Bien Cuit Shortbread

I have wanted to make these cookies for quite a while but they require advance planning!

According to Food 52, this is the “World’s Best Shortbread” and is no longer available for purchase from the original source, Bien Cuit in Brooklyn. Fortunately, they were able to get the recipe and share it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Food 52.com, contributed by Amanda Hesser. I modified the method as well as the baking time for a convection oven. They were incredibly flaky and minimally sweet.

Yield: 32 cookies

  • 302 grams unsalted butter (about 22.5 tablespoons)
  • 93 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 3.5 grams kosher salt (scant teaspoon)
  • 302 grams all-purpose flour
  • about 2 T granulated or raw sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Cut the cold butter into cubes and reserve at room temperature to temper slightly.
  2. Line a 13×9-inch rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and flour for a few seconds to combine.
  4. Add the cubed butter and mix on low speed until a smooth dough is formed and butter is fully incorporated. At first, the dough will look extremely flaky and dry; let it keep mixing and it will eventually come together into a dough.
  5. Distribute the dough in the baking sheet and spread it evenly to the corners. I covered the dough with plastic wrap, removed it from the pan using the parchment paper, and rolled it 3/8-inch thick with a rolling pin. After placing it back in the pan, I trimmed the edges and used the excess dough to redistribute it to the empty areas. I re-rolled the dough 3/8-inch thick.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. The next day, heat the oven to 300°F, preferably on convection.
  8. Dock the dough every inch or so with a fork.
  9. Bake until the shortbread is golden brown, 55-75 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. (I baked mine for 55 minutes on convection but may consider allowing them to brown further next time!)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with sugar and let cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the shortbread onto a cutting board, trim the edges, if desired. Slice into 3-inch x 1-inch slices.
  12. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Belgian Spice Cookies (Speculoos)

I am mildly obsessed with Biscoff cookies. They are my absolute favorite store-bought cookies (Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies are a close second…) When my friend shared this version from America’s Test Kitchen, I knew that I had to include them in my Christmas cookie assortment this year. I doubled the recipe. 😉

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen via wskg.org.  I rolled out the dough and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. I also froze the cut dough prior to baking to help it maintain its cut shape. I weighed the flour and sugar and used freshly ground spices.

These cookies have the ultimate crispy texture. My husband thought that they had more cardamom than the store-bought version, possibly because I used freshly ground cardamom, but I thought that they were perfect. 🙂 Yum!

Yield: 32 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) turbinado sugar (see note)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 1 large egg
  1. Separately, grind cloves and cardamom in a spice grinder.
  2. Whisk flour, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.
  3. Using pencil and ruler, draw 10 by 12-inch rectangle in center of each of 2 large sheets of parchment paper, crisscrossing lines at corners. (Use crisscrosses to help line up top and bottom sheets as dough is rolled.)
  4. Process sugar in food processor for 30 seconds (some grains will be smaller than granulated sugar; others will be larger).
  5. Add butter and process until uniform mass forms and no large pieces of butter are visible, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Add egg and process until smooth and paste-like, about 10 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  7. Add flour mixture and process until no dry flour remains but mixture remains crumbly, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  8. Transfer dough to bowl and knead gently with spatula until uniform and smooth, about 10 seconds.
  9. Place 1 piece of parchment on counter with pencil side facing down (you should be able to see rectangle through paper).
  10. Place dough in center of marked rectangle and press into 6 by 9-inch rectangle. Place second sheet of parchment over dough, with pencil side facing up, so dough is in center of marked rectangle. Using pencil marks as guide, use rolling pin and bench scraper to shape dough into 10 by 12-inch rectangle of even thickness, about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. (If the dough spreads beyond the rectangle, trim it and use the scraps to fill in the corners; then, replace the parchment and continue to roll.)
  11. Transfer dough with parchment to rimmed baking sheet.
  12. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 1 1/2 hours (or freeze for 30 minutes). (Rolled dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.)(I refrigerated it overnight.)
  13. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower‑middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees, preferably on convection.
  14. Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment. Transfer chilled dough to counter. Gently peel off top layer of parchment from dough.
  15. Using fluted pastry wheel (or sharp knife or pizza cutter) and ruler, trim off rounded edges of dough that extend over marked edges of 10 by 12-inch rectangle.
  16. Cut dough lengthwise into 8 equal strips about 1¼ inches wide. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 equal pieces about 3 inches long.
  17. Freeze cut dough until firm, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  18. Transfer cookies to prepared sheets, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart.
  19. Bake until cookies are lightly and evenly browned, 30 to 32 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
  20. Let cookies cool completely on sheets, about 20 minutes. Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Note: If you can’t find Sugar in the Raw, use 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 ounces) of packed light brown sugar and skip the sugar grinding step.

* Do not use cookie molds or an embossed rolling pin for the speculoos; they will not hold decorations.*

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

This is another Smitten Kitchen recipe that I couldn’t resist trying. I love baked goods that incorporate whole wheat flour and this one also includes oat bran and old-fashioned rolled oats. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I modified the size and baking time and refrigerated the rationed dough overnight.

Yield: about 20 (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookies or 10 (3 tablespoon) cookies

  • 4 T (50 g) raw or turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 g) dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour) or medium rye flour
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) oat bran, wheat germ, wheat bran, or finely chopped nuts (such as walnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups (120 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • flaky sea salt, optional
  1. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, and salt together until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add egg and vanilla; beat until mixed.
  3. Sprinkle baking powder and baking soda over the batter and beat until very well-combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  4. Scrape the bowl down and add the flour, oat bran (or another option), oats, and chocolate; mix just until the flour disappears.
  5. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon or 3 tablespoon cookie scoop, ration the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Arrange the mounds of dough 2 inches apart for smaller scoops or 3 inches apart for larger scoops on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with a couple flakes of sea salt.
  8. Bake 1 1/2 tablespoon cookies for about 10 minutes and 3 tablespoon cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, or until golden brown all over.
  9. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Note: Extra dough will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and longer in the freezer. Freeze rationed scoops of dough on a tray and transfer to a freezer bag when solid. If baking frozen scoops of dough, add 1 to 2 minutes to the baking time.

Strawberry Ricotta Muffins

When I saw these strawberry muffins, I knew that they would be a perfect addition to my tried and true strawberry recipes. They were very tender and minimally sweet- a perfect summer breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch, via Cooking with Aunt Juju.com. I incorporated whole wheat flour and modified the topping. The recipe also included a ricotta glaze for the topping which would also be a tasty option (see link above). Nice.

Yield: 16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups diced fresh strawberries
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray 16 regular muffin wells with cooking spray or use liners.
  3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the ricotta cheese until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs, milk and lemon zest or juice; whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the oil and vanilla and stir until combined.
  7. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula; gently fold in the strawberries.
  8. Divide the batter among the 16 prepared wells, filling about three-fourths full.
  9. Sprinkle the top of the batter in each well with turbinado sugar.
  10. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (mine were ready in about 17 minutes.)
  11. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes; remove. Finish cooling on the racks.

Baker’s Banana-Nut Bread

Yes! Another sourdough recipe- all so good! I love that this recipe combines two of the most popular items to bake during this period of self-isolation- sourdough and banana bread. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from theperfectloaf.com. I incorporated whole wheat flour, added turbinado sugar to the topping, and baked the loaf in a Pullman loaf pan, adjusting the baking time accordingly. I loved that this version included olive oil for moisture and honey for sweetness. Lovely.

We ate it as-is, but the original recipe recommends spreading full-fat Greek yogurt over the top of each slice.

Yield: One standard or Pullman loaf

  • 240g (2 cups) spelt, whole wheat, all-purpose flour, or a mix
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt
  • 125g (1 cup) chopped walnuts or pecans, divided
  • 126g(1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g (3/4 cup, stirred down) sourdough starter
  • 42g (2 tablespoons) raw honey
  • 3 super ripe medium mashed bananas (almost black and mushy)
  • 28g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • 4g (1 teaspoon) vanilla
  • zest of 1 lemon, optional
  • turbinado sugar, for topping, optional
  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan or Pullman loaf pan with cooking oil spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, mix a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans and a teaspoon or two of turbinado sugar. Set aside to be used as the topping later.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time. While mixing, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Add in sourdough starter, honey, mashed bananas, and olive oil.
  8. Add in the vanilla.
  9. Add the flour mixture slowly, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary.
  10. By hand, fold in the remaining walnuts or pecans and lemon zest.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  12. Sprinkle on the reserved chopped nuts and sugar.
  13. Bake for 45-50 minutes in a Pullman loaf pan or 55-65 minutes in a standard loaf pan. (It’s better to undercook this than overcook: you want it moist.)
  14. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then gently remove onto a wire rack to thoroughly cool.

Note: This banana bread will stay moist for days after baking, but be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container to prevent moisture loss.

Sourdough Muffins: Oatmeal Raisin & Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon

I love making muffins with my sourdough starter discard. Both of these muffins were very wholesome, minimally sweet, and had a wonderful crumb/texture. I incorporated whole wheat flour into both varieties and also sprinkled the top with cinnamon sugar prior to baking. I think that the sweetness on top was an essential addition.

The Oatmeal Raisin Muffin recipe was adapted from Food.com, contributed by Yankiwi. I weighed the ingredients, incorporated whole wheat flour and cinnamon in the batter, and sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar prior to baking. I also reduced the baking time for a convection oven.

Sourdough Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 90 g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 113 g (1/2 cup) sourdough starter, unfed
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 57 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (see Note)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C), preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine rolled oats and milk. Set aside to soak.
  3. Grease 12 muffin cups; set aside. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  4. Stir sourdough starter, oil, egg and raisins into soaked oats; set aside.
  5. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar.
  6. Add oats mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened; don’t over mix.
  7. Divide batter among the 12 cups. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  8. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
  9. Bake in preheated oven 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove promptly from muffin cups.
  10. Can be served hot or cold.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Apple Cinnamon Muffins

The Whole Wheat Sourdough Apple Cinnamon Muffin recipe was adapted from tastykitchen.com, contributed by baking barrister. I weighed the ingredients, added salt, incorporated brown sugar and reduced the total amount of sugar by half, modified the proportions and baking time, and used a Pink Lady apple. They were very moist and tasty.

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 170 g (3/4 cup) sourdough starter, unfed
  • 113 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch chunks (I used a Pink Lady apple)
  • cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (see Note)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, preferably on convection.
  2. Thoroughly mix the starter, flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, egg, vanilla extract, and oil.
  3. Fold in the apple chunks.
  4. Using cooking oil spray, generously grease a muffin tin.
  5. Divide batter among the 12 cups. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 17 to 24 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test. Promptly remove from muffin cups.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. Let cool completely before storing.

Note: I usually have leftover cinnamon sugar in my kitchen. Proportions vary, but 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon is a nice start. More sugar can be added to taste.

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.

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