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.

    Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Rye and Espresso

    sourdough chocolate chunk cookie

    Meet the newest member of CTD chocolate chunk cookie family! This particular recipe was designed to use up sourdough starter and be a relatively quick bake (i.e. no softening of ingredients, no mandatory long resting). But don’t worry, they are positively packed with flavor and are poised become the new most-frequent impulse bake in this house (toss up between this and the sourdough chocolate cake)!

    If you’ve baked the salted chocolate chunk cookie from my book, this recipe will seem familiar to you. We’re featuring the same heavy hitters: browned butter, rye flour, espresso. However, I’ve tweaked the proportions a touch to reflect my current cookie preferences: slightly thinner but still chewy with crisp edges.

    To chill or not to chill

    That is the million dollar cookie question, isn’t it? Many bakers swear by “ripening” their cookie dough for 24 or even up to 72 hours for improved texture and flavor.

    For this particular cookie, I suggest chilling for a minimum of 30-45 minutes — this helps to resolidify the butter and control spreading. If you’re in a real hurry, you can flatten the dough to help it chill faster or even stick it in the freezer. Thanks to all the flavor bombs in the dough, you will get tasty cookies.

    But if you have the patience, chilling the dough for a full 24 hours does pay off with a more complex, harmonious flavor and a thicker, fudgier texture. (Beyond 24 hours I don’t detect a noticeable enough difference to warrant the extra time.) It’s similar to the difference between meat that’s been seasoned and then cooked right away versus something that’s had time to marinate overnight. You can enjoy and be satisfied by both, but the one with the longer marination just tastes better. I usually bake a couple off for instant gratification and keep the rest in the fridge for a full rest.

    Here’s a quick video so you can see the difference between the 45 minute vs 24 hour chill. Top cookies had a 45 minute chill; bottom had 24 hours.

    And a cross section! 24 hour chill on the left, 45 minute chill on the right.

    You can also freeze portioned dough for longer storage. If you like super thick cookies you can bake directly from frozen, but I prefer to let the unbaked dough sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes (about the time it takes to preheat the oven) for better spread.

    Chocolate selection

    I really enjoy a mix of white and dark (but not too dark) chocolate in this cookie. Mixing up the chocolates makes for more interesting eating, and the white chocolate helps balance out the intensity of the brown butter, espresso, and rye. But I think all milk or even caramelized white chocolate would taste great in this dough base too! Use what you have and like.

    I prefer using chopped chocolate or callets rather than chocolate chips for better taste and spread. (You don’t need to chop the callets if they’re on the small side; I usually use Callebaut callets and toss them straight into the dough.)

    OK, on to the recipe!

    sourdough chocolate chunk cookie

    Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Rye and Espresso

    Yield: 1 dozen cookies
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 12 minutes
    Chilling Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 12 minutes

    Rich, flavorful chocolate chunk cookies made with sourdough discard.

    Ingredients

    • 115g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • 1 tsp espresso powder
    • 10g freshly brewed coffee (can sub milk or water)
    • 85g light brown sugar
    • 85g granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg yolk, cold
    • 80g sourdough discard (100% hydration), cold
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 100g all purpose flour
    • 45g rye flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 70g chopped white chocolate
    • 70g chopped bittersweet chocolate (I like 55-65%)
    • Flaky salt, for garnish (optional)
    • Additional chocolate, for garnish (optional)

    Instructions

    1. To brown the butter, place the 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 7-10 minutes total, but the butter can go from browned to burnt in a flash—so keep an eye on it. Scrape the butter and all the toasty bits into a large bowl and stir in the espresso powder and coffee -- this helps infuse the butter with extra coffee flavor. Let cool until tepid, about 10 minutes.
    2. Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg yolk, sourdough starter, and vanilla. The mixture should be viscous and homogenous, with no streaks of visible starter. 
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the chocolate, and mix until evenly distributed.
    4. Cover and chill the dough for 45-60 minutes, or until cool to the touch. (You can leave the dough in the bowl where it was mixed, but transferring it to plastic wrap and flattening to a 1” slab will quicken the cooling process.) Alternatively, the dough can be chilled for up to 24 hours or frozen for longer storage. (They will spread less and may require an extra minute or two of baking time.)
    5. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
    6. Portion the dough into twelve equal balls, about 54g each. Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt.
    7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops are set and no longer shiny, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Right after the cookies come out of the oven, use a large round cookie cutter to nudge them into perfectly round circles, if desired. Top with a few pieces of chopped chocolate for garnish.
    8. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

    Notes

    Recipe adapted from Baked to Order.

    sourdough chocolate chunk cookie

    Related recipes and resources:

    Very Strawberry Pavlova

    strawberry pavlova

    Is there any dessert more elegant than pavlova, with its billowy meringue, clouds of whipped cream, and colorful toppings? Named after the ballerina Anna Pavlova (I won’t get into the heated discussion of its origin country), pavlova is a study in contrasts. The outer layer of meringue is shatteringly crisp, giving way to soft and mallowy innards. It begs to be topped with heaps of softly whipped cream and the juiciest of fruit.

    While a stark white pavlova is a thing of beauty, I wanted to play around with adding color and flavor to the meringue itself with ground freeze-dried berries. Thus this very strawberry pavlova was born!

    Pavlova isn’t difficult to make, though the process can seem daunting until you’ve given it a couple of tries. Here are my tips for getting the best results for your pavlova.

    Tips for Pavlova Success

    1. Use fresh, clean egg whites. We want maximum volume for the extra billowy meringue. Fresh (not boxed) egg whites will give you the most stable and voluminous foam. Make sure there are no traces of egg yolk; any fat will prevent the meringue from whipping up properly. (Your bowl and beaters should be squeaky clean, too.) Room temperature whites will whip up and dissolve sugar more quickly, so I leave mine at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before starting.
    2. Beat meringue on medium speed. I like to make pavlova using French meringue as I think it creates the lightest and potentially most voluminous meringue, when correctly made. French meringue is often called the simplest of the three meringue styles, as it doesn’t involve using a double boiler (Swiss meringue) or making a sugar syrup (Italian meringue). However, French meringue is the least stable of the meringues and can easy overwhip or collapse. To counteract this, I whip the meringue on no higher than medium speed the entire time. Whipping on high speed will create volume quickly, but you end up with a meringue with lots of big and frothy air bubbles that are more prone to rising and collapsing in the oven, resulting in cracks. Beating on a lower speed for longer creates a mesh of very fine and even bubbles, creating a structure that is strong and stable. This is what we want!
    3. Sugar: keep it fine and add it slowly. I recommend using superfine or caster sugar for making the meringue — its small crystals dissolve more quickly and easily than regular granulated sugar. (I make my own superfine sugar by blitzing regular sugar in a food processor for about a minute.) Also important — wait until the meringue reaches soft peaks before adding the sugar; and add it gradually — a spoonful at a time, waiting a good 10 seconds between additions. Adding the sugar too soon or too quickly can overwhelm the delicate meringue, inhibiting it from expanding to its full potential. You’ll know your meringue is ready when the mixture is stiff and glossy and you don’t feel any grittiness when you rub a bit of the meringue between your fingers. Sugar that isn’t completely dissolved can lead to weeping (leaking sugar syrup) during or after baking, so take your time!
    4. Baking takes time… Pavlovas need a low, slow bake to dry sufficiently — in my oven for this particular recipe about 80-90 minutes, but keep in mind that all ovens are different and you may need to adjust. I bake mine on a pizza stone to help retain oven heat and crisp the bottom (awesome tip from Nicola Lamb). Try not to open the oven door until the very end; the delicate structure may deflate if exposed to sudden temperature changes. Use the oven light if you’re curious!
    5. …And so does cooling. Ideally, pavlovas are also given enough time to cool completely in the oven. I like to make my pavlova shells right before bed, leaving them in the oven to cool overnight so the structure has plenty of time to set and minimize cracks from cooling too fast.
    6. Fill at the last minute. Due to their high sugar content, pavlovas are hygroscopic — they want to absorb moisture from anything around it. Once you add cream and fruit, it’s only a matter of time before the shell will start to soften from the moisture of the toppings. Pavlova is best enjoyed immediately after filling (or at most, an hour or two after filling).

    One last thing: CRACKS HAPPEN, even if you do everything right. While dramatic cracking during baking or cracks that compromise the structure of the shape suggest problems with either the meringue or baking, it is totally normal to have a few small ones here and there, especially around the hollowed area. Don’t worry about it! This is what the fillings are for.

    strawberry pavlova

    Very Strawberry Pavlova

    Yield: 1 medium pavlova (Serves ~6)
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
    Cooling Time: 3 hours
    Total Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

    A stunning pink strawberry pavlova, naturally flavored with freeze-dried strawberries.

    Ingredients

    For the strawberry pavlova shell:

    • 105g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs), at room temperature
    • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 170g superfine or caster sugar
    • 5g (1 tsp) vinegar or lemon juice
    • 5g (2 tsp) cornstarch
    • 15g freeze-dried strawberry powder
    • Drop of gel pink food coloring (optional)

    For topping:

    • Lots of berries or other tart fresh fruit, sliced if large
    • 1-2 Tbsp granulated sugar (optional)
    • 200g heavy cream (35%)
    • 60g buttermilk (or substitute yogurt, sour cream, or additional heavy cream)

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 275F with a rack in the lower third. If you have a pizza stone, place this on the rack while the oven is preheating. Alternatively, you can preheat a large baking sheet. This will help the bottom of the pavlova crisp nicely.
    2. Prepare the baking sheet: Trace a 6" circle on a piece of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper, ink side down, on a baking sheet.
    3. Make the strawberry pavlova shell: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then raise the speed to medium (5 on a Kitchenaid mixer) and whisk until soft peaks.
    4. Once the meringue has reached soft peaks, turn the mixer to medium-low (4 on a Kitchenaid) and add the sugar a teaspoon at a time, waiting about 10 seconds between each addition. It will take several minutes to add the sugar. Be patient; adding the sugar too quickly can cause the meringue to deflate and not reach optimal volume. Once all the sugar has been added, stop briefly and scrape down the bowl with a clean spatula to make sure no sugar is stuck on the sides. Then continue mixing on medium-low/medium speed (4 or 5 on a Kitchenaid) until the meringue is stiff and glossy and the sugar is fully dissolved. If you rub a little bit of meringue between your fingers, you shouldn't feel any granules of sugar. This usually takes me anywhere from 5-10 minutes, but the timing can vary depending on your sugar granule size and the condition of your egg whites. Go by look and feel rather than time.
    5. Pour in the vinegar or lemon juice and sift in the cornstarch, then mix on medium-high speed (6 on a Kitchenaid) for 20-30 seconds to combine. Add the freeze-dried strawberries and food coloring (if using), and mix on medium for a final 20-30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula and fold the mixture a few times to ensure everything is well combined.
    6. Shape the pavlova: Scrape the meringue into the center of the circle and use an offset spatula to shape it into a cylinder, keeping it within the drawn guide. Make a well in the center (this is where your toppings will go), then swipe your spatula or a spoon vertically around the pavlova to make decorative furrows. You can make these rather deep as the lines will lose some definition during baking.
    7. Bake the pavlova: Place the baking sheet onto the preheated baking stone or sheet and immediately turn the oven down to 220F. Bake the pavlova for 80 minutes without opening the oven door. At this point, the outside of the pavlova should be matte and dry to the touch and release from the paper (but be careful, when lifting; it's delicate!). If not, bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until dry. Turn off the heat and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the closed oven, at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
    8. Carefully slide an offset spatula under the base of the cooled pavlova and transfer it to an airtight container until ready to serve.
    9. Make the topping: About 30 minutes before serving, toss a couple handfuls of berries with 1-2 Tbsp sugar to macerate, if desired (this will pull the juices out of the fruit which you can decoratively drizzle over the top). Right before serving, combine the cream and buttermilk in a medium bowl and whip until medium-soft peaks. Pile the cream into the center of the pavlova and top generously with fruit. Drizzle with fruit juices if desired. Serve immediately.

    Notes

    Make your own superfine sugar by blitzing regular granulated sugar in a food processor for about one minute, or until fine but not powdery.

    Freeze-dried strawberry powder can be purchased online or at some specialty food stores. You can also make your own by grinding whole freeze-dried strawberries, though I recommend doing this right before mixing the meringue to minimize clumping.

    In a dry environment, unfilled pavlova shells can be stored for a few days in an airtight container. However, the more humid your environment the more quickly the shell will start to soften.

    Recipes and resources:

    Brown Butter Fortune Cookies

    brown butter fortune cookies
    Note: This post contains affiliate links.

    Here’s another recipe to add to your “what to do with extra egg whites” list: brown butter fortune cookies! Making fortune cookies is both simple and fun, and the result is much tastier than what you typically get with your takeout.

    The batter comes together simply with a bowl and a whisk, no mixer needed. Well you do need to brown some butter. You could use plain melted butter (skip the water if you do), but I think browning it is worth the few extra minutes for the extra flavor. This is a simple cookie, so the nuttiness really shines through!

    My favorite way to make fortune cookies is in a waffle cone maker. It’s fast and produces perfectly even, crisp rounds. I have a Chef’s Choice 838 which is sadly discontinued, but try calling up your local kitchenware or restaurant supply store to see if they have one lurking around (that’s how my husband found ours). I suspect a pizzelle or krumkake iron would also work very nicely, though I don’t own those kitchen gadgets (yet…). However, you can definitely make fortune cookies successfully in a regular oven as well, so don’t let a lack of equipment deter you!

    Shaping the fortune cookies takes a little practice; but after a couple goes you’ll be set. The cookies are hot, so you might want to wear gloves or use the edge of a tea towel to protect your fingers. (I don’t bother, but I have asbestos hands.) Placing the shaped cookies into an egg carton helps lock the shape in as they cool completely.

    fortune cookies egg carton

    Here are a couple different ways to shape the cookies; try both and see what works best for you.

    Don’t worry if the shaping takes you a few tries. Even if you end up with some misshaped cookies, they’ll still taste wonderful! By the way, fortune cookie factories often sell their misshapen cookies. One place in my hometown calls them the “unfortunates”…ha!

    Baker’s Notes:

    • I like to use a 1 Tbsp cookie scoop / disher to portion the thin batter.
    • If baking the cookies, I find it easiest to spread the batter on silicone mats, such as a Silpat, versus parchment paper. The mats don’t crinkle and produce smoother cookies.
    • Every oven is different so I recommend baking a single test cookie to determine the perfect timing for you. (Let the cool completely so you can accurately evaluate the crispness.) But If you find out after the cookies have cooled that the centers aren’t completely crisp, it’s ok — you can bake them in a low (250F) oven for 5-10 minutes, or until dry.
    • Once your fortune cookies have cooled completely, you can drizzle on or dunk them in some tempered chocolate for extra flair. These would make the perfect edible Valentine’s day cards!
    • Use this same batter to make ice cream cones, bowls, or curved tuiles!
    fortune cookies baked and waffled
    brown butter fortune cookies

    Brown Butter Fortune Cookies

    Yield: 15-18 cookies
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 40 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour

    Brown butter fortune cookies are delightfully crisp and nutty. Include personalized messages for the perfect edible gift! Fortune cookies can either be baked or cooked in a waffle cone iron.

    Ingredients

    • 56g unsalted butter (yields ~45g browned butter)
    • 30g cold water
    • 100g egg whites (about 3 large), at room temperature
    • 80g granulated sugar
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract (optional)
    • 80g all purpose flour

    Instructions

    1. Brown the butter: Place the cubed butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts. This process takes about 10 minutes total, but the butter can go from browned to burnt in a flash—so keep an eye on it. Pour the butter and all the toasty bits into a heatsafe bowl and add 30g cold water. Cool to room temp.
    2. Mix the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt until frothy (1-2 minutes). Add the extracts and cooled butter; mix until very well combined. Sift in the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover and rest at room temperature while you preheat the oven or waffle cone iron. If you’re going to include fortunes in your cookies, have them prepared before you start baking the cookies.
    3. To bake fortune cookies in the oven: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats. Using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, spread a 1 Tbsp portion of batter into a thin circle 4-5″ in diameter. Bake until golden, about 9-11 minutes. Slide an offset spatula under the entire cookie to release, then immediately shape (see step 5). Note: I recommend doing a test bake with one cookie to determine the correct baking time for your oven. After you’ve figured it out, I would stick to baking two at a time as the window to shape the fortune cookies is short, 10-15 seconds once the cookies come out of the oven. Use a cool baking sheet / silicone mat each time or the excess heat will make the batter difficult to spread.
    4. To make fortune cookies in a waffle cone iron: Cook 1 Tbsp portions according to manufacturer’s instructions (mine took 85-90 seconds), then immediately shape (see step 5).
    5. To shape fortune cookies: Place the fortune, if using, in the center of the cookie. Fold the cookie in half to create a half-moon. Hold the cookie rounded side down. Pull the corners up so they meet while pushing the middle down, creating the classic fortune cookie shape. Alternatively, you can fold the cookie, rounded side up, over the edge of a loaf pan or glass. Try both methods and see which works best for you. Refer to the videos above for more visual guidance. Hold the cookie in place until it sets, 5 to 10 seconds. Place shaped cookie into the space of an empty egg carton, tips facing down down. Let cool completely.
    6. Storage: Store fortune cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

    Notes

    Recipe adapted from Red House Spice.

    fortune cookies square

    Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie

    banana cream pie

    Let’s get one thing out of the way: I don’t like raw bananas. So banana cream pie was never an appealing dessert option for me. Why choose something with mushy raw bananas when you could have apple, or pumpkin, or pecan, or pretty much anything else? But a few years back, my dad — who generally doesn’t like or eat sweets — mentioned that his favorite pie was, you guessed it, banana cream pie. And because the real reason I like baking is making my favorite people the things they like to eat, it was determined: I needed to make one.

    After a couple of meh versions, I finally nailed my forever banana cream pie recipe this past Christmas. I present to you:

    Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie.

    Let’s break it down. It starts with a black bottom layer (i.e. chocolate ganache), which adds flavor and texture and keeps the bottom crust crisp for days (if the pie lasts that long). Next is a toasted milk cream diplomat. Cream diplomat is just the term for pastry cream that is lightened with whipped cream and set with gelatin, which gives both airy-smooth texture plus a beautiful slice. We’ve talked about toasted milk powder before, and I thought its roasty, toasty notes would be the perfect flavor to enhance a classic banana cream pie. (It is perfect. My husband called it “a revelation.”) That’s all layered up with just-ripe bananas, then topped with a sour cream whipped cream. Sour cream adds both flavor and stability to the whipped cream so you can have the whole pie prepped a few hours in advance if needed. If you want your cream to have even more staying power (i.e. longer than 6 hours), you can add some gelatin as well.

    Although I’m still never going to reach for a raw banana to quell my hunger, I thoroughly enjoy this pie. I hope you do too.

    Baker’s notes:

    • For best combination of flavor and texture, choose bananas that are mostly yellow with just a little green. They should be sweet but still on the firm side.
    • I’ve found that some brands of nonfat milk powder dissolve better than others. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’m guessing it has to do with the amount of moisture in the powder. To help it dissolve as best as possible, I recommend sifting in the powder to eliminate any lumps, then straining the pastry cream after cooking. Any bits that might remain after that seem to dissolve into the custard during the setting process. If you’re really concerned about it, you can try blending the powder with the milk on low before heating it.
    • For a more classic custard filling, omit the toasted milk powder and increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons (or add the seeds of a vanilla pod if you’re feeling fancy!)…
    • But you should try the toasted milk powder.
    banana cream pie unsliced

    Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie

    Makes one 9″ pie

    Ingredients:

    For the toasted milk powder (makes more than needed for the pie):

    • 150g nonfat milk powder

    For the toasted milk pastry cream:

    • 3g (1 tsp) powdered gelatin
    • 18g whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
    • 600g whole milk (for pastry cream)
    • 60g toasted milk powder
    • 125g granulated sugar
    • 45g cornstarch
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
    • 52g unsalted butter, cold and cut into quarters
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

    For the black bottom chocolate ganache:

    • 100g semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 54.5%), finely chopped
    • 80g heavy cream (35% milk fat)

    For the toasted milk cream diplomat:

    • All of the toasted milk pastry cream
    • 125g heavy cream (35% milk fat)
    • 20g icing sugar

    For the sour cream whipped cream:

    • 3g (1 tsp) powdered gelatin (optional)
    • 18g whole milk (for blooming gelatin) (optional)
    • 250g heavy cream (35% milk fat)
    • 60g full-fat sour cream
    • 30g icing sugar

    To assemble:

    • One standard 9″ pie crust, blind-baked and cooled completely (I used the recipe from my book)
    • 450g (about 3 large) ripe but firm bananas, sliced 1/4″ thick
    • Grated chocolate, for garnish (optional)

    Method:

    Make the toasted milk powder:

    Microwave method: Place the milk powder in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring with a fork after every burst, until the powder is deeply golden and toasty-smelling. (For me, this takes about 10 minutes’ worth of microwaving.) Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. (See tutorial on Instagram here.)

    Instant Pot method: Place the milk powder in a 12-oz canning jar. Place a standard snap lid on top, then screw on the ring until finger-tip tight (i.e. lid should be sealed, but not too tight — if sealed too tightly, the jar may break during cooking). Put a trivet or steamer rack insert in the Instant Pot and add about an inch of water (the water line should stop just below the top of the trivet). Place the jar on top of the trivet. Seal the lid and cook on manual for 90 minutes. Allow pot to depressurize to release naturally. Cool completely before using. (See reel on Instagram here.)

    Make the toasted milk pastry cream:

    Place a strainer over a large heat-safe bowl.

    In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 18g cold milk and bloom while you prepare the rest of the pastry cream.

    Off heat, pour 600g milk into medium saucepan. Sift in the toasted milk powder and whisk to dissolve.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk vigorously for about a minute until well combined and lighter in color.

    Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from the heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg 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.

    Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin. Once the gelatin has dissolved, whisk in the butter one piece at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Whisk in the vanilla. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and cool for 10 minutes, then place in the refrigerator and cool just to room temperature (about 45-60 minutes). Don’t let the pastry cream get too cold or the gelatin will start to set firmly, making it difficult to incorporate the whipped cream.

    Make the black bottom chocolate ganache:

    While the pastry cream is cooling, make the chocolate ganache for the black bottom layer. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the cream just until steaming. Pour over the chocolate and let stand for two minutes. Gently whisk to form a smooth, shiny ganache. Scrape ganache into the bottom of the prepared pie crust and use a small offset spatula to smooth into an even layer. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the cream diplomat.

    Make the toasted milk cream diplomat:

    Prepare this as soon as the pastry cream has reached room temperature. In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream and icing sugar. Whisk to medium peaks. Whisk the cooled pastry cream until smooth, then fold in the whipped cream in two additions. Use immediately.

    Assemble the pie:

    Spread about 1/2 c of cream diplomat over the bottom of the pie. Add half the banana slices, cut side up, in an even layer. Smooth on half the remaining cream diplomat. Add the rest of the banana slices as before, followed by the rest of the cream diplomat. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. (I leave it uncovered but you can press a piece of plastic against the surface if you prefer.)

    Make the sour cream whipped cream:

    Thanks to the addition of sour cream, this whipped cream will hold nicely in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. If you need the cream to hold longer than that, I recommend adding the gelatin.

    If using the gelatin — in a small, heat-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 18g cold milk and bloom for 5 minutes. Microwave for 10 seconds until liquefied.

    In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, heavy cream, and icing sugar. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk just until the cream starts to thicken but is not quite holding soft peaks. Slowly stream the gelatin mixture into the cream while whisking constantly. Continue whisking to medium-stiff peaks. Immediately pipe or dollop the whipped cream onto the surface of the pie and garnish with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate uncovered until ready to serve.

    Storage:

    Pie is best served within 24 hours. Store leftovers uncovered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. After about a day the bananas will start to brown, but the pie will still taste good. The crust will progressively soften over time though the ganache helps to delay that.

    banana cream pie slice out

    Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Loaf

    Note: This post contains affiliate links.
    lemon poppyseed

    When the dazzle of the holidays has faded and January begins to fully assert herself, thank God for citrus. The bright color and sharp taste of citrus fruits is one of the few things I look truly anticipate in the often-gloomy winter months. In other words, it’s the perfect time for lemon poppyseed cake.

    I have a lemon poppyseed loaf in my cookbook, but I’ve been on an almond flour kick lately and wanted to bring that to the party this time — almond + lemon is a beautiful combination, and almond flour produces baked goods that are remarkably tender and long-lasting. I also wanted a loaf that would perfectly fit a Pullman pan for some sexy square slices, because let’s be honest — we all need a little excitement this time of year.

    This recipe takes inspiration from Melissa Clark’s version of Lindsey Shere’s famous almond cake. I loved her use of a DIY almond paste because even though I have a very well-stocked baking pantry, even I never keep almond paste on hand. I do, however, always have almond flour, icing sugar, and egg whites around so there you go!

    Partway through researching and planning out this recipe I also realized Tartine has a lemon-almond poppyseed tea cake in their first cookbook; and its proportions are remarkably similar to Shere’s/Clark’s. I’m not sure if there’s some shared inspiration there or just a matter of great bakers thinking alike, but it’s worth mentioning.

    From my own lemon-poppyseed recipe development in the past I knew that the triple threat of lemon zest, lemon oil, and lemon soak (with fresh lemon juice, please!) was key to a lemon flavor that sings. If you’re always disappointed with not enough lemon flavor, do not skip the lemon oil. It is worth the investment and easy to source online or at baking supply stores. We also do not skimp on the poppyseeds because I don’t understand lemon poppyseeds that contain 1 or 2 tsp of seeds per loaf. Three full tablespoons, plus more for garnish if you like.

    You’ll also be rewarded if you let this loaf cake rest overnight before tucking in. I know, it’s a lot to ask. But that bit of patience allows the syrup to fully soak in and make for a perfectly tender and m-m-moist loaf that will last you a week, if you let it.

    lemon poppyseed loaf

    Baker’s notes:

    • I scaled this recipe specifically to fit my 9x4x4 pullman pan. Without having tested it I am fairly certain it will fit in a standard 9×5 loaf pan (it will be too much batter for an 8.5×4.5). If you do use a regular 9×5 loaf pan, just leave ~3/4″ at the top (this loaf doesn’t rise too much) and bake off any extra batter as cupcakes, and check for doneness a little sooner as the increased surface area may shave a few minutes off the bake time. And let me know if you try it!
    • Pro tip: even if your recipe only calls for citrus juice, always zest the fruit beforehand! Store the zest in an airtight container in the freezer and your future self will thank you.
    • Always store your poppyseeds in the freezer and check that they’re still good before baking with them. They go rancid remarkably fast.

    Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Loaf

    Makes one 9x4x4 pullman loaf | Inspired by Baked to Order, Lindsey Shere/Melissa Clark via the New York TImes, and Tartine

    Ingredients:

    For the lemon almond poppy seed loaf:

    • 125g almond flour, preferably blanched and superfine
    • 125g icing sugar
    • 4g (1 tsp) kosher salt (I use Diamond Kosher)
    • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 2-3 lemons; save the lemons for the syrup and glaze)
    • 1 large egg white plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature and divided
    • 3/4 tsp pure lemon oil (I use Boyajian)
    • 3/4 tsp pure almond extract (I use Nielsen-Massey)
    • 225g granulated sugar
    • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cubed
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 125g all-purpose flour
    • 27g (3 Tbsp) poppyseeds 

    For the lemon soaking syrup:

    • 50g lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • 50g granulated sugar

    For the lemon glaze:

    • 120g icing sugar, sifted
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • Poppyseeds, for garnish (optional)

    Method:

    Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Lightly spray a 9x4x4 pullman pan and line with parchment paper, leaving 2-3 inches of overhang on the long sides for easy removal.

    Mix the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the almond flour, icing sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Mix on low for 30 seconds to combine. Add the egg white, lemon oil, and almond extract. Continue mixing until all the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture is beginning to clump but not a cohesive mass. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment.

    With the mixer still running on low, slowly add the granulated sugar a spoonful at a time. This is to help keep the almond paste from clumping too much and ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating on low until the mixture resembles wet sand and does not have any large lumps, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment.

    With the mixer still running on low, add the butter a couple cubes at a time. Once all the butter has been added, add the baking powder. Turn up the speed to medium. Mix until light, fluffy, and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment once or twice during mixing.

    Crack all the eggs into a measuring cup with a spout and lightly whisk to combine. With the mixer on medium speed, stream in the eggs a couple tablespoons at a time, letting each addition absorb before adding the next. Patience here will help the batter emulsify properly and ensure a beautifully even crumb. Once all the eggs have been added, yep, you guessed it — scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.

    With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and poppy seeds. Mix just until the flour has disappeared. Use a flexible spatula to gently fold the batter several times to ensure it’s evenly mixed. Make sure to thoroughly scrape the bottom of the bowl where pockets of flour like to hide. The batter should be thick and homogenous.

    Scrape about a third of the batter into the prepared pan. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the batter evenly into all the corners of the pan. Repeat twice more until all the batter has been added. Tap the pan firmly on the counter several times to settle the batter any dislodge any air bubbles. The pullman pan should be fairly full; this is normal.

    Bake until the loaf is deeply golden and springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf should register 200F.

    Make the Lemon Soak: While the cake is baking, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof container.

    Soak the cake: When the cake is done, transfer the pan to a wire rack. Use a skewer to poke holes all over the top and brush generously with the lemon soak. Wait for about 5 minutes for the liquid to absorb, then brush on more soak, aiming to use about half the syrup. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully turn it out of the pan onto a clean piece of parchment paper set on a wire rack. Poke the bottom (now top) of the loaf with the skewer and brush the remaining syrup over the top and sides of the cake. Don’t be afraid to use all the syrup.

    Let the cake cool completely before glazing. (For best flavor, I like to wrap the unglazed loaf in plastic once cool and rest overnight at room temperature, then glaze the next day right before serving.)

    Glaze the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and salt. Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and whisk to combine. Add more lemon juice as necessary to obtain a thick but pourable glaze. Pour the glaze over the top of the loaf, using a small spoon to nudge it over the edges in places. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Let the glaze set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

    lemon poppyseed loaf side