Classic Bread Pudding

My husband requested bread pudding for his celebratory Father’s Day dessert this year. This classic dessert is second only to cheesecake in his heart. ❤

This isn’t technically another strawberry dessert… but the fresh strawberry topping definitely brought this fabulously creamy bread pudding to the next level.

The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.com. I omitted the raisins, modified the presentation, and added the fresh strawberry garnish. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened, for baking dish
  • 12 ounces brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup boiling water, optional (if using raisins), plus more for pan
  • fresh strawberry slices, for garnish, optional

Smitten Kitchen’s Creamed Spinach

This was a belated side dish to add onto my husband’s celebratory birthday meal. We love drawn out celebrations. 😉 (We also wanted to spread out our indulgences!)

This classic recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com; I modified the proportions and method. I may add shallots instead of yellow onion next time. It was fabulously rich and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach or regular spinach, tough stems discarded (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk and/or heavy cream (I used 1 cup whole milk & 3/4 cup heavy cream)
  • 1/2 of a large onion or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Wash your spinach well but no need to spin or pat it dry.
  2. Place spinach in a large pot over high heat. (I used a pasta pot without the insert.) Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach.
  3. Press or squeeze out the excess liquid any number of ways, either by using a potato ricer (my favorite method), wringing it out in cheesecloth, putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing the moisture out with a spatula or large spoon or letting it cool long enough to grab small handfuls and squeezing them to remove as much water as possible.
  4. Coarsely chop the wrung-out spinach.
  5. Wipe out large pot so you can use it again. (I actually used a medium saucepan instead.)
  6. Heat milk or cream in a measuring cup in the microwave or in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Keep warm. (If using the microwave, heat the mixture immediately before using.)
  7. Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes.
  8. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes.
  9. Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes.
  10. Stir in nutmeg, chopped spinach, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Do ahead: Creamed spinach can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered then reheated over moderately low heat until hot. However, it really tastes best eaten immediately.

Donut Loaf

I felt very “out of the loop” recently when I saw numerous posts about this viral donut loaf one morning. I had to make it right away! 😉 It delivered as promised- it tasted like a giant cake donut. Ridiculously good. The freshly ground nutmeg made it exceptional.

This recipe was adapted from Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever, via thekitchn.com. It was reminiscent of a pound cake but had a lighter texture. Fabulous! Next time I plan to try baking it in my Pullman loaf pan.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) loaf, Serves 8 to 10

For the Loaf:

  • nonstick cooking spray for pan
  • 2 3/4 cups (352g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 T (197g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (175g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature

To Finish:

  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, divided, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 2 T (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  1. Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch light-colored metal loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with 2 perpendicular strips of parchment paper — 1 cut skinnier to fit lengthwise across the bottom and up the 2 short sides, 1 to fit crosswise and up the 2 longer sides. Cut the strips long enough to have a few inches of overhang on all sides.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
  5. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Beat in 1/4 cup of the flour mixture.
  7. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.
  8. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk in 5 alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  9. Finish folding the batter by hand to make sure everything is incorporated — the batter will be very thick.
  10. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  11. Bake until the loaf is golden with a couple of cracks on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.
  12. Let cool in the pan set over a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  13. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf from the pan. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. When the loaf is cool and firm enough to handle, but still slightly warm, sift 2/3 cup of the confectioners’ sugar all over a large rimmed baking sheet (keep the sieve handy).
  15. Peel the parchment from the cake. Gently turn the loaf over in 1 hand, using part of your forearm to support it.
  16. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the cake with some of the melted butter. Carefully set the loaf, right-side up, in the powdered sugar.
  17. From there, brush the long sides with the butter, turning the cake from side to side to coat in sugar, then brush and coat the short sides.
  18. Lastly, brush the top with the butter, and sift the remaining 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar over the top of the loaf.
  19. Roll the entire loaf in sugar once more so that it resembles a giant powdered sugar donut. (I skipped this step and my loaf had plenty of sugar.)
  20. Carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving, touching up the loaf with a quick sifting of sugar as needed.

Swedish Spice Cookies (Muskotsnittar)

These buttery spice cookies may be the closest I’ve come to replicating my favorite Biscoff cookies. They were especially wonderful warm. Known as Muskotsnittar in Sweden, or nutmeg slices, they are also very easy to make. Freshly ground nutmeg is essential.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart, via Martha Bakes on PBS. I weighed the flour, refrigerated the dough, modified the baking time, and trimmed the edges after baking. Yum.

Yield: Makes about 48 cookies

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts & Raisins

One of my mom’s best friends shared her recipe for this special pumpkin bread with me. I first tried it last year over the holidays and absolutely loved it. She recommended using olive oil and whole wheat flour. I used olive oil and half whole wheat pastry flour this time. 🙂 It was incredibly moist and delicious.

I made one loaf in a standard loaf pan and the other in my new Nordic Ware fluted loaf pan to make it that much more special. I froze the special loaf to serve over Thanksgiving weekend. I love recipes that make one batch to enjoy right away and another for later- or to share.

Yield: 2 standard loaves

  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 15 to 16 oz can pumpkin purée (about 2 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl with a spout.
  4. Blend in the oil and water.
  5. Add and whisk in the pumpkin purée.
  6. In a separate large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
  7. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; whisk to combine.
  8. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin-egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
  9. Fold in the nuts and raisins.
  10. Using a ladle, disperse the batter between the two loaf pans.
  11. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests clean in the center. (I baked mine for 62 minutes on convection.)
  12. Cool on a rack in the pans; remove when cool.

Perfect Apple Pie

This pie is Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen’s updated Perfect Apple Pie to her “Even More Perfect Apple Pie.” I had to try it because the filling is loaded with an enormous amount of apples. Yum.

She introduced me to a new technique which I was very surprised to have never seen before or thought of myself! She covers the pie with a foil dome to prevent the crust from over-browning. Absolute genius.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. The updated pie recipe modifies the baking temperature and cooking time, increases volume of apples (with a link on how to choose pie apples), decreases the thickness of the apple slices, omits the lemon juice and zest, and uses tapioca as the thickener.

The incredible mound of apple filling keeps the finished pie from becoming concave after baking. Beautiful and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 12

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, or about 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 pounds baking apples (I used a combination of several types of apples)
  • 3 T tapioca flour or starch (I used minute tapioca)

For the Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
  • 1 T (15 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, optional
  • coarse or raw sugar for sprinkling, optional

To Serve:

  • vanilla ice cream, optional

Make the Filling:

  1. Combine sugars, salt, and spices in your absolutely largest bowl.
  2. Peel, halve, and core your apples and cut them into thin (scant 1/4-inch) slices, adding them right to the big bowl.
  3. Toss to coat the slices as much as possible. Set aside for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Make the Crust:

  1. Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside.
  2. In a large, very wide bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. (If the butter becomes slightly warm, re-refrigerate until very cold.)
  4. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly.
  5. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop- even if it looks uneven.
  6. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together.
  7. Add an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, one tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and use your hands to gather the damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk.
  9. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out. (I make my dough a day in advance.)
  10. Once the dough is chilled and ready to go, roll out the first half on a well-floured counter into a 14-inch circle and transfer it to 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate.
  11. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim overhang to one inch all around. Refrigerate dish and dough until needed.
  12. For a regular pie lid, roll out the second dough half into the same sized circle, transfer it to a large parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. For a lattice or woven pie lid, you can use the same sized circle, or you can just roll it into a rectangle at least 14″ in one direction, and then as long or wide you can get it in the other. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. (I made a 10-piece lattice top.)

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

To Make the Pie:

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Stir tapioca starch into the apple pie filling.
  3. Pour filling into prepared bottom crust and use your hands to pack and heap those softened apples as mounded as you can get them, then add a few more.
  4. Pour any juices that have accumulated carefully over apples; do not leave any behind.
  5. Either place your second pie dough round over the filling or cut it into strips to lattice the top.
  6. Trim the top crust or lattice strips to the edge of the pie dish. Fold the overhang from the lower crust over to form a thick rim, and crimp it together with your fingers or a fork to seal it.
  7. Brush top crust with egg, then sprinkle with sugar if desired. If your top crust is in one piece, cut a few vents in it with a sharp knife.
  8. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the large baking sheet for easier cleanup, then transfer your prepared pie onto it.
  9. Bake for 75 minutes, turning once or twice for even color. If your pie is browning too fast, take a large square of foil, mold it over the back of a large bowl into a convex dome, then use that to cover the pie in the oven for the remaining baking time so it doesn’t brown much further. The pie is done when juices are bubbling visibly through the vents or lattice, or when the internal temperature reads 195°F. A tester inserted into the pie shouldn’t hit any overtly crunchy apple pieces. (I added an additional 10 minutes to the baking time t achieve the 195°F internal temperature.)

To Serve: Cool pie for at least one hour at room temperature before cutting into it. However, your filling will not fully thicken until it has fully cooled, ideally in the fridge for a couple hours. You can rewarm slices as you serve them, if desired. Leftovers keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, and in the fridge for 1 week. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Spiced Zucchini-Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

To say that this wonderful summer cake was moist would be the understatement. 😉 What a fabulous use for zucchini! Everyone has an extra zucchini and ultra-ripe bananas this time of year too.

This recipe was adapted from Nancy-c.com. I incorporated light brown sugar and whole wheat pastry flour and decreased the nutmeg. I also added salt and vanilla to the frosting. This cake was even better the next day. Fabulous.

Yield: one 9×13 cake, about 12 to 16 servings

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large or extra-large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan, line with parchment paper, grease again. (I used cooking oil spray.) Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  4. Add in egg and vanilla, then stir in mashed bananas and blend everything well.
  5. In medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
  6. Add flour mixture to butter-sugar-banana mixture. Blend until combined.
  7. Fold in zucchini and mix until incorporated.
  8. Pour batter into prepared 9 x 13″ pan and bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes, or until edges brown and pull from sides.
  9. Let bars cool completely, then frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese or light cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or medium bowl, blend softened cream cheese and softened butter.
  2. Mix in salt and vanilla until well combined.
  3. Add in powdered sugar a cup at a time, blending well after each addition, scraping down the sides, as needed.
  4. Spread evenly over completely cooled bars, then cut and serve.

Note: If serving later, keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftover cake.

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