Gooseberry Cheesecake Squares

gooseberry cheesecake squares
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This summer I have fallen hard for tart fruits such as gooseberries and currants. I didn’t grow up eating either of them but here in Ontario, both grow prolifically. We recently planted both gooseberry and currant bushes in our yard. They’re still a year or two out from producing fruit but I thought I’d start figuring out ways to use these berries so that when the time comes, we’ll have plenty of ideas for the harvest.

One of the simplest ways to use any fruit is just to make compote — basically a lightly cooked, chunky fruit topping. I don’t really use a recipe for compote. Just toss some fruit in a pot with a little liquid and sugar to taste, and cook to desired consistency. Serve with oatmeal or yogurt; spoon it over pound cake or ice cream; or swirl it into these simple cheesecake bars. Delicious!

Baker’s notes:

  • I used red gooseberries for these bars. I image any kind would work, though the color contrast with the purple/red ones will be the most striking!
  • Don’t have gooseberries? Feel free to substitute another berry in the compote or use a thick jam. Or just leave out the swirl for plain cheesecake bars!
  • One key to a crack-free cheesecake is to not overmix your batter. I always use a food processor to mix cheesecake batter because it’s super fast and great at mixing without aerating; but you can also use a stand mixer or even just a whisk. Just remember that you’re not trying to beat air into the batter — just combine until smooth. It’s imperative to have all your ingredients at room temperature or you’re more likely to get lumps in your cheesecake.
  • The second key to no-crack cheesecake is to bake low and slow and not overbake. For the cheesecake portion I bake at 275F and pull it out when the center is still a little wobbly. Also, cool the bars to room temperature completely before chilling in the fridge. Sudden temperature changes can cause cracks as well. Definitely don’t skip the chilling — this helps the bars set up completely and also makes them easy to slice.
gooseberry cheesecake squares

Gooseberry Cheesecake Squares

Makes one 8×8″ pan

Ingredients:

For the gooseberry compote:
  • 200g fresh gooseberries (preferably red), tops and bottoms trimmed
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 15g granulated sugar (to taste)
For the graham cracker crust:
  • 175g graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 12g light brown sugar (optional; can sub granulated)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 56g unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
  • 340g (1 1/2 blocks) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (I always use Philadelphia brand)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (I always use Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 120g sour cream, at room temperature

Method:

Make the gooseberry compote: Combine gooseberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring and smashing the berries constantly, until the berries release their juices and the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the juices thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until smooth. Taste and add additional sugar if desired — I like to keep the compote on the tart side to balance out the rich cheesecake. Cool to room temperature. (You can make compote a few days in advance — store in the refrigerator until ready to use.)

Prepare the graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 metal baking pan with foil or two pieces of criss-crossed parchment, leaving about 3 inches of overhang on two sides, and lightly grease.

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.

Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan, using a measuring cup or shot glass to compact the crumbs firmly and evenly. Bake until just set, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while you prepare the cheesecake filling.

Make the cheesecake filling: Lower the oven temperature to 275ºF. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides, add the vanilla and lemon juice, and pulse until smooth. Add the sour cream and pulse until smooth. Scrape down the sides.

Add the eggs one at a time, pulsing after each just to combine. Scrape down the sides and fold the batter a few times to make sure it’s well combined. (Note: you can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mix this batter; mix on a low speed and scrape down the paddle often to keep the batter smooth and lump-free.)

Assemble the bars: Scrape about half the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust and smooth with an offset spatula. Use a small spoon to dollop on half the gooseberry compote (no need to swirl it in right now). Add the remaining cheesecake batter and smooth it carefully over the top. Dollop on the remaining compote and use a skewer or chopstick to swirl it in.

Bake the bars: Bake the cheesecake bars until the edges are set but the center is still a little wobbly, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered until completely firm (at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight). To serve, use the parchment or foil handles to transfer the cheesecake to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into desired squares, wiping the blade clean after each cut. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

gooseberry cheesecake squares separate

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Funfetti Cookie Dough Brownies

funfetti cookie dough brownie close up

Two funfetti recipes in a row — who am I, even? Well, I am very much the mother of young children and today’s recipe is all for (and because of) them and their sprinkle-loving hearts.

My kids love watching Cupcake Jemma on YouTube. If you’re not familiar with her, Cupcake Jemma is a baker in London who owns the bakery chain Crumbs and Doilies, known for their colorful and often over-the-top cakes, cookies, and bars. She and her team put out a recipe video every week, often for one of the bakery’s signature treats. Recently they did a video on edible cookie dough. My older kids lost their minds and begged to make some. But then they remembered another CJ video for cookie dough brownies. You can guess how things progressed.

funfetti cookie dough brownies

While I obviously love baking and desserts, I don’t love really sweet things and honestly the idea of over-the-top, loaded brownies made my teeth hurt. But I didn’t want to quench the kids’ excitement and creative spirit, so we made these funfetti cookie dough brownie with a ruby ganache top (because color).

Honestly, these turned out better than I expected. Yes, they are sweet and indulgent, and I recommend enjoying them into teeny tiny squares (like, literally, 64 tiny ones). The funfetti cookie dough adds an interesting…grittiness (if you’ve eaten cookie dough, you know what I mean) that isn’t unpleasant, despite how it sounds. The ruby chocolate ganache not only adds color but also a gentle acidity that helps temper the sweetness of the bar. I also used a scaled-down recipe of my go-to brownie (from Baked to Order) as a base — it’s fudgy and not overly sweet, perfect in this application.

These cheerfully indulgent bars would be perfect for a birthday party or bake sale. Store extras in the freezer for when you need a bite of cheer (or want to earn a few mom points).

Baker’s Notes:

  • The ganache topping is made with ruby chocolate (previously seen in this Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake), which is naturally pink. You can find it in some grocery/specialty food stores or online. If you don’t have access to ruby chocolate, you can substitute a semisweet chocolate (~50-60% cocoa solids).
  • The ruby chocolate color does fade when heated, so I added a drop of fuschia gel coloring just to brighten it up a touch. Totally optional.
  • To make cookie dough that’s safe to eat, you need to bake the flour to kill off any harmful bacteria. I do this before baking the brownies to give the heated flour time to cool off before mixing the cookie dough.
  • For very clean slices, make sure your assembled brownies are very well chilled. Use a hot, sharp knife and wipe it off between slices!
funfetti cookie dough brownie

Funfetti Cookie Dough Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan | Cookie dough and concept adapted from Cupcake Jemma; brownie base adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

For the brownie base:
  • 57g bittersweet chocolate (I use 70%), chopped
  • 57g unsalted butter
  • 50g neutral oil
  • 63g all-purpose flour
  • 40g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 113g granulated sugar
  • 44g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, cold
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
For the edible funfetti cookie dough:
  • 120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 95g granulated sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
  • 30g plain yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream (I used half buttermilk, half sour cream)
  • 100g heat-treated all-purpose flour (from 105g flour baked at 325F for 10 minutes and cooled completely)
  • 25g rainbow sprinkles
  • 25g white chocolate, chopped
For the ruby ganache:
  • 100g ruby chocolate, chopped
  • 100g heavy cream
  • Gel food coloring (optional; I used a drop of Americolor Fuschia)
  • Sprinkles, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Bake the flour for the edible cookie dough:

Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle. Spread 105g of all-purpose flour in an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake flour for 10 minutes. Cool completely before using.

Make the brownie base:

Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with foil or parchment, leaving about 3 inches of overhang on two sides, and lightly grease.

Place the chopped chocolate in a small glass measuring cup with a spout.

Place the 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 8 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 over the chocolate. Add the oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.

Combine the sugars, salt, eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer). Whisk on low briefly to combine, then turn up the speed to medium-high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick, pale, and roughly tripled in size, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 17-20 minutes. Cool completely while you prepare the cookie dough layer (you can stick it in the fridge or freezer to hurry this along).

Make the edible funfetti cookie dough:

Combine the butter, sugars, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer, or do it by hand). Mix at medium speed until lighter in color and well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add the extracts and yogurt and mix until well combined. Add the heat-treated flour and mix on low until combined. Using a flexible spatula, fold in the sprinkles and chopped white chocolate until evenly combined. Using an offset spatula, spread the cookie dough evenly over the cooled brownie base. Refrigerate while you prepare the ganache.

Make the ruby ganache:

Place the chopped ruby chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in the microwave), warm the cream until steaming. Pour over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Add gel food coloring, if desired, and stir to combine.

Assemble the funfetti cookie dough brownies:

Pour the ganache over the chilled cookie dough, tilting the pan to cover the surface evenly. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Chill in the refrigerator until ganache is set, about 30-60 minutes (again, you can stick it in the freezer to speed this along). For clean slices, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the chilled brownies. Wipe the knife clean with a hot towel between slices. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.

funfetti cookie dough brownies

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Brown butter mochi squares (gluten-free)

brown butter mochi squares
Note: This post may contain affiliate links

Many of the treats I remember my mom making came from a well-used Hawaiian church cookbook, a gift from her family in Oahu. Our family favorite was butter mochi, a popular Hawaiian dessert made from mochiko (also known as sweet rice flour or glutinous rice flour), eggs, sugar, butter and coconut milk. Imagine the chewy texture of mochi combined with the rich flavor of coconut milk and topped with a crisp, caramelized crust. So good! And bonus: butter mochi is very easy to make. The recipe I’m sharing here is based on my mom’s, with a couple small tweaks (*cough* brown butter *cough*) for extra flavor.

Mochiko: the key ingredient

Butter mochi is a fairly flexible recipe — I’ve seen versions with varying amounts of butter and sugar; some use different types of milk or include shredded coconut and other add-ins. But the one non-negotiable ingredient is mochiko (sweet rice flour, or glutinous rice flour), which is milled from long grain glutinous rice. Mochiko is a naturally gluten-free flour that is responsible for butter mochi’s signature chewy texture. I recommend Koda Farms brand as that’s the flour I used to test this recipe (and what my mom always uses as well) — it’s available at Asian/International supermarkets and online. Do NOT substitute mochiko with regular rice flour or any other flour.

Pro-tip: pan-fried butter mochi

Once butter mochi has cooled, it’s perfectly enjoyable straight from the pan. However, my absolute favorite way to eat butter mochi is to pan fry it, which crisps and caramelizes the crust even further and warms the center through — the textural contrast is perfection. Just heat a lightly oiled non-stick pan over medium-low heat and fry each side until golden (about 1-2 minutes). Cool for a minute before devouring, and thank me later.

pan fried butter mochi

Baker’s notes

  • Mochiko has a tendency to clump when added to the liquid ingredients, so I like to sift it in. Don’t be afraid to work out any flour lumps with a spatula or else you might end up with “flour bombs” in the finished butter mochi.
  • For clean slices, let the butter mochi cool completely in the pan before removing and cutting. I like to let butter mochi cool and set overnight for the best texture.
brown butter mochi squares

Brown butter mochi squares (gluten-free)

Makes one 8×8 pan (16 2-inch squares)

Ingredients:

  • 57g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
  • One can (400ml) full-fat coconut milk
  • 200g (1 c) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal — use half the amount for table salt)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs (cold is fine)
  • 225g (1 1/2 c) mochiko (sweet rice flour — I like Koda Farms brand)

Method:

  • Preheat oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 metal baking pan with foil, dull side up. Leave a couple inches overhang on two sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the foil.
  • 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 glass measuring cup or medium bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk.
  • Mix the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer or a whisk), combine the sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and eggs. Whisk on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is thickened and pale, about 2-3 minutes (a little longer if by hand). Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually stream in the butter-coconut milk mixture. Mix until smooth and combined, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sift in the mochiko and mix on low until the batter is smooth. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed and no pockets of flour remain. If there are any flour lumps, use the spatula to press them out.
  • Bake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (it will be on the thin side) and bake until the top is golden brown and feels dry and springy to the touch, about 55-65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan (preferably overnight). Use a sharp knife to cut into squares; wipe the blade clean with a warm towel between slices. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
brown butter mochi squares

Related recipes and resources:

Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

earl grey caramel slice

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

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

Infusing earl grey flavor

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

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

earl grey caramel slice slabs

Baker’s Notes:

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

Earl grey caramel slice (millionaire’s shortbread)

Makes one 9″ x 5″ pan

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee date squares

I’ve been leaning hard into nostalgic bakes lately; and these coffee date squares are my latest crush. An oat-flecked bar cookie with a layer of sweet date filling, date squares make a perfect sweet bite alongside your warm beverage of choice.

Date squares are popular coffeehouse fare here in Canada. Apparently in some parts of the country they’re known as “matrimonial cake” — possibly because the varying flavors and textures mirror the complexities of marriage (I know…it’s a stretch), or maybe because they were frequently served at weddings.

Name speculations aside, these old-fashioned treats are simple to make and enjoy. I’ve added coffee to help balance the sweetness of the dates, but these bars just call for personalization. Try simmering the dates in a mixture of water and orange or lemon juice (add some orange zest to the crumble if you want to play up the citrus notes!), or swap in your favorite medley of warming spices.

A few notes:
  • I use a food processor to make the crumble mixture for speed’s sake, but if you can also rub the butter in by hand. In general, I prefer using cold butter (vs. softened or melted) for crumb bars and streusels as I find the crumbs hold their shape well and have my ideal firm-but-tender texture after baking.
  • If you don’t want to use nuts, you can swap in an additional 45 g (1/2 c) oats instead (add them at the end with the rest of the oats).
  • You can use plain all-purpose flour for the crumble, but I think whole grain flour adds extra character and flavor to these bars! I’m a big fan of Flourist sifted Red Fife in baked goods, but you could try white whole-wheat, a mix of all-purpose and whole grain, or all whole grain for a heartier texture.

Coffee date squares

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

For the coffee date filling:

  • 300g (1 3/4 c) dried Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 200g (3/4 c plus 2 Tbsp) freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

For the crust and crumb:

  • 188g (1 1/2 c) flour (I used Flourist sifted Red Fife)
  • 45g (1/3 c) toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 100g (1/2 c) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp finely ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 200g (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
  • 90g (1 c) rolled oats (preferably regular, not quick)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 square pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on all edges. (This makes it easy to remove the squares from the pan later.)
  2. Make the coffee date filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped dates and coffee. Cook over medium heat, stirring and mashing the dates frequently, until the dates have broken down and the mixture is thick and relatively smooth, about 10 minutes. Add the baking soda and stir to combine thoroughly. Scrape filling into a bowl and let cool while you continue with the recipe.
  3. Make the crust and crumb: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, nuts, salt, sugar, ground coffee, and spices. Pulse several times until well combined. Scatter the cold butter over the top and pulse until the mixture starts to form small clumps. Add the oats and pulse just a few times to incorporate — you don’t want the oats to completely break down as they add a nice texture.
  4. Assemble and bake the squares: Transfer approximately 2/3 (400g) of the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use a small glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs firmly and evenly across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just set.
  5. Use a small offset spatula to spread the date filling evenly over the par-baked base (no need to let the base cool) and sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22-30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing — I find chilling the bars in the fridge for a couple hours makes slicing a breeze. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

Small Batch Ruffles Marshmallow Treats

ruffles marshmallow treats

This is for the dip-your-french-fries-in-ice-cream and salted caramel folks out there — Ruffles marshmallow treats! I first tried this magical sweet-and-salty combo at Bake Shoppe in Toronto, a local favorite known for their nostalgic bakes and quirky-chic vibe. (Their retail store has since closed, but I hear they’re “baking up” some exciting new plans. Sorry not sorry.) Their ruffles marshmallow treats were a fan favorite, not just as bars but as cakes. If you’re raising an eyebrow, well, don’t knock it before you try it.

I made a small batch of these no-bake Ruffles marshmallow treats for Halloween, since my kids decided that this year needed to be all about marshmallows (we have plans for a marshmallow roast in place of trick-or-treating, provided the weather doesn’t pull a Canada and give us our first snow). These are so easy and fast to make — the perfect last-minute treat.

A couple notes:
  • As with my rice krispie treats, I level up these squares with browned butter. You can just melt the butter if you want, but that toasty goodness really does add a little something-something.
  • I also like holding back some of the marshmallows and folding them in at the end for some textural variety. Again, totally optional.
  • I’m sure you could make this with a mix of Ruffles and rice krispies; you’ll just want to use ~3 cups worth of dry ingredients for this amount of marshmallows. Note that Rice Krispies weigh less than chips per cup (about half as much), so don’t swap by weight or your mixture will probably be too dry. (Refer to the rice krispies treat recipe for a measurement guide.)
  • Feeding a crowd? Double all the ingredients for an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Small Batch Ruffles Marshmallow Treats for Halloween (or any time)

Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 or 9×5 pan (about 8 squares)

Ingredients

  • 56g / 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 200g / 4 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g / 3 cups crushed Ruffles-style potato chips
  • Edible eyes (optional)

Method

  1. Line an 8 1/2×4 1/2 or 9×5 loaf pan with a parchment sling. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
  2. Brown the butter: Cube the butter and place it in a medium, light-colored pot 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.
  3. When the butter has browned, immediately take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and all but a large handful of the marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the marshmallows completely, place the pan back over low heat and keep stirring until they are.
  4. Add the crushed chips and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining handful of mini marshmallows.
  5. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicone spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Decorate with edible eyes, if desired. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days.

Berry buckwheat crumb bars

berry crumb bars

Crumb bars, crumble bars, streusel bars — whatever you call them, I’m a fan. Mostly because they belong to my favorite food category, rustic fruit bressert (that’s breakfast and/or dessert).

COVID lockdown has made it extra challenging this year to keep track of the date, but thankfully the seasons still change. We are in the middle of berry season here in Ontario. And while I wasn’t sure if our annual traditions of strawberry and cherry picking would be possible this year, happily we managed to do both.

My family loves fresh fruit like candy, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to actually make anything with the berries. But I squirreled away just enough to make these delightful berry crumb bars. I had some for breakfast and some for dessert and can confirm they go down equally well for either.

A few notes:
  • As with most fruit desserts, I love adding some wholegrain flour for extra flavor. If you don’t have buckwheat on hand, try rye, einkorn, or spelt! Or just substitute with more all-purpose if you don’t have any whole grains stocked.
  • For the filling, I used a mix of (very ripe) strawberries, cherries, and some miscellaneous frozen berries that I had lurking in the freezer. I fully defrosted the frozen berries and drained off the extra liquid to avoid a soggy crust.
  • Because my fruit was mostly quite ripe and juicy, I didn’t need to add much sweetener. If your fruit isn’t so ripe, adjust the sugar to taste or try mixing with a little jam.
berry crumb bars stacked

Berry buckwheat crumb bars

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

For the crumb mixture:
  • 190g (1 1/2 c) all purpose flour
  • 60g (1/2 c) buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 50g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
  • 50g (1/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 200g (14 T) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 30g (1/3 c) rolled oats
  • 30g (1/4 c) sliced almonds (or other chopped nuts)
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) turbinado sugar
For the fruit filling:
  • 400g (~2 1/2 c) mixed berries, finely diced (if frozen, thaw and drain before using — see notes above)
  • 13g (1 Tbsp) sugar (or to taste)
  • 12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with two long criss-crossed pieces of parchment, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on all sides. (This will make it easy to remove the bars later.) Lightly grease the parchment.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, salt, and sugars. Pulse to combine. Scatter the cold, cubed butter over the top. Pulse until the mixture forms clumps but is not completely smooth (this took me about 20-25 short pulses).
  3. Transfer about a third (~180g) of the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the oats, almonds, and turbinado sugar and use your fingertips to quickly pinch in, forming a clumpy streusel. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. Transfer the remaining two-thirds (~360g) of the mixture to the prepared pan. Use your fingers or the bottom of a small glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until just set. Transfer to a wire rack while you prepare the fruit filling (no need to let it cool completely).
  5. To make the filling, stir together the fruit, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon juice. Spoon the fruit mixture evenly over the par-baked crust, then sprinkle evenly with the reserved streusel mixture.
  6. Bake until the crumb topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling in the center, about 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing (for cleanest results, chill for an hour in the refrigerator). Refrigerate leftover bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days; serve cold or at room temperature.

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats, and Some News!

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

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

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

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

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

Makes one 8×8 or 9×9 pan

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

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

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

brownie in hand

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

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

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

brownie cut

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

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

rice krispie treat stack

Here’s the thing: I don’t mind complicated recipes. Since I break a lot of my baking into multiple days, a long list of directions doesn’t usually put me off. Plus, there’s something really satisfying about seeing larger projects come to life!

But sometimes you just need simple, 30-minutes-no-oven-required back pocket recipes; and this is one of those gems. These are not your back-of-the-box Rice Krispie treats. These are BROWN BUTTER RICE KRISPIE TREATS. But good news, they’re practically just as easy as the original recipe. What makes them special?

  • Brown butter. If you’re going to melt the butter anyways, why not take a few extra minutes and brown it for that extra delicious nutty edge? Oh yeah, this also calls for double the butter compared to the original recipe, because you only live once (don’t worry, it’s not so much that they’re greasy).
  • More marshmallows. WAY more marshmallows. And some are left unmelted for an extra surprise. Nothing is worse than a dry Rice Krispie Treat.
  • Thick, bakery-style pieces. I like my treats tall, so I make them in an 8×8 pan (I do the same thing with brownies). Double the recipe if you’re making this in a 9×13 pan; no thin and wimpy Rice Krispie treats here!
  • Salt. One of my pet peeves is under-salted baked goods. Especially when you’ve got all the sweetness from the marshmallows in there — you need a little bit of salt to round out the flavor. You might as well throw a dash of vanilla in there while you’re at it.

OK, enough talking. Here we go!

rice krispie treats close up

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Makes 9 – 16 treats, depending on how big you like them

Ingredients

  • 113g / 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 425g / 10 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • Dash of pure vanilla extract
  • 160g / 6 cups crispy rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (about half a 12-ounce box)

Method

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with foil. Lightly butter or oil the foil for easy removal. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
  2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, brown the butter. It will melt, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning (and smelling nutty). Stir frequently with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed.
  3. When the butter has browned, take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and 8 cups of marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the mallows completely, turn the heat back to low.
  4. Add the cereal and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining two cups of mini marshmallows.
  5. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicon spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares.
  6. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days.

rice krispie treats in hand

rice krispie treats marshmallows