manor brand in Canada), though you can also make your own by grinding rolled oats in a high speed blender or grain mill (I own and love my NutriMill — not sponsored).

    But wait — there’s more! We’re going to toast the oat flour to emphasize its nutty quality. Toasting flour is just like toasting nuts or spices — for small quantities, I like heating it in a dry skillet until it browns and smells like popcorn. Make sure to stir constantly as the grains can quickly scorch.

    If you can’t track down oat flour, other whole grains like spelt or einkorn would work nicely in this bread too!

    Roasting hazelnuts

    I think of hazelnuts as a fancy nut. To me, they make baked goods taste a little luxurious and unexpected. Like any nut, hazelnuts can go rancid quickly so I recommend buying only as much as you need and/or storing extras in the freezer.

    Sometimes you can buy hazelnuts pre-blanched and roasted; but if you’re starting with raw hazelnuts you’ll need to roast them to remove the skins and develop the flavor. I do this in the oven at 325F for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the skins noticeably darken and the nuts are fragrant. While the nuts are still warm, wrap them in a lint-free towel and let them steam until cool enough to handle, then rub the skins off as best you can. It’s ok if you can’t get every trace off; just do your best as too much skin will make your baked goods taste bitter.

    Praline paste

    OK, last unique ingredient: praline paste. It sounds fancy, but basically it’s just roasted nuts and caramelized sugar ground up into a paste. Yes, it tastes as amazing as it sounds! You can buy praline paste at some specialty food stores or online (it’s often made with part hazelnuts, part almonds); or — you guessed it — you can make your own. There are a few different methods out there but I like to make the roasted nuts and caramelized sugar separately, then blend them together until smooth. I used a 1:1 ratio by weight (i.e. 100g roasted nuts and 100g caramelized sugar).

    For the caramelized sugar, all you need to do is heat the sugar in a heatproof skillet until it turns a beautiful shade of amber, then pour it onto a silicone lined sheet to set (be careful, it’s HOT). If you’re using the dry method for caramel (no water), you can stir the sugar to ensure it melts evenly. If you prefer the wet method (a little water added at the start to help the sugar melt evenly), just stir at the very beginning to make sure all the sugar is wet, then leave it alone to do its thing. It really doesn’t matter what method you use — whichever is more comfortable for you.

    Once both the caramel is set and cooled, break it into shards. Place the caramel shards, roasted nuts, and a good pinch of salt into a high speed blender or food processor, then grind until you get a powder. Scrape the sides of your machine down, then continue grinding until you get a creamy, smooth paste (this may take 5-10 minutes). Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature or in the fridge (bring to room temp before using). The oil will separate after sitting so just give it a good stir to recombine when needed.

    How else can you use praline paste?

    • Spread it as a topping on toast, crepes, waffles, ice cream, etc.
    • Swirl it into brownies or cheesecake batter.
    • Use it to flavor buttercream or whipped cream!

    You can also use this technique with other nuts: pecan praline? Pistachio praline? Peanut praline? Yes, yes, and yes!

    Yes, you could sub the praline paste with something like Nutella. However, I really like the pure hazelnut flavor in this loaf, sans the distraction of chocolate.

    Now on to the recipe!

    toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread slice

    Toasted Oat and Hazelnut Banana Bread

    Yield: 1 9" loaf
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

    A leveled up banana bread with a nutty hazelnut streusel, toasted oat flour, and swirls of praline paste.

    Ingredients

    For the toasted oat flour:

    • 115g oat flour*

    For the hazelnut-oat streusel:

    • 25g all-purpose flour
    • 25g toasted oat flour
    • 42g granulated sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of cinnamon
    • 42g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
    • 20g roasted hazelnuts, chopped

    For the toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread:

    • 165g all purpose flour
    • 85g toasted oat flour
    • 290g very ripe banana, mashed (about 3 medium)
    • 57g sour cream, at room temperature
    • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 190g light brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 40g neutral oil
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 65g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
    • 80g praline paste** or Nutella (optional)

    Instructions

    Make the toasted oat flour:

    1. Sprinkle the oat flour in an even layer in a medium skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour turns a shade darker and smells like popcorn. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl and let cool completely before using. (Note: this makes a little more flour than the recipe calls for to account for moisture weight loss and bits left in the pan, etc.)


    Make the hazelnut oat streusel:

    1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
    2. Scatter the cubes of the butter over the top and rub them into the dry ingredients until moist clumps form. Fold in the hazelnuts.
    3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


    Make the toasted oat and hazelnut banana bread:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with arack in the center. Line a 9 x 4-inch (23 x 10-cm) Pullman pan or loaf pan with a parchment paper sling, leaving about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour and toasted oat flour.
    3. In a separate bowl or measuring jug, whisk together the mashed banana and sour cream until smooth.
    4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), combine the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix on low to combine, then turn the speed up to medium. Cream until the mixture is visibly lightened and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl several times during this process.
    5. With the mixer on low, stream in the oil. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix until very smooth and emulsified. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl.
    6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat well. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl.
    7. With the mixer on low, add the flour and banana-sour cream mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. When a few streaks of flour remain, add the hazelnuts, mixing just enough to evenly distribute them. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed.
    8. Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and level with an offset spatula. Dollop about 1/3 of the praline paste or Nutella on top. Repeat the process twice more. Swirl a chopstick or knife gently through the batter to create swirls of praline. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top.
    9. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes, or until the bread feels set
      on the top and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with just
      a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter).
    10. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days.



      Notes

      *Oat flour is available at many grocery and specialty food stores, or online through retailers such as Bob's Red Mill or Oak Manor Farms.

      **Praline paste is available in gourmet/specialty food stores or online. Alternatively, you can make your own by caramelizing 100g granulated sugar, then pouring onto a silicone lined baking sheet to set until completely hardened. Break into shards and place in a blender or food processor with 100g roasted and skinned hazelnuts (or equal parts hazelnuts and almonds) and a pinch of salt. Blend until a smooth paste forms. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

      Buttermilk Honey Panna Cotta

      buttermilk honey panna cotta eaten

      As much as I love to bake fancy cakes and interesting cookies, my family probably gets most excited over anything in the custard and pudding realm, i.e. creamy desserts. They love everything from rice pudding to ice cream, and definitely this dead simple buttermilk honey panna cotta.

      Panna cotta is one of my go-to make-ahead desserts, especially when I have random cartons of dairy taking up space in the fridge. It’s incredibly flexible: you can infuse the cream with spices or herbs, or even swap in different types of dairy. Make it the afternoon before serving, or stash them in the fridge for up to a week. Top panna cotta with seasonal fruit, or serve something crisp like brittle or shortbread cookies.

      Whenever possible, I love making panna cotta with buttermilk. The slight tang adds an interesting element to this otherwise very simple dessert, the perfect foil for sweet seasonal fruits. However, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can easily replace it with an equal quantity of whole milk.

      On working with gelatin

      Ok, I know a lot of people have qualms over working with gelatin. Sheet vs. powder, how much to use, etc. — I realize it can be overwhelming. But I encourage you to get comfortable with using gelatin — it really opens up an exciting world of delicious desserts!

      I almost always use powdered gelatin since it’s most readily accessible where I live. I buy it in bulk and keep it in an airtight container, and it lasts forever. If you’re using another type of gelatin, you can use this gelatin converter to estimate the amount you’ll need.

      The amount of gelatin in this recipe is also flexible. If I’m planning to unmold the panna cottas, I use the amount listed which provides a medium set and enough structure so the panna cotta holds on a plate. If I’m going to serve the panna cotta in the container, then sometimes I’ll decrease the gelatin by about 1/3 for a very wobbly, barely set texture. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference; so pick one end of the spectrum and note how you like the texture. Then, if needed, you can adjust the amount in the future until you obtain your ideal panna cotta wobble.

      Molding and unmolding panna cotta

      You can use pretty much any container to set your panna cotta. For unmolded panna cotta, I have glass pudding cups similar to these which work perfectly. I just lightly oil the insides before pouring in the mixture. To unmold, dip the mold in very hot (but not boiling water) for about 5-6 seconds, then invert onto a plate. If the panna cotta doesn’t release readily, you might need to give the glass a few taps or warm it for a few more seconds.

      Of course, you can just serve the panna cotta in the mold too! Set the mixture in little mason jars, wine glasses or little tumblers for a fun presentation. Or go casual family style and pour it all into a cake pan, then just scoop out individual portions.

      buttermilk honey panna cotta

      What to serve with panna cotta

      While panna cotta is delicious on its own there are definitely lots of ways to dress it up. Here are just a few ideas.

      • Fruity: My favorite accompaniment for panna cotta is a chunky fruit compote to add some texture — basically just cook some fruit with a touch of sugar and a little liquid until thickened but not completely broken down. Or try some roasted (strawberries or peaches!) or poached (pears!) fruit! Or keep it even simpler by just macerating some berries with a little sugar to get the juices flowing.
      • Crunchy: Roasted or candied nuts, granola or streusel, brittle, shortbread fingers, tuiles
      • Saucy: A drizzle of caramel sauce, ganache, infused syrup
      • Icy: Serve on a bed of granita or alongside a scoop of sorbet

      Panna cotta troubleshooting

      • Don’t boil the gelatin. Boiling gelatin can hinder its setting power. The dairy only needs to be heated enough to melt the gelatin, so I just look for the cream to be steaming before adding the bloomed gelatin.
      • When mixing dairy products with different fat levels (i.e. buttermilk and heavy cream), don’t skip the cooling process at room temperature before refrigerating the panna cotta. If you put the mixture straight into the fridge while warm, the cream will likely rise to the top and you’ll end up with two distinct layers. It might look cool, but probably not what you want. Let the whole mixture cool to roughly room temperature, stirring occasionally to keep everything emusified, before dividing into molds and chilling.
      • Don’t rush the setting time. Give the panna cotta at least 4 hours to set, especially if you plan to unmold them.
      buttermilk honey panna cotta

      Buttermilk Honey Panna Cotta

      Yield: 6 servings
      Prep Time: 5 minutes
      Cook Time: 15 minutes
      Additional Time: 4 hours
      Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes

      This simple, creamy, no-bake dessert is the perfect canvas for seasonal fruit.

      Ingredients

      • 300g heavy cream, divided
      • 10.5g (3 1/2 tsp) powdered gelatin*
      • 60g good quality honey
      • Pinch of salt
      • 420g buttermilk**
      • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

      Instructions

      1. Pour 60g heavy cream into a small bowl. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over the surface and set aside to bloom for 5-10 minutes. Set a strainer over a 4-cup glass measuring cup or large jug with a spout.
      2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 240g heavy cream, honey, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until cream is just steaming and the honey is dissolved. Remove from heat.
      3. Scrape the bloomed gelatin into the warm cream mixture and whisk until gelatin has fully dissolved. Strain into the prepared glass measuring cup.
      4. Let cream mixture cool until lukewarm, whisking occasionally. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla. Allow to cool to roughly room temperature, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally to make sure the mixture is homogenous. (Don't skip this cooling process as it helps prevent the cream and buttermilk from separating in the fridge.)
      5. Divide the mixture evenly between six ramekins or serving glasses (about 120-130g each). If you plan to unmold the panna cottas, lightly grease the molds beforehand. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to a week. (If you plan on storing them in the fridge for more than half a day, cover with plastic wrap.) 
      6. To unmold, dip the mold into very warm (not boiling) water for 5-6 seconds. Invert onto a serving plate. Add garnish/sauces if desired -- I love serving panna cotta with a chunky compote!
      7. Store panna cottas in the fridge for up to a week.

      Notes

      *If you don't plan to unmold the panna cottas, you can reduce the gelatin to as little as 7g (about 2 1/8 tsp, or one package) for a very wobbly, just-set texture.

      **Buttermilk can be replaced with an equal weight of whole milk.