Buttery Apple Crêpes with Cinnamon Custard & Salted Caramel Sauces

Crêpes have always been special to my family because my dad made them for breakfast on Sundays when I was growing up. We always make sure to have them at least once a year- on Christmas morning. We typically eat them simply sprinkled with sugar and occasionally with jam or fresh fruit as well.

I made these fancy crêpes for our celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert from a crêpe cookbook that my sister gave me for my birthday. ❤ I loved the browned butter in the crêpe batter. As a sauce fan, I also loved that these crêpes were served with two wonderful sauces.

This recipe was adapted from Crêpes: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes by Martha Holmberg. I made the sauces and crêpe batter a day in advance. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 filled crêpes plus extra crêpes and sauce

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:

Yield: 3/4 cup (180 ml)

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 6 T heavy cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt or coarse sea salt
  1. Put the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring just until the sugar is beginning to dissolve.
  2. Let the mixture boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan, until it is a deep amber, very fragrant, and you can see tiny wisps of smoke, 4 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully!
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour in a small amount of the cream; it will bubble up furiously. Whisk in remaining cream a little at a time so it doesn’t bubble over.
  4. Whisk in the butter, vanilla, and salt until the caramel is very smooth.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and let it cool to room temperature; it will thicken as it cools.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. (I made it a day in advance and refrigerated it overnight. I brought it to room temperature prior to serving.)

Note: Stored in an airtight container, the finished sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 1 month or in the freezer for 3 months.

For the Cinnamon Custard Sauce (Crème Anglaise):

Yield: 1 cup (240 ml)

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) lightly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of coarse salt or sea salt flakes
  1. Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it’s just beginning to steam. Watch carefully! Don’t let it boil- it will change the flavor.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl with a spout, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until well blended but not foamy.
  3. Slowly pour half of the hot milk-cream mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture, whisking constantly and quickly.
  4. Return the pan with the remaining milk and cream to the heat and whisk the yolk-cream mixture into the pan.
  5. Switch the whisk to a heat-proof rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, and gently cook the sauce, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the custard thickens and registers 175 to 180 F (80 to 82 C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours.

Notes: Half & Half can be substituted for the combination of whole milk and heavy cream. The finished sauce will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

For the Sautéed Apple Filling:

  • 4 T (55 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 firm, tart apples (800g / 1.75 lbs) such as Braeburns, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch (12mm) dice (I used 4 large (840g) Ruby Frost apples)
  • 75 g (6 T) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of coarse salt
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. When the butter is foamy, add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re almost tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the apples with the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the apples are tender when pricked with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the apples cool slightly.

For the Brown Butter Crêpes:

Yield: 15 to 18 8-inch crêpes

  • 1 3/4 cups (420 ml) whole milk (can add up to a total of 2 1/4 cups (540 ml) to adjust consistency)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 190 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 6 T (85 g) unsalted butter
  • butter or vegetable oil, for the pan
  1. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty and delicious. Pour melted butter and browned milk solids into a glass measuring cup with a spout to cool before using.
  2. Put 1 3/4 cups milk (420 ml), the eggs, and salt into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.) Process for a few seconds to blend.
  3. Remove the lid and add the flour. Cover and blend until very smooth, about 20 seconds.
  4. Remove the lid, pour in the browned butter- including the toasty brown milk solids, cover, and process until combined, about 10 seconds more.
  5. Transfer the batter to a large glass measuring cup with a spout.
  6. Let the batter rest at least 5 minutes and up to 24 hours. (If resting for more than 30 minutes, store in the refrigerator.)
  7. Before making the crêpes, test the batter’s consistency: it should be as thick as heavy cream but not as thick as pancake batter. If it’s too thick, whisk in up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the remaining milk.
  8. Heat an 8-inch (20 cm) crêpe pan over medium-low to medium heat until it’s hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle upon contact. (I always check to make sure the base of the handle is hot.)
  9. Using a heat-proof brush, coat the pan with oil. (Alternatively, use a folded paper towel to coat the pan with 1/2 teaspoon of butter. The butter should sizzle but not turn brown. Adjust the heat of the pan, if necessary.)
  10. Using a ladle, pour about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the batter into the center of the pan, and at the same time lift the pan from the heat, tilting and turning it in all directions sos the batter spreads evenly across the bottom of the pan in a thin circle. (If the crêpe has any holes in it, quickly add a few drops of batter to fill them in. If there is excessive batter, immediately pour the excess back into the bowl of batter.)
  11. Cook the crêpe until the edges begin to dry and lift from the sides of the pan and the bottom is nicely browned, about 1 minute.
  12. Use a table knife, slim spatula or your fingers to lift the crêpe and quickly flip it over. Smooth out any folded edges or pleats and then cook unit the center is firm and the second side is browned, about 20 seconds more. (The first side is almost always prettier and more evenly browned so it is noted as the presentation side.)
  13. Slide the crêpe from the pan onto a large plate.
  14. Repeat with the remaining batter, adjusting the heat and wiping the pan with more oil or butter as you cook.
  15. The finished crepes can be stacked on each other as they are done.

Note: Leftover crêpes can be wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If storing them in the freezer, lay pieces of waxed or parchment paper between them so that they don’t stick together. They will keep in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. To thaw, let the stack sit at room temperature until the crêpes are pliable, about an hour.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 F(220 C).
  2. Butter the bottom of a baking dish. (or use cooking oil spray) (I only baked 4 filled-crêpes at a time, so I used a small baking dish. If baking all at once, use a 9×13-inch baking dish. The crêpes should be tightly packed.
  3. Lay the crêpes presentation-side down on a clean work surface.
  4. Divide the apples equally among the crêpes, spooning them onto the bottom third of each one.
  5. To fold the crêpes, pull the bottom edge of each crêpe up and over the apples, then roll it up a half turn. Tuck in each side, and finish rolling up from the bottom.
  6. Arrange the crêpes seam-side down in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
  7. Bake until heated through, 4 to 10 minutes.
  8. Spoon a thick ribbon of cinnamon custard on a dessert plate.
  9. Lay a crêpe over the custard sauce and drizzle the salted caramel sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Ina Garten’s Pomegranate Gimlet

Here’s another treat that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day! ❤

This cocktail is composed of many of my favorites. I love a classic gimlet. 🙂 This pomegranate version would also be festive for the holidays or just tasty any other time of the year.

This recipe was adapted from Today.com. I modified the proportions to make individual cocktails. The volumes for 6 gimlets are also noted below.

Yield: one cocktail

  • 2 oz (4 T) gin
  • 1 1/2 oz (2 1/2 T) pomegranate juice (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 1/2 oz (2 1/2 T) freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 2/3 oz (1 1/2 T) agave nectar or simple syrup
  • lime slice and pomegranate seeds, for garnish

For a Crowd:

Yield: six cocktails

  • 1 1/2 cups gin
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (6 to 8 limes)
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 6 lime slices and pomegranate seeds, for garnish
  1. At least one hour before serving, place martini glass(es) in the freezer.
  2. Combine the gin, pomegranate juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice (for 1 cocktail) or large pitcher (for 6 drinks).
  3. If making multiple drinks, fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice and add the drink mixture until the shaker is three quarters full.
  4. Shake for a full 15 seconds.
  5. Pour the mixture into the frozen martini glasses and garnish with a teaspoon of pomegranate seeds, or more to taste, and a slice of lime.

Note: To make your own simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small pot and heat just until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Refrigerate until cold.

Cinnamon Star Bread

I kept seeing various versions of this pretty pull-apart star bread and had to make one for myself. 😉 It’s so pretty and deceptively simple.

There are savory versions out there, but this variation of a classic cinnamon bun was the first choice for my crowd. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour. I weighed the dry ingredients and used fine sea salt. I made the loaf a day in advance and it was still tender, moist, and delicious.

Yield: One Star Loaf, about 8 servings

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups (241g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (46g) potato flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill) or 1/2 cup (46g) dried potato flakes
  • 1/4 cup (28g) nonfat dry milk
  • 3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons (198g to 227g) lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) fine sea salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

To Make the Dough:

  1. Sift the flour, potato flour, and dry milk through a strainer; this is an important step to prevent lumps in the dough. (If you’re using instant mashed potatoes rather than potato flour you can skip this sifting step.)
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk. (I used a proofing oven.)

To Shape and Bake the Loaf: 

  1. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. (I used a scale.) Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
  2. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10″ circle.
  3. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4″ of bare dough around the perimeter.
  4. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle. Repeat the layering process — egg, cinnamon sugar, dough circle — leaving the top circle bare.
  5. Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.
  6. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.
  7. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter. ( Removed the cutter before joining the strips, which may have given the star an uneven appearance.)
  8. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet.
  9. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  10. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  11. Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg.
  12. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
  14. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, and serve warm or at room temperature. (It could also be served drizzled with a confectioners’ sugar glaze, if desired.)
  15. Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
Note: To reheat bread for serving, place it on a baking sheet and tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Place in a preheated 350°F oven, and warm for about 15 minutes, or until it’s as hot as you like.

Maple Layer Cake with Maple-Vanilla Buttercream

This maple variation of the “All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake” from the famed Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum may quite possibly be the best cake I’ve ever made. My son chose it to celebrate his 16th birthday. 🙂 His favorite flavor profile usually incorporates vanilla and/or cream soda so this maple cake was a definitely a good choice.

I adapted the recipe to bake the cake in 8-inch cake pans. I also used fine sea salt and substituted vanilla extract for maple extract. It was very moist and rich. Fabulous.

I served this cake after an indulgent meal made to order for my birthday boy. He requested penne alla vodka, chicken parmesan, garlic bread, and Caesar salad. No one argued- all family favorites. 🙂

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake, about 12 to 14 servings

For the Cake: (all ingredients at room temperature)

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 1 liquid cup (8.5 oz/242 g) milk (I used 2% milk)
  • 2 1/4 tsp (9 g) pure vanilla extract (can substitute 3/4 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tsp maple extract)
  • 300 g (3 cups/10.5 oz) cake flour, sifted
  • 300 g (2 cups/10.5 oz) maple sugar, sifted (from Whole Foods)
  • 19.5 g (1 T + 1 tsp) baking powder
  • 5 g (3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 12 T (6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, softened

  1. Butter two 8-inch (2-in deep) cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust bottom and sides with flour, tap out excess. Set aside. (The layers can alternatively be baked in 9-inch cake pans that are 1 1/2-in deep.)
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  3. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk, and vanilla. (I used a 2 cup measuring cup.)
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for 30 seconds to blend.
  5. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Gradually add the egg-milk mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. (I weigh them to distribute the batter evenly.) The pans should be about 1/2 full.
  8. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (I baked mine for 27 minutes.) *The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
  9. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes.
  10. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up. Let cool completely before frosting or storing.

Note: The unfrosted layers can be wrapped tightly and stored for 2 days at room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, and 2 months frozen. The frosted cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

For the Neoclassic Maple-Vanilla Buttercream: (all ingredients at room temperature)

Yield: 4 cups, enough to fill and frost two 8-inch layers

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 150 g (3/4 cup/5.25 oz) granulated sugar
  • 164 g (1/2 liquid cup/5.75 oz) pure maple syrup
  • 1 pound (4 sticks/2 cups/454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or maple extract
  1. Grease a 1-cup heatproof measuring cup. Set aside.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. (I used a stainless steel bowl.) Using a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks until light in color.
  3. Combine the sugar and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a full rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles- see note.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the prepared glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  4. Using a hand mixer, beat the syrup into the egg yolks in a steady stream. Don’t allow the syrup to fall on the beaters. Use a rubber scraper to remove any syrup remaining in the measuring cup.
  5. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool.
  6. Gradually beat in the butter. (I incorporated 1 stick at a time.)
  7. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  8. Use immediately, or store in an airtight bowl in the refrigerator. (If stored, bring to room temperature before using.)

Note: The syrup must come to a rolling boil or the finished buttercream will be too thin.

Apple Strudel

My Mother-in-Law makes this delicious strudel every Christmas Eve as part of the traditional Ukrainian 12-course feast. It is always a highlight of the meal for me. 🙂

I used tart apples (Granny Smith) but may use a combination of tart and other firm sweet-tart apples next time. I also used a mandoline to slice the apples. My Mother-in-Law has the magic touch… hers tastes better than mine, of course, but I did use her recipe! Yum.

Yield: One Strudel, about 8 servings

  • 2 1/2 to 3 tart and firm apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 2-3 T fine bread crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
  • 8 sheets of thawed phyllo dough
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • strawberry preserves

To Make the Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. (I used a mandoline to slice the apples 1/8-inch thick.)
  2. Mix the sliced apples with the sugar, raisins, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon, and 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs.

To Make the Strudel:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with a damp towel and plastic wrap.
  3. Remove on sheet of phyllo dough and place on a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Brush the entire surface with melted butter, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, sprinkle with brown sugar, and dot with strawberry preserves (use very little preserves).
  5. Repeat this process for the next 7 layers of phyllo dough.
  6. After the dough is prepared, place the filling evenly on top of the dough, starting at the shorter end and leaving 1-2 inches uncovered at the opposite end.
  7. Lift the edge of the parchment paper closest to the filling to help roll the dough and form the strudel.
  8. Place the roll, seam side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with remaining melted butter.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Ukrainian Winter Borscht with Vushka

We missed celebrating Christmas with our extended family this year. 😦

Traditionally, my Mother-in-Law makes all of us the meatless 12-dish Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast as part of our celebration. It is a beautiful dinner, but a major undertaking. I didn’t attempt to make the complete meal, but I did make a couple of the courses for our celebration at home. 🙂

Our meal began with a (mini) shot of vodka and a bite-sized piece of challah with honey. We ate this Winter Borscht with Vushka (mushroom-onion dumplings) followed by sauerkraut and potato-cheese pierogies, which my husband purchased from a local Polish store, as our main courses. I made my Mother-in-Law’s apple strudel for dessert, post to follow.

This recipe was adapted from Tom Birchard and Natalie Danford of NYC’s East Village restaurant Veselka, via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. (I gave my husband the Veselka cookbook for Christmas!) I incorporated some of the beets, puréed, into the finished soup. I used dumplings wrappers instead of making the dough for the dumplings. I also modified the Vushka proportions and technique.

I used beets from my CSA share for the soup, made it in advance and stored it in the freezer. I made the Vushka a day in advance and stored them in the refrigerator. The recipe states that the dumplings are optional; in my house they are essential! The soup had a spicy kick which may have been from the fresh garlic, which is incorporated at the end. I enjoyed it but may consider omitting the garlic next time.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Borscht:

  • 2 pounds beets, trimmed and scrubbed (do not peel)
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • coarse salt
  • mushroom and onion dumplings (Vushka)
  • chopped dill, for garnish, optional
  1. Coarsely chop beets, preferably in a food processor.
  2. In a medium pot, combine beets, 4 cups water and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beets are soft, about 45 minutes. Strain and set juice aside. (Beets can be used for another purpose, like salad.)(I puréed half of the strained beets in a Vitamix and incorporated them in the finished soup.)
  3. Meanwhile, in a deep pot, combine carrot, celery, onion, stock, bay leaves and allspice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes. Strain and discard aromatics and vegetables.
  4. Combine strained stock and beet juice and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Add sugar, garlic (if using), and black pepper. Season to taste with sugar and salt.
  6. Add half of the reserved beets, puréed, into the finished soup, as desired.
  7. Serve with dumplings and sprinkle with dill, as desired.

For the Vushka (Ukrainian Mushroom & Onion Dumplings):

Yield: 80 to 100 dumplings

For the Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups chopped button mushrooms
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Dough: (I used Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers instead)

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, more as needed

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Let soften, about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms separately.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add button mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drain liquid.
  4. In a food processor, combine both kinds of mushrooms.
  5. Spoon in porcini liquid, leaving behind any silt in bottom of bowl.
  6. Pulse together until finely ground but not pasty: about 3 or 4 pulses. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

To Make the Dough: (I used dumpling wrappers and continued at Step 8)

  1. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk, oil and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and whisk 1 minute.
  2. Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in center. Add a third of the egg mixture and lightly mix in with fingers or a fork. Repeat 2 more times.
  3. Using hands, fold dough together until soft: if crumbly, gently work in more water; if sticky, add flour.
  4. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead 3 minutes.
  5. Form into a ball, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 45 minutes.
  6. Lightly flour a work surface and a pan or board for the finished dumplings. Divide dough into 3 sections.
  7. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll each section out until very thin and in a rough rectangle.
  8. Use tip of a sharp knife to cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. (I used a 1 1/2-inch square cookie cutter as a guide. Each dumpling wrapper yielded 2 squares. If using square dumpling wrappers, each one may be able to make 4 squares. Next time!)
  9. Cover the cut dough with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out.
  10. Drain any excess liquid from filling. Place 1/4 teaspoon filling in center of each square. (I found it helpful to pre-scoop the filling and place it on a cutting board because it dried it out slightly.)
  11. Wet the edges of the dough and fold squares in half to form triangles, sealing filling inside.
  12. Pinch the 2 opposing corners together to seal tightly, use water if necessary.
  13. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or a floured surface: do not stack.
  14. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  15. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook dumplings until they float, 2 to 4 minutes. (If cooking frozen dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface and add 2 minutes.)
  16. Drain and serve in hot borscht, about 10 per serving, or just with sour cream.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4 cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). 🙂

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