Tate’s Shortbread

My way of celebrating a friend’s birthday is to bake something for her… This is difficult for one of my buddies because she isn’t really a fan of desserts. It’s terrible. ;) (One year I actually just gave her butter! – it was special butter…) Well, lucky for me, I was able to find the recipe for her absolute favorite cookies this year. Yay! Shortbread from Southampton, New York’s Tate’s Bake Shop.

This super simple recipe results in perfect, slightly crunchy, crumbly cookies. The recipe was adapted from Baking for Friends by Kathleen King, owner and founder of Tate’s Bake Shop, via redtri.com. I used unsalted butter and coarse salt instead of salted butter. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 32 cookies

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (on convection). Line the bottom and 2 short ends of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper or a 20-inch length of aluminum foil, pleating the foil as needed, and letting the excess foil hang over the ends. Butter or lightly spray the parchment with cooking oil.
  2. In the bowl of a standing, heavy-duty electric mixer, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and mix with the paddle attachment on low-speed until the mixture looks crumbly, about 1-½ minutes. (Add any of the variation flavorings listed below at this point.) Press firmly and evenly into the prepared pan. (I use the base of a dry measuring cup.)
  3. Bake until the shortbread is golden brown on top and slightly darker around the edges, about 1 hour. Cut into 32 pieces while still warm. (If cooled before cutting, the shortbread will break.) Let cool completely in the pan on a wire cooling rack.
  4. Run a dinner knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the shortbread. Lift up the parchment or foil “handles” to remove the shortbread from the an. Cut through the previously cut marks into 32 pieces.

Other variations:

Lemon Ginger Shortbread: Add 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger, 1 cup minced candied lemon peel (or the grated zest of 1 lemon), and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Brown Sugar Ginger Shortbread: Substitute 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar for the granulated sugar, and add 1 cup crystallized ginger.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread: Add 1-cup (6 ounces) miniature chocolate chips

Pecan Shortbread: Add 1 cup toasted and finely chopped pecans.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Gooey Cinnamon Squares

Wow. These super moist cookie-cake squares were good. They are snickerdoodle meets creme brûlée meets coffee cake (maybe even (our favorite) King Cake!?!). Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen has shown me- once again- why she is an amazing food blogger… This is her own description of this dessert:

“The base is slightly more cake than cookie, the topping is a cross between toasted marshmallow and cinnamon toast, and if you just read that and haven’t shut this book to make this happen in your kitchen immediately, I’ve failed.”

She didn’t fail to encourage me to make them- and we were very pleased with the results. :) This recipe is from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook by Deb Perelman. I used coarse salt instead of table salt. Traditionally cream of tartar is used, but 2 teaspoons of baking powder could be substituted for both the cream of tartar and the baking soda. I used the traditional corn syrup but Perelman noted that honey or golden syrup would work equally well. Great!!

For the Soft Cookie Base:

  • 8 T (115 g, 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk (I used 1 percent)

For the Gooey Layer:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup, golden syrup, or honey
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, half & half, or heavy cream
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 12 T (170 g, or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 T (225 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups (155 g) all-purpose flour

For the Topping:

  • 2 T (25 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

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  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I used the convection setting.)
  2. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch sides with parchment paper and either butter the paper and sides of the pan or coat them with non-stick spray.
  3. Prepare the Soft Cookie Base: Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 T butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the egg and the milk, and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl and then beating for 10 seconds more.
  6. Beat in the dry ingredients until just combined.
  7. Dollop cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Set pan aside.
  8. Prepare the Gooey Layer: Whisk liquid sweetener, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside.
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  10. Beat in the egg, scrape down sides of the bowl, and mix 10 seconds more.
  11. Add 1/3 of the flour and mix, then 1/2 of the vanilla mixture and mix. Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been mixed until just combined.
  12. Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula or butter knife.
  13. Make the Topping: Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a tiny dish and sprinkle it over the entire gooey layer. It will be thick but will come out of the oven almost like a creme brûlée lid, i.e. awesomely.
  14. To Bake & Serve: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top. The gooey layer will rise and fall in the oven but will still be a bit liquidy under the cinnamon crust when the squares are done.
  15. Let cool completely on a rack, then cut into 1-inch squares.

Note: The squares keep at room temperature in an airtight container for at least a week.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Apple Biscoff Crumble

We love love LOVE LOVE Biscoff cookies in our house. An absolute favorite. (You get the idea…) When I saw this recipe, it had to be made ASAP!! We ate it warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It transported us to a Parisian bistro with every bite. Easy and fabulous!!

This recipe was adapted from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. I used a combination of Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith apples. Greenspan suggests that any fruit can be substituted for the apples (making it a year-round dessert!!): peaches, nectarines, plums, berries, or cherries in the summer, pears, bananas, or pineapple in the winter, or a holiday mix of cranberries, apples, dried fruit and nuts. I’m pretty sure we’ll be eating it at least once a season! :)

  • 2 pounds (900 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 3 T plump raisins
  • 1 package (about 8 oz) Biscoff or other speculoos cookies
  • 1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, at room temperature
  • vanilla bean ice cream for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (on convection).
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan or a baking dish that holds 4 to 5 cups. Put the dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and raisins. Set aside, but stir occasionally while assembling the topping.
  4. Using your hands, break the cookies into pieces in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss, turn and press the cookies and butter with your fingers, working them together until you have a fairly well-blended ball. (You want the cookies to stick together.)
  5. Stir the apple mixture and then pour it into the prepared baking dish. Spoon any accumulated juices over the mixture.
  6. Pull off bits of the crumble mixture and strew it over the apples- you should have enough to practically cover all of the fruit.
  7. Bake the crumble for 25 minutes and then tent it with foil to prevent over-browning. Continue to bake an additional 10 to 20 minutes, or until the topping is deeply brown and the fruit is bubbling.
  8. Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool until it is just warm. (It can also be eaten at room temperature.) Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

Two Years Ago:

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Viennese Sablés

These cookies are supposed to taste just like the wonderful Danish butter cookies that come in the famous blue tin. (I think they may even be better!) Aside from that yummy association, what is really winning about them is their texture; they are very slightly crisp on the outside but the inside is soft and melts in your mouth. Mmmmmm.

This recipe is from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. According to Greenspan, they are traditionally piped into a “W” shape as both the initial for Wittamer, a famed pastry shop in Brussels where they are made, and for Wien, the German word for Vienna- where the cookies were thought to have been invented.

Despite requests from my kids to pipe the cookies into their own initials, I made the traditional “W”‘s. (I’ll get more adventurous next time!) Other suggested shapes included circles, pretzels, or swirls. I initially had difficulty piping the dough, but as the dough warmed up it became much easier to pipe. I was hoping that they would be worth the trouble- and- thank goodness- they were! :)

These cookies can be served just as they are or dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Greenspan suggests eating them with coffee or tea, ice cream, fruit salad, or creme brûlée. Delicious!!

Yield: Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 9 T (4 1/2 oz; 128 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 T (153 grams) all-purpose flour
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional
  1.  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (on convection).
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the confectioners’ sugar over it, then add the salt.
  4. On low speed, beat until smooth but not fluffy. (You want the dough to be homogeneous, but you don’t want to beat air into it.)
  5. Beat in the egg white. The white will make the dough separate and it will be slick and slidey. Keep mixing for about 1 minute, and, if the mixture curdles, don’t be concerned; the flour will smooth it out.
  6. Beat in the vanilla and scrape down the bowl.
  7. Gradually add the flour, beating only until it disappears into the soft dough.
  8. Fit a pastry bag with an open star tip, one that’s a scant 1/2 inch in diameter. Scrape the dough into the piping bag.
  9. Pipe the dough onto the lined baking sheets in tight “W” shapes that are 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches high (or in desired shape), leaving about 2 inches of space between them (the dough will puff and spread under heat).
  10. Bake the cookies for 14 to 15 minutes on convection, or up to 17 to 20 minutes in a standard oven, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be golden brown at their edges and on their bottoms and paler at the center.
  11. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.
  12. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving, if desired.

Note: These cookies will keep for at least 1 week in an airtight container. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Vanilla-Bean Sablés

I learned so many things from this recipe! My first lesson was to learn that the sablé, a simple shortbread cookie, is the French equivalent of the American chocolate chip cookie. The “icon.” Greenspan says that these cookies are really known for their fine texture (sablé means sandy)- “snappy around the edges, cakier in the center- its fresh butter flavor and, often, its bit of saltiness.” I HAD to try her version- what an irresistible description!! :)

Typically, the sugar and butter in cookie dough are mixed until light and fluffy. My next lesson was learning that in order to achieve the desired sandy texture in these cookies, the sugar and butter are mixed only until a smooth consistency is achieved (much less) so that air is not incorporated into the dough.

My third (most exciting!) lesson was learning how to achieve super-tight cookie logs! Greenspan includes her party-trick technique (with photos in the book) that I describe below to share with you. Worked perfectly. LOVE it!!

This recipe is from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan. Delicious and pretty cookies- perfect for dessert, a snack, or with a cup of tea.

I’m sharing these with my friends for Fiesta Friday #60 at The Novice Gardener- Enjoy!!

Yield: about 36 cookies

For the Dough:

  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 moist, fragrant vanilla beans
  • 2 sticks (8 oz; 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Edging:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • coarse sanding sugar or turbinado sugar
  1. Put the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the pulp over the sugar. (I save the pods in a jar filled with turbinado sugar to make vanilla sugar.) Using your fingertips, rub the vanilla pulp into the sugar until it’s fragrant.
  3. Add the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt to the bowl and beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy (you DON’T want it to get light and fluffy), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. Drop in the egg yolk and beat for 1 minute.
  5. Add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer on and off to start incorporating it into the dough. Mix on low speed just until the flour has disappeared (or do this last little bit by hand with a flexible spatula).
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a log about 9 inches long. (**Trick to get really tight logs (perfectly round and free of air pockets): Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Place the cookie log one-third in and parallel to one short edge. Fold the remaining two-thirds of the parchment paper over the log. Grab the bottom edge of the parchment with one hand and place a ruler on top of the overlaying parchment with the other hand. Wedge the ruler against the bottom of the log. Push the ruler under the log at the same time that you pull the bottom paper toward you. Don’t be afraid to aggressively push and pull- it will result in a firm log. Lift the paper off of the dough.**)
  7. Wrap the logs in parchment and/or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (They can be wrapped airtight and put in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let the logs sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting and baking; no need to fully defrost.) I place them in a wrapping paper tube in order to ensure that they keep their round shape in the refrigerator.
  8. To Bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (on convection). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  9. Add a splash of cold water to the yolk and mix with a fork to blend. Brush each log with this egg wash and roll it in sanding sugar until it’s evenly coated.
  10. Using a sturdy knife, trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged, then cut the dough int 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place them on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake the cookies for 14 to 15 minutes (on convection) or for up to 18 to 22 minutes in a standard oven, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies are baked when they are brown around the edges and golden on the bottom.
  12. Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. These cookies really shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need time to cool so that their texture will set properly. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for about one week.

Variations:

  • Lemon Sablés: Rub the grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons into the sugar with the vanilla bean.
  • Orange Sablés: Rub the grated zest of 1 orange into the sugar with the vanilla bean.
  • Nut Sablés: Lightly toast 1/2 cup hazelnuts (skin them while they are still warm), almonds, pistachios, or other nuts, finely chop them and mix them into the dough once the flour is incorporated.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Outrageous Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Move over brownies! These cookies are super chocolatey, soft, and chewy. Loaded with chocolate chunks. Quick, easy, and delicious. The recipe for these tasty cookies was adapted from Martha Stewart Living; I melted the chocolate in a double boiler and adapted the cooking time to use a convection oven. I’m ready to make them again!!

I’m bringing these goodies to Fiesta Friday #59 at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy :)

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 package (10-12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (on convection).
  2. Heat chopped chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate.
  5. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 8 to 10 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 12 to 15 minutes in a standard oven. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Do not bake the cookies to a crisp; they are meant to be soft and chewy.)

Note: Don’t worry if the batter seems thin. It should look more like a brownie batter than a cookie dough.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Baby Sea Turtles, a Volcano, & the Perfect Spritz Cookies

I HAVE to share… My family and I were able to escape our frigid New York weather for Valentine’s Day this year. It was WONDERFUL! :)

Besides being relaxed and warm, we were able to enjoy the sunset from the top of a volcano,

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and release baby sea turtles into the Pacific Ocean each night after sunset. (When the sky was free from pelicans, hawks, and vultures! :/ )

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Amazing!!

Before we left on our trip, I did squeeze in a Valentine’s Day dessert (of course!). This is a simple and amazing recipe for what I think are the perfect spritz cookies. When working as a chef years ago, the father of one of my daughter’s best friends made thousands of these cookies. (TWENTY thousand in a weekend for a single event to be exact- I am happy he is still willing to make them!) He has since made them with his kids and their friends (including my lucky daughter!) and I have been the fortunate recipient of not only warm cookies but also the fabulous recipe. I’m happy to share it this week with my friends at Fiesta Friday #57 at The Novice Gardener. By changing the cookie press shape, they are perfect for any occasion! We ate most of them plain but sandwiched some of them with dulce de leche or Biscoff spread. Yum! :)

Perfect Spritz Cookies

  • 8 oz butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3 oz (6 T) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees on convection.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add sugar; beat to combine.
  4. Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Add salt and cinnamon; beat to combine.
  6. Slowly add flour and mix on low speed until incorporated.
  7. Using a cookie press, pipe onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Fudgy Brownie Cake

Brownies are often considered to be cookies- but isn’t it fun to consider them as a cake?!? Fudgy or cakey (I love it all!!) they are one of my absolute favorite desserts- especially warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side. :) This cake was made with Lindt 70% cacao dark chocolate- AMAZING rich flavor. Super moist and fudgy too. This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. I adapted the time to bake in a convection oven.

I’m bringing this snow day comfort food to share with my friends at Angie of The Novice Gardener’s First Fiesta Friday Anniversary Celebration (Part 2). Enjoy!!

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  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into large pieces, plus more for pan
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped (I used Lindt 70% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
  3. Remove chocolate mixture from heat, and whisk in 3/4 cup sugar.
  4. Whisk in egg yolk, then cocoa powder and salt.
  5. Beat egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Raise speed to medium-high, gradually beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and beat until soft, glossy peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Fold flour into chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula, then fold in egg whites.
  7. Pour batter into pan, and bake until set, about 25 minutes on convection or up to 33 minutes in a standard oven.
  8. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Remove side of pan, and dust top of cake with cocoa powder.

Note: Cake can be stored in pan at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap (do not let plastic touch cake), up to 1 day.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Black Hole Birthday Cake

I am terrified by the concept of a black hole. Massive collapsing stars with such a strong gravitational pull they are swallowing up surrounding stars out there in the galaxy. It makes me feel like such a little helpless speck on this Earth…. On the other hand, my now 10-year-old son loves thinking about the concept of a black hole- completely fascinating (but still scary!) for him. :) He has such an interest in astronomy and things greater than we are here on our little planet.

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I am also frightened to have four 9-year-old boys sleepover at my house! Well, I recently had to conquer these fears in order to celebrate my son’s birthday. All he wished for was a black hole birthday cake and a sleepover party. We all survived! (The cake was tasty- not scary- and we had fun!) :)

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This vanilla bean bundt cake recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via Sweetapolita. The original recipe calls for lemon extract in the cake batter as well as a vanilla bean glaze over the top of the cake. I omitted the lemon extract because of my son’s preference for a pure vanilla cake. (Personally, I think it would have been tastier to include it!) After a bit of a struggle about how to create a black hole out of a vanilla cake, I replaced the vanilla glaze with a dark chocolate ganache in order to make the black hole “black“! The ganache was delicious, but I included the recipe for the vanilla bean glaze below because it sounds like a lovely alternative. The dark chocolate ganache recipe was adapted from Food and Wine. I melted the chocolate over a double boiler until it was completely smooth before drizzling. OR…Forget the glazes- this cake would be just as delicious simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar. I love how a simple dusting lets the beautiful shape of the cake steal the show.

I can’t believe my son is TEN!!! :( (For the second year in a row, he requested that his Birthday “Number Cookies” be Roman Numerals!)

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For the Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake:

  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks)(255 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure lemon extract, optional but recommended
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

For the Vanilla Bean Glaze:

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 tablespoon 915 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) whole milk
  • about 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 3 oz dark bittersweet chocolate,  finely chopped/shaved  (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 T corn syrup
  • 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 5 T heavy cream

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For the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (convection) with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
  2. Weigh and then whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife and add into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon extract (if using) until well combined. At low-speed add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into pan, smoothing and spreading evenly. Gently tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
  6. Bake until the tip of a knife or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes on convection, or up to one hour in a standard oven. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
  7. Once the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze (vanilla bean glaze OR chocolate ganache glaze OR confectioners’ sugar) over top.

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For the Vanilla Bean Glaze:

  1. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into whole milk. Let sit in a spouted container, such as a large pyrex measuring cup, for about an hour.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually, whisking, until you get desired consistency–about 1 cup.
    You want to make sure that it’s not too runny, or it won’t dry white on the cake, and will run off too quickly. It should take a few seconds to whisk it, and it will feel too thick at first–keep whisking until you get desired thickness. If too thick, add a teaspoon or so of the vanilla milk.

For the Ganache Glaze:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate with the salt, corn syrup, and butter. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. (At this point, I had to gently continue heating the mixture over a double boiler while constantly mixing until smooth.)
  3. Briefly let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable.
  4. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Spritz Butter Cookies

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I have had difficulty with cookie press dough in the past. The consistency of this dough was absolutely perfect and easy to punch through the press. So, of course, the new problem was that half of my little Christmas tree cookies had a practically unrecognizable shape! I opted to make these little “wreaths”- and had absolutely no issues with the shape. :) This recipe was adapted from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. According to the author, the cornstarch makes the cookies more delicate and easier to push through the cookie press.

These were my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie this year; they reminded him of “fresh” Danish butter cookies. Buttery with a hint of almond. Lovely!

  • 44 g (1/2 cup minus 1 T/1.5 oz) blanched sliced almonds
  • 257 g (9.1 oz/2 cups plus 2 T) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 30 g (1 oz/1/4 cup) cornstarch
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 150 g (5.3 oz/3/4 cup) superfine sugar
  • 2 sticks (16 T/8 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • sugar sprinkles for decorating, optional
  1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (convection) for 30 minutes or longer before baking.
  2. Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, or until pale gold. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid over browning. Cool completely.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
  4. In a food processor, process the almonds until fairly fine. (They have to be able to squeeze through the cookie press!)
  5. Whisk the almonds into the flour mixture.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat for 30 seconds, or until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Add the flour mixture and pulse in just until blended. Do not over mix.
  9. Scrape the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use the outside of the plastic wrap to knead together the dough until it is completely even and soft enough to pipe smoothly.
  10. Form sections of the dough into a log and put into the tube of a cookie press. (Cover remaining dough.)
  11. Using the press, place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets 1-inch apart.
  12. Decorate with sugar sprinkles, if using.
  13. Bake cookies for 6 to 7 minutes (convection) or up to 10 to 12 minutes in a standard oven, or until pale gold.
  14. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Cookies can be stored airtight at room temperature for 1 month; refrigerated or frozen for 6 months.

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One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Chewy Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

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I had pretty much finished my holiday baking but decided that a gingerbread or molasses cookie was missing from my assortment. Last year I made gingerbread cutouts- but basically was out of steam to make them this year. :/ I was searching my cookbook library and the internet for the perfect molasses drop cookie when this one magically appeared in my WordPress Reader. Yay! They looked perfect and sounded wonderful. Thanks, Suzanne! This recipe was adapted from Food 52 via A Pug in the Kitchen.

When measuring with molasses, I always coat the measuring cup with cooking spray- it glides right out like magic. :) I also grind whole cloves in a spice grinder. Whole cloves are less expensive and have a much longer shelf life. Freshly ground spices have so much more flavor too.

Yield: Makes 24 to 30 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I grind whole cloves)
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • turbinado or granulated sugar, for rolling
  1. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, salt and cloves in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar together in bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, 3 minutes.
  3. Add egg and molasses. Mix to combine well.
  4. Stir in dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F (convection). Scoop dough with a cookie scoop and roll dough into 1 1/2″ balls.
  6. Coat dough balls in turbinado or granulated sugar.
  7. Arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and gently flatten, just barely I use 2 fingers and lightly push on the dough.
  8. Bake in oven until set and crinkled on top, about 12 minutes. Remove and cool.

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One Year Ago:

Luscious Apple Pie

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This is a gold standard apple pie with a little bit of a twist. The apples’  juices in the filling are concentrated prior to baking and thickened apple cider is also added to the filling- both add a deeper flavor to the filling- making it luscious. I do have one regret- not doing a lattice top. I always do a lattice top on my apple pie… but I didn’t want to deviate from the Baking Bible!! Next time! I think it would have been okay. ;) This recipe is from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Pie Crust For the Standard Double Crust 9-inch Pie:

  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks/6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 T (10.2 oz/290 g) pastry flour or bleached all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
  • 3 g (1/2 plus teaspoon) fine sea salt
  • 1.1 g (1/4 teaspoon) aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (4.5 oz/128 g) cream cheese, cold
  • 3 T (44 ml/1.5 oz/43 g) heavy cream
  • 1 T (15 ml) cider vinegar
  1. Cut the butter into small (about 1/2 inch) cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag, place the flour, salt, and baking powder and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Place the flour mixture in a food processor.
  4. Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  5. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the cubes is larger than the size of peas. (Toss with a fork to see the size better.)
  6. Remove the cover and add the cream and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together.
  7. Divide the dough in half (about 11 oz/312 g each). Spoon into two plastic bags. Hold either side of the bag opening and alternate using the heel of your hand and your knuckles to knead and press the mixture, from the outside of the bad, until most of the mixture holds together in one piece. Repeat for the second crust.
  8. Cut open each bag and empty the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap.
  9. Use the plastic wrap to finish kneading together the dough just until it feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
  10. Flatten each dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  11. Remove the dough for the bottom crust from the refrigerator. If necessary, let it sit for about 10 minutes, or until it is malleable enough to roll.
  12. Starting from the center and moving outward, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick on two overlapping pieces of plastic wrap, 12 inches in diameter, or large enough to line the bottom of the pie plate and extend slightly past the edge of the rim. (I used a tapered rolling pin to prevent the edges from becoming too thin.) Two or three times during rolling, flip the dough over and lift off of the plastic wrap to prevent it from creasing the dough.
  13. Transfer the dough to the pie plate, easing it into place. If necessary, trim the edge almost even with the edge of the plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

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For the Apple Filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds baking apples (about 6 medium/8 cups sliced/2 pounds sliced/ 907 g sliced) such as Macoun, Cortland, Jonathan, Winesap, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith (I love to use a blend of different types)
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup, firmly packed (1.9 oz/54 g) light brown Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.8 oz/50 g) granulated sugar (can add up to an additional 1/4 cup if apples are very tart)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (can add 1/4 tsp to 3/4 tsp if using strong specialty cinnamon)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml/4.3 oz/122 g) unpasteurized apple cider, unsweetened
  • 1/2 T (5 g) cornstarch (for the apple cider)
  • 2 T (1 oz/28 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 T plus 1 tsp (12 g) cornstarch (for the apples)
  1.  Peel the apples and slice them in half. Use a melon baller to remove the cores and a small short knife to cut away any remaining peel. Slice the apples 1/4 inch thick. Toss them with the lemon juice.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the apple and toss to coat them with the sugar mixture. Let the apples macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  3. In a small saucepan, stir together the apple cider and the 1/2 T of cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. It will become very thick. Scrape it into a small bowl, cover tightly, and set it aside.
  4. Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least 1/2 cup of liquid.
  5. Transfer this liquid to a 4+ cup microwavable measure with a spout that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Add the butter and microwave for about 6 to 7 minutes until reduced to about 1/3 cup (3.1 oz/88 g). It will be syrupy and lightly caramelized. Watch carefully to prevent burning. (Alternatively, reduce the liquid in a saucepan, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Swirl but do not stir it.)
  6. Transfer the apples to a large bowl and toss them with the 1 T plus 1 tsp of cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.
  7. Pour the reduced syrup over the apples, tossing gently. (Do not be concerned if the syrup hardens on contact with the apples; it will dissolve during baking.)
  8. Scrape in the thickened apple cider and again toss gently to mix it in.
  9. Spoon the apples into the dough-lined pie plate.

To Complete the Pie:

  1. Moisten the border of the bottom crust by brushing it lightly with water.
  2. Roll out the dough for the top crust to a diameter of 12 inches.
  3. Place the top crust over the apple filling. Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust border and press down all around the top to seal it. Crimp the border using your forefinger and thumb or a fork, and use a small sharp knife to make 5 evenly (I tried!) spaced 2-inch slashes in the top crust, starting about 1 inch from the center and radiating toward the edge.
  4. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour before baking to chill and relax the dough.
  5. 45 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Cover with non-stick aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (convection).
  6. Place a foil or silicone ring over the edge of the pie crust to protect from over browning. Set the pie on the foil-covered baking stone or sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pie.
  7. Continue baking for 20 to 35 minutes, or until juices bubble through the slashes and the apples feel tender but not mushy when a cake tester or small knife is inserted through a slash.
  8. Cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  9. Store at room temperature, 2 days; refrigerated, 4 days.

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