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.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine with Butternut Squash

I made this full-flavored Moroccan dish when we were dreaming of a family trip to Morocco. (Currently still a dream trip!) It was amazing to be able to create a tagine-like dish using a slow cooker. My husband actually often asks me if I “need” a tagine. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sarah DiGregorio. I increased the amount of garlic and served the chicken over Israeli couscous with sautéed kale on the side. The chicken was falling-off-of-the-bone tender. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours

  • 1 medium (2 to 2 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 3-inch-by-1-inch wedges
  • 8 pitted dates, such as Medjool, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 3 ½ to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed (I used 8 thighs)
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup minced ginger (from about a 4-inch piece peeled ginger)
  • 6 to 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon), plus more to taste
  • leaves of 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • cooked couscous or pita for serving, optional (I used Israeli couscous)
  • plain yogurt, for topping, optional (I used 2% Greek yogurt)
  • toasted slivered almonds, for topping, optional
  1. Finely chop the onion in a food processor; set aside. Mince the ginger and garlic in a food processor; set aside.
  2. Put the squash wedges and pitted dates into a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon stick, sweet paprika, turmeric, cumin, hot smoked paprika, ground ginger, cloves and cayenne and set aside.
  4. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Pat the chicken dry and season it generously with salt.
  6. Working in two batches, put the chicken in the skillet skin side down and cook without moving it until the skin is deeply golden, crisp, and releases fairly easily from the bottom of the pan, about 5 to 8 minutes per batch. (You need to brown only the skin side.) Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker, nestling the thighs skin side up and in one crowded layer on top of the squash.
  7. Decrease the stovetop heat to medium. If there is a lot of rendered fat in the pan, pour off all but a thin layer to cover the entire bottom of the skillet. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  9. Add the reserved spices and stir well for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is a uniform brick red.
  10. Add the lemon juice, stir well to incorporate the browned bits, then scrape the mixture over the top of the chicken, making sure to include any spice-stained oil that remains.
  11. Cook on low until the squash and chicken are very tender and the flavors are mellow, at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours. If it’s more convenient, you can let the slow cooker switch to warm after 6 hours. The dish will hold on warm for another 2 hours before the chicken starts to dry out.
  12. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add additional lemon juice and salt, to taste, and fold in the chopped parsley and scallions.
  13. Serve with couscous or pita, topped with yogurt and toasted almonds, as desired.

Sticky Banana Toffee Pudding

Happy Mardi Gras! I am making our traditional King Cake today, but I thought that this dessert could also be an appropriate celebratory option. It reminded me of a New Orleans bread pudding with some of the flavors of Bananas Foster, another famous New Orleans dessert.

The recipe was part of a Food and Wine magazine article, contributed by Laura Rege, titled “Ugly Delicious!” The author makes the point that a lot of delicious food isn’t Instagram drool-worthy. I didn’t really think that this dessert was that ugly, but it was delicious! 🙂

Yield: Serves 9

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided, plus more for greasing
 (I used cooking oil spray for greasing)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 ounces pitted dates, chopped (1 cup)
 (I used Medjool dates)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium-size overripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • unsweetened whipped cream, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection. Grease a 9-inch square metal cake pan with butter or cooking oil spray.
  2. In a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the dates; stir in the baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat 1/4 cup of the butter with 3/4 cup of the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  6. At low-speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Add the date mixture and bananas, and beat at low-speed until just combined.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, and the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, and cook until slightly thickened and deep golden, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
  10. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke holes all over the cake.
  11. Pour half of the warm sauce over the cake, and let stand until absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  12. Serve warm with the remaining sauce and the whipped cream.

One Year Ago: Pear & Cranberry Pie

Two Years Ago: My Mother-in-Law’s Napoleon Torte

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Espresso Dates

This special pecan pie was less sweet and more earthy than a typical pecan pie. It originates from Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The bakery is known for blending American and Middle Eastern flavors. Browned butter, dates, espresso… amazing.

The sweetness in the pie is from a combination of Medjool dates and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, an ingredient I’ve been wanting to use. Although my mom said she prefers a more traditional pecan pie, my brother absolutely loved it. The recipe is from Food and Wine, adapted from the Soframiz cookbook by Maura Kilpatrick and Ana Sortun. We ate it topped with a choice of whipped cream or ice cream on Thanksgiving Eve with leftovers on Thanksgiving Day. 🙂

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
  • ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups pecan halves (7 ounces)
  • 1/2 pound Medjool dates, pitted and chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Make the Pie Crust:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of ice water and pulse until the dough is evenly moistened. Gradually add more water if needed.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a work surface and knead 2 to 3 times, just until it comes together.
  5. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  6. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round; transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold the edge of the dough under itself and crimp the edge.
  7. Freeze the piecrust for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Par-Bake the Pie Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Line the piecrust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edge.
  3. Remove the paper and weights and bake until the bottom is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

To Finish the Pie:

  1. After the crust has par-baked, reduce the oven temperature to 350°.
  2. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small skillet, cook the dates in the brewed espresso over moderate heat, stirring, until very soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
  4. Add the butter to the pan and cook over moderate heat, swirling, until the milk solids turn a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar with the golden syrup, espresso powder and salt.
  6. Whisk in the eggs, then gradually whisk in the brown butter until the filling is smooth.
  7. Set the pie plate on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Spread the espresso dates in the crust and scatter the pecans on top.
  9. Pour the filling over the pecans.
  10. Cover the edge of the crust with a pie shield to prevent over browning.
  11. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the filling is set around the edge and slightly jiggly in the center. (Check earlier to prevent over-browning,)
  12. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely.
  13. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired.

Note: The pecan pie can be covered and kept at room temperature for 3 days. The unbaked piecrust can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for 1 month.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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Four Years Ago:

Arugula with Sautéed Corn & Shallots

Our kids take swimming lessons in the Long Island Sound EVERY summer. They don’t realize how lucky they are to go to the beach EVERY day with friends. I love being forced to go to the beach!!

Our traditional celebration is to indulge in a treat from the ice cream truck on the last day of lessons. We did that this year as well, of course… we keep our traditions :), but my friends and I made the last day even more fabulous this year by bringing a potluck dinner and wine to eat at the beach and stay for the sunset. (We ordered pizza for the kids!) Great.

My contribution was this tasty salad. Baby arugula (my favorite) topped with loads of warm sautéed corn, shallots, pancetta, and dates. Fresh and delicious. This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco.

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces chopped guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl), pancetta, or bacon
  • 2 to 3 large shallots, chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (I used 6 ears)
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • baby arugula (about 8 cups- I was generous!!)
  • 3 chopped Medjool dates
  • shaved or grated Parmesan and chopped fresh chives, for serving, optional
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook pancetta, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add corn and cook 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, then stir in vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Taste to adjust amount of vinegar.
  4. Toss greens and warm dressing in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with dates, Parmesan, and a pinch of chives.

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