Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pecan pie bars are a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in our house. I chose this pumpkin pie version to serve along with a tried and true brown-butter and vanilla bean apple pie for our intimate Thanksgiving feast. (Yes, we had leftover dessert for at least a week!)

This recipe was adapted from a “staff favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Sarah Jordan. I appreciated the press-in crust and we all absolutely loved the consistency of the bars. Pie bars have the bonus of easier portion control too- which is crucial on Thanksgiving. 😉 Great.

Yield: Makes on 9×13-inch pie

For the Press-In-Crust:

  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter with the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the sifted flour-and-salt mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  4. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides. (I used a pyrex pan.)
  5. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it over the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the side all around. (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap and press with the bottom of a measuring cup.) Be sure the corners are not too thick.
  6. Refrigerate until firm.
  7. Bake the crust for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown; halfway through baking, use the back of a spoon to smooth the sides and corners of the crust.
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool before filling.

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • Baked Press-In Crust (above)
  • crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the sugars with the spices and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the sugar mixture, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until smooth.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the filling is fully set.
  7. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Cut into bars and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, as desired.

Note: Bars should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I prepared them a day prior to serving.)

Ravneet Gill’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have one more sweet treat to share. I could not resist a new chocolate chip cookie recipe claiming to be perfect and the best. When split in half, these cookies were described as having a “wet-sand crumb surrounding a glossy pull of viscous molten chocolate.” Wow.

It is very rare that I follow a recipe to a “t,” but I did exactly that in this case. The NYT article explains that the reason these cookies are exceptional is the meticulous attention to detail in the recipe. I did use granulated sugar instead of superfine. 😉 The original recipe controversially omits vanilla extract. We didn’t notice! They were absolutely FABULOUS.

The recipe was adapted from The Pastry Chef’s Guide by British pastry chef Ravneet Gill, via the New York Times, contributed by Charlotte Druckman. I used chopped 71% cacao Valrhona chocolate.

Yield: 14 to 15 cookies

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/140 grams unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), softened
  • Scant 3/4 cup/140 grams dark brown sugar
  • cup/110 grams superfine sugar (I used granulated sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons/250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 6 ounces/170 grams dark (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped into large chunks (I used 71% cacao Valrhona)
  1. Put the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Cream together using a paddle attachment on medium speed, a handheld electric whisk or a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes until paler but not fluffy. (Do not mix for too long; if you beat the mixture until super light and fluffy, that will cause the cookie to deflate later when cooking.)
  2. Add the egg and beat over medium speed until evenly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (all the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt), then fold into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula until combined.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate and fold into the dough until evenly distributed.
  5. Immediately scoop out heaping 1/4-cup portions (about 60 grams), roll into balls and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours. (If space is tight, you can condense them on one sheet before refrigerating then redistribute among two sheets before baking.)(I used one sheet.)
  6. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Make sure the dough balls are evenly spaced out among 2 baking sheets, as they will spread. ( I placed 5 cookies per sheet on 3 baking sheets.)
  8. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes (or 15 minutes if baking from frozen), until the cookies are puffed and golden at the edges. You want the middle to be ever so slightly not-quite set.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet; they will continue firming up as they cool. Once cooled, eat!

Note: These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The balls of dough will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer.

Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns with Vanilla Glaze

The photo of this special breakfast is on the cover of the April issue of Bon Appétit. I made it almost immediately after seeing the magazine! I really liked the idea of using dates in the filling to add a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber- and to reduce the amount of sugar. Yum.

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly, and Sarah Jampel. It was included in an article titled, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Magic: A Basically Guide to Better Baking.” There are a lot of other delicious treats included in the article. 🙂 I made the dough and the date filling the day before assembling and baking.

It would be a lovely breakfast to serve on Easter morning.

Yield: 9 sticky buns

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 7 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4-oz (2 1/4 tsp) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) packed Medjool dates, halved, pitted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (83 g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

To Make the Dough:

  1. Combine the buttermilk and 6 tablespoons of oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. (It won’t get smooth.) Heat in the microwave in three 10-second intervals until just about body temperature, or when it registers 98°F with an instant-read thermometer. (Alternatively, the mixture can be heated in a small saucepan on medium-low for about 1 minute.)
  2. Whisk egg, brown sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk mixture.
  3. Pulse the flour, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  4. With the motor running, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Process until about 80% of the dough comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. (The mixture will look very wet at first, then the sides will begin to pull away.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto an unfloured surface. (It will be wet and sticky.)
  6. Knead, pushing it away from you, then pulling it back toward you, until a smooth ball forms, about 3 minutes. (You can lightly oil your hands if the dough is too sticky.) The dough will grow silkier, tighter, and easier to work with as you knead.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rough 8-inch square.
  8. Fold dough over onto itself to make and 8×4-inch rectangle, then flatten it slightly and fold over once more to make a 4-inch square.
  9. Roll dough back out into an 8-inch square.
  10. Repeat the folding process (Step 8); you will finish with a 4-inch square.
  11. Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium bowl and add dough (still folded); turn to coat.
  12. Cover bowl tightly and chill dough until doubled in volume, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (I refrigerated my dough overnight.)

To Make the Filling and Assemble:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water to cover. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain dates and transfer to a food processor; discard soaking liquid.
  3. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Purée, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth, about 4 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 cup purée.)
  5. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. Transfer dough to a clean, unfloured surface and roll out to an 8-inch square.
  7. Fold in half into an 8×4-inch rectangle, then fold rectangle over itself to form a 4-inch square. If dough feels tough and uncooperative, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax and try again.
  8. Roll out dough into a 12-inch square, about 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Dollop date purée all over. Using a small offset spatula, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border without purée along edge farthest from you.
  10. Sprinkle brown sugar over purée.
  11. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up dough into a tight log.
  12. Using a sharp serrated knife and long sawing motions, trim about 1/2-inch of dough from both ends. (These ends can be discarded, but I baked them in a separate small ramekin.)
  13. Slice log crosswise into 3 sections, wiping knife clean between cuts.
  14. Slice each section crosswise into 3 buns. (I used a ruler.) You should have 9 buns total that are each about 1-inch thick. Transfer buns to prepared pan as you go.
  15. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Place in a warm, dry spot. (I used plastic wrap so that I could monitor the rising process. I also placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  16. Let buns rise until they’re doubled in volume and spring back when poked, leaving only a small indentation, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the humidity and warmth of your kitchen.
  17. Remove plastic wrap, if using, and cover pan with foil.
  18. Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  19. Bake buns, still covered, until puffed, pale, and mostly set, about 20 minutes. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces, covered with foil, at the same time.)
  20. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes if you prefer a soft and squishy bun and up to 25 minutes for a more toasted bun. Let cool slightly. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces at this point for about 5 minutes- uncovered.)
  21. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl to combine.
  22. Brush glaze over warm buns and serve in skillet.

Do Ahead: Purée can be made 3 days ahead. Place in an airtight container, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Brown Sugar Cookies with Pecans

I tried to rename these cookies because the title “brown sugar cookies” doesn’t seem to do them justice. The original recipe describes them as “butterscotch-flavored.” I would also suggest “butter pecan-flavored.” We absolutely loved them! 🙂

This recipe is from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King, the founder of Tate’s Bake Shop. I used coarse salt and chilled the dough prior to baking. Wonderful!

Yield: about 35 cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda, sifted
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (I used raw pecans)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla, mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour mixture and pecans.
  5. Using a small cookie scoop, drop by tablespoons onto a plastic-wrap lined cookie sheet or container. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Place cookies on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until cookies feel firm in the center. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Banana Bread with Crunchy Sugar Topping

I have one more recipe to share from the special baking book, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. (for now!) In the book, this recipe is titled “The Only Banana Bread You’ll Ever Need.” That is a little over the top for me- I always welcome new recipes for banana bread. 🙂

In this version, the super moist bread is topped with crunchy, snowy granulated sugar. The sugar is dampened and clumped together before sprinkling it over the prepared batter. I had never used this technique and I loved it. The topping looked beautiful and had a wonderful contrasting texture.

I weighed the bananas and all of the dry ingredients. I modified the recipe by baking it in a Pullman loaf pan, adjusting the baking time accordingly. We loved it!

Yield: One loaf, Serves 8 to 10

  • nonstick cooking spray for the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups (400g) mashed, very ripe bananas (I used 3 1/2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (196g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112g) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T dark rum, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 T (272g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 T (38g) granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch or Pullman loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper with a couple of inches of overhang on the long sides. Lightly coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, eggs, rum (if using), and vanilla.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and fold until just blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  8. Using your fingertips, sprinkle water over the top of the sugar. Work the water into the sugar, pinching it together, until it begins to resemble snow. (It should barely hold together when it is pinched together.) To add additional water, sprinkle water over the top using the opposite (clean) hand.
  9. Sprinkle the dampened sugar over the batter, aiming to get it clumped up together in spots.
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes in a Pullman pan or 60 to 70 minutes in a standard loaf pan.
  11. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: Bread can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap and/or placed in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies

My son is becoming more interested in cooking! 🙂 He actually made this cookie dough almost completely on his own.

This recipe is from Food 52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes that will Change the Way You Cook by Kristen Miglore. We modified the size of the cookies, used semi-sweet chocolate, and refrigerated the dough prior to baking. As they were best served warm from the oven, we baked each batch separately just prior to serving. We also served them with vanilla ice cream, which I would highly recommend!

The cookies had a deep toasty flavor with caramelization of the dark brown sugar on the edges. My husband was absolutely in love with the texture- a little bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Yum.

Yield: Makes about 48 cookies

  • 3 cups (360g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (230g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) pieces
  • 1 cup (220g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz (225g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch (6mm and 1.3cm) pieces (I used 10 oz semisweet chocolate chunks from Trader Joe’s)
  • ice cream, for serving, optional
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low-speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes.
  3. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined.
  5. Mix in the vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low-speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds.
  7. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low-speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.
  9. Use a spatula to scrape down the the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  10. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop mounds of dough about (1 1/2 tablespoons in size) and place on a plastic-wrap lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour to overnight. (I kept some of the dough refrigerated for an entire week prior to baking with perfect results.)
  11. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  12. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  13. Place the cookie dough on the prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between them, about 8 to a sheet.
  14. Bake for 16 minutes (one pan at a time) or 18 minutes (two pans at a time), rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown.
  15. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Note: These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later the same day. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0969

I feel as though I am revealing a secret recipe…. These cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, New York, are sold all over the United States. Now I know why these cookies are their signature item! They are FABULOUS- thin, crispy – but not too crispy, and loaded with chocolate chips. I don’t know if the water in the dough or the dark brown sugar makes the difference, but there is a difference. 🙂

This recipe is from Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Home-Style Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads. I modified the recipe by using unsalted butter, chilling the dough for 1 hour prior to baking, and by adjusting the baking time for a convection oven. I baked them for 12 minutes when using 2 baking sheets at a time, and for 8 minutes when using only 1 baking sheet. Delicious.

Yield: 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies

IMG_0963

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup salted butter (I used unsalted!)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, silpat, or butter.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add the water and vanilla; mix until just combined.
  6. Add the eggs and mix them lightly.
  7. Stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Be careful not to overmix!
  8. Using a small cookie scoop, drop the cookies onto prepared cookie sheets.
  9. Bake them for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the edges and centers are brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

IMG_0964

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