blueberry walnut mini pie

8.11.2019

This is the story of a last minute dessert. A dessert with the best of intentions that went from idea .... to failure... to success. Dare I say, an even better success than it would have been it everything had worked out.

I invited my friend Ann over on Saturday for dinner. I lured her over with the promise of fresh buratta and garden tomatoes. Since that did not feel like enough of a meal, I wanted to "whip up" a dessert real quick. Although I have a healthy stash of ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, I kind of wanted to show Ann a good time. Not a "do you want mint chip or funfetti frozen yogurt ice cream bar?" time.

I've made galettes several times before and they've been incredibly easy. The first time I made one, I also made my own ice cream. The most "complicated" part is making a pie dough but if that stresses you out, you can just buy a pre-made crust. But when I was grabbing some last minute prosciutto at the store, I didn't think it was necessary to grab an emergency pie crust. Silly me.

So what happened? I think the dough just didn't get enough time to set in the fridge. As soon as I started to roll it out it was too soft and started to break apart. I quickly pivoted and grabbed my ramekins and made mini pies. They came out so great. 

A few things:
  • This dough is next level delicious. The combination of cinnamon and walnuts with blueberries is amazing.
  • Make sure you top the crust with ample sugar. This isn't the place to cut back in life. You are already eating pie.
  • You are nuts if you serve this without ice cream or whip cream. It is borderline required. I grabbed some cool whip to keep life easy. 
Here's how it goes.
Dough
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–15 minutes; let cool. Pulse nuts in a food processor until the consistency of coarse meal. 
  2. Add flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse just to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
  3. With the food processor running, drizzle up to 4 Tbsp. ice water and mix, adding another tablespoonful of water if needed, just until mixture comes together. 
  4. Gently pat dough into a 6"-diameter disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.
  5. NOTE: Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month.
Filling and Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Toss blueberries, cornstarch, lemon juice, and ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured to just about a 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.
  3. Depending on your interest in precision, you can either cut a circle of dough for your ramekin or just piece it together with your hands. Either way, grease your ramekins and then fill the bottom of your ramekins with dough. 
  4. Cook ramekins in the oven for about 15 minutes until the dough begins to puff up a bit. 
  5. Fill each ramekin with the blueberry mixture and then top with more of the dough. 
  6. Brush dough with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Bake until crust is dark golden brown and filling is bubbling, 40–50 minutes. Let cool before serving.
  8. NOTE: Mini pies can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Shopping List
Dough
½ cup walnuts
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces

Filling12 ounces blueberries (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
All-purpose flour (for surface)
2 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream

matcha coconut macarons

7.31.2019

Did I paint my nails just for this picture? Yes. Did I paint just the left hand? Also yes. How long did it take for me to paint the right hand? 48 hours. I've been this way for years. It either takes me an hour to do my nails... or days. Or I never finish and I just start over again with fresh polish.

But back to the macarons. I bought matcha back in December for these cookie swap cookies. It's a really unique flavor profile. If someone tells you they don't like matcha, I feel like they are being picky. Matcha absolutely has *some flavor* but its also like *no flavor* at the same time. I came across a recipe for mango coconut macaron ... which sounded great. But I didn't have any mango and it felt like a lot of work. I did have matcha and the flavors matched up well. Like I said, matcha isn't that strong of a flavor in general. Or I have low bar matcha. That could also be true.

A few notes about this recipe / attempt:
- I don't think it is advisable to attempt macarons in a heat wave. The humidity and dew point were off the charts. I feel like that is why I didn't get a good rise out of the macaron shells. I did however get some great feet. I remembered to whack the cookie sheet against the counter.
- I feel like I've had a tendency to undercook the shells a little bit compared to prior macaron trials. I need to be more patient and less worried about a tiny bit of browning on the shells. 
- The other possibility? I got tired when I was making the batter. I might not have smoothed it out well enough.... but honestly the batter did look great when I piped it onto the pans.
 
Also.... with the amount of homemade piping bags I've conjured recently from ziplock bags... I might deserve to buy some real ones. This feels like it might be more work than its worth - but I feel like these hacky solutions are leading to hacky results. There is also the chance that I'm always going to be terrible at frosting cakes. That is highly likely. Like 95% likely. 
  1. Set your oven to 375 F
  2. Combine your almond flour and powdered sugar in a flour sifter and sift until you have a nice, pretty pile. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat your egg whites with an electric mixer until nice and foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar until they develop stiff, glossy peaks. I added my sugar in 1 tablespoon at a time. If you think your egg whites are stiff enough, they probably aren't. Keep going. One blog I read said you should be able to flip your bowl upside down ... I make enough of mess in the kitchen without doing this step, but you get the idea.
  4. Add coconut extract and mix gently. If the mixture gets a little less stiff, just toss that mixer on again for a jiffy.
  5. After the meringue is stiff and glossy, you essentially get to mix it all up again - but none of that "folding in the egg whites" business. This is straight mixing folks. Add about half of the flour/sugar mixture and stir with your spatula until mixed. Then, add the rest and stir again.
  6. This is now a "crucial" part in the macaron process.... you need to stir until the mixture is even and smooth. A smooth mixer makes for good meringues and that is what this is all about folks. What you do is spread the batter against the sides of the bowl, then flip it back into the middle, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat times 15 or so times. Just like the flour sifting process, I thought this would be all phony and silly and not worth it, I was wrong. You can see the difference in the batter. Add in food coloring until you get the shade of green you'd like.
  7. Fill your "pastry" bag with the batter and squeeze it out gently into small circles on your parchment lined baking sheet. Note: the batter will settle a bit so, don't worry too too much about having a "tip" in the middle of your circle. Just try and keep your circles in similar small sized circles - about 1.5-2 inches.
  8. After you have filled you pan with little circles, whack the sheet against the counter several times. According to the post I read, "This will set the pied or little pastry lip at the base of the cookie (an essential for an authentic macaron)." Now, set the tray aside for 30 minutes to dry. You'll know they are dry when you tap the surface of the circle and it does not stick to your finger.
  9. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn the sheet so that the front-facing macarons are now towards the back of the oven for an even bake. If after 14 minutes, they are still super-soft, reduce heat to 325°, cover in aluminum foil and bake for 2 more minutes. Watch them carefully.
  10. When the macarons are done baking, take them out of the oven and let sit until cool. When they are cool, they'll pop right off the parchment but they won't before then.
  11. Fill a new pastry bag with the filling and create about 1/2 inch dot on one macaron cookie, then sandwich another on top. Be careful not to squeeze the filling out on the sides.
  12. That's it. Now eat them... and store them in the fridge.
Making the Filling
  1. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, cream butter on high speed until light and smooth (about 5 minutes).
  2. Reduce the speed to low and add powdered sugar. Mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add lime juice, zest, tequila and salt and mix on high speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
Shopping List
2/3 cup almond meal/flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
3 egg whites
5 tablespoons of white, granulated sugar
1 tablespoon matcha powder

Filling
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut extract

Other macaroon recipes I've tried: margaritaraspberry with coconut fillingstandard, and these award winning Christmas cookie variety.

blackberry lime cake

7.29.2019

I've had this cake on my list for most of the summer. And sweet lord, it is good. It also has like a whole lot more steps than I normally take on. But, the minute I tasted this frosting I knew it was all worth it. I have literally never tasted anything so light and airy in my life. Pure heaven.

Candidly, I made this cake for a casual family gathering. My birthday. I know it's not something normally accepted for a birthday girl to make her own cake - but it is what I wanted. And what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets. So my parents don't get shamed for this, here is text message evidence of the initial decline when I asked to make the cake.
Here are a few things to know about this cake:
  • Blackberry Compote // you can use frozen berries. My grocery store didn't have fresh blackberries in-stock and we all lived after eating this cake. No big deal.
  • Lime Cake // the current flavor profile is subtle. My aunt didn't even take note of the lime flavoring. If you want more of a boost, add in maybe the zest of two limes instead of one.
  • Cake layers // The original recipe called for 3 eight inch round layers. I'm still really loving my 7 inch round pans. This resulted in a 4-layer cake versus 3-layers. Not that big of a deal. When the batter is completed mixed you end up with 6 cups before dividing it between the pans.
  • Weird layers // I'm not totally sure what happened but my first two layers that I cooked didn't have a great formation on the edges of the pan. For the last two, I had run out of parchment paper (doh!) and ended up just spraying and flouring the pan. They came out the best. But if you aren't using a spring form pan, you absolutely should have parchment paper. No questions.

Make the Blackberry Lime Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour your round pans. Line with parchment paper circles.
  2. In a small bowl, combine milk and lime juice. Stir to combine and set aside for milk to curdle. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment. Beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each egg.
  5. Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and lime zest. 
  7. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and the mixer blade.
  8. Divide batter evenly between the round pans.
  9. Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool in pans for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.
Make the Blackberry Reduction:
  1. Combine blackberries, sugar and lime juice in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until the juices are bubbly and the berries are soft enough to smash with the back of a spoon.
  3. Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl to remove the seeds. Use the back of your wooden spoon to really press as much pulp through as you can. Scrape the underside of the strainer to get all of the accumulated blackberry pulp. Discard seeds and return strained puree back to the pan.
  4. Cook on medium, stirring with a wooden spoon, until reduced to only a few tablespoons, about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to cool.
Make the Blackberry Buttercream:
  1. Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.
  2. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
  3. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
  5. Whip on medium-high until silky and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add blackberry reduction and whip again until incorporated. The buttercream may look like it’s broken at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
Assemble the Cake:
  1. Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand and top with about one cup of blackberry frosting.
  2. Repeat with second cake layer, more frosting and then last layer of cake. Crumb coat and frost cake with remaining frosting.
Shopping List
Blackberry Lime Cake:3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lime zest
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup lime juice
8 ounces butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Blackberry Reduction:12 ounces blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Blackberry Buttercream:6 egg whites
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups butter, softened
3 tablespoons blackberry reduction

red velvet spark cake

7.07.2019


Yes, I made up this cake name. Yes, it is perfect for any firework related holiday but really perfect for the 4th of July. Or perhaps a child's birthday? Either way, I have a lot of excess pop rocks and I'd like to find a new home for them preferably outside of my house.

The idea here is a simple sheet cake with a little bit of pizazz. The end result was a very tasty, fresh cake that took very little effort to pull together. I can imagine it being good for someone baking with kids. I was drawn to the original recipe because of the blue stripes... for which I got absolutely none of that. In the recipe's defense, I did cut back on the food coloring by about 50% but I'm not sure it would have made that big of a difference.

A few notes:
  • too much pudding // the initial recipe called for 3 boxes of instant pudding... which I dutifully made and used. It was a bit obscene. I had a pudding layer about an inch thick on top of the cake. After it had firmed up I scraped most of it off to leave just a thin layer of the white chocolate pudding on the top. In the ingredients below, I have cut it back to 2 boxes as a result.
  • whipped topping on the side // I would leave the whipped topping on the side for serving as opposed to frosting the whole cake in advance. This feels like a better approach especially if you anticipate leftovers.
  • I lined the whole pan with parchment paper. I had a vision of serving this cake on a plater and not in the original pan. The vision did not pan out :-). Just accept this cake for what it is. A nice and easy sheet cake. Just grease the pan, no parchment needed.
My pictures of this recipe are pretty much crap. I honestly didn't try that hard. I just wanted to eat that cake and not search for good angles. It is hard to find good angles on a sheet cake. Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding cocoa powder, red food color and vanilla. Pour batter into greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  2. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan.
  3. Poke large holes all over cake using the end of a wooden spoon. 
  4. After holes are made, mix milk, and blue food color in large bowl. 
  5. Add pudding mix; stir just until mixture begins to thicken. Immediately pour pudding over cake, filling the holes.
Shopping List
1 package (2-layer size) white cake mix (plus ingredients needed to bake)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups milk
30 drops Blue food coloring
2 packages (4-serving size each) white chocolate instant pudding mix
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 package Strawberry Pop Rocks® popping candy

chocolate mud cake

 
Have you ever eaten a good, fudgy brownie ... and been like why can't this be a whole cake? If so, this is the cake for you. It is like a cake make out of just the middle fudgy part of the brownie. Not the crust not the bottom, not the edges... just the fudgy middle part. It's pretty amazing.

I saw this recipe initially on the internet. The baker posted a video of her making the cake. It was captivatingly easy ... and I love that she kept calling her grandmother her "Nan". So those are the reasons I made this cake.

This is not the best logic, but I was also trying to make a "lighter" cake than the previous ones from the summer (banana cinnamon, banana hazelnut). This cake is an absolute winner. If you invite me to your house, there is a decent chance that I'll bring this with me.

A few things about this cake:

  • perfect for a "make your own" bar type event. I ate this cake with whip cream and berries.... and then again with just peanut butter... and also with nutella. It's a wonderful blank canvas.
  • I made this cake two ways. One in a 7 inch spring form pan and then the rest of the batter in a tart tin. The tart tin was almost the best. It was thin and incredibly fudgy through out. The traditional format was still good but took more than 2x as long too bake. 
  • Incredibly easy! I am terrible at melting chocolate but this cake was so easy to make. Literally anyone can do it.
  • The last step of the traditional recipe is to dust with cocoa powder. I actually didn't like this. Next time I would dust with powdered sugar.
If you are interested in the "tart" pan option, you need to watch the bake time pretty closely. I think mine was done at about 20-25 minutes. The 7 inch spring form pan was very close to an hour. It would be hard to tell you the ingredient amounts needed to just make the tart size since I just used my leftover batter, but if you were to cut the batter to 33% that might be about right. The batter does not rise very much at all so limited concern about spillover.


Here's how it goes.

  1. Preheat oven to 320ºF. Grease and line a springform cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, baking and cocoa powders into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, chocolate chips, milk and vanilla extract. Stir on medium heat until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
  4. Add to the dry ingredients alongside your eggs and sugar, and whisk until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for an hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
  6. To serve, remove from the tin and dust with additional cocoa powder.

Shopping List
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder, plus extra to serve
1 cup unsalted butter
9 ounces dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
11/2 cups castor sugar
2 eggs

lemony green bean salad

I'm going to make this quick... because green bean salad is pretty straight forward. I almost wouldn't write it up but when I was menu planning for this years 4th of July... I realized I never wrote down what I made last year. Devastating.

My formula for the 4th of July menu is always the same:
+ potato based
+ pasta based
+ bean based
+ dessert

So this is the bean dish. I try to keep the dishes to only be something that I would want to potentially eat for days. You never know what people are going to eat at a party and I hate waste. I also try to keep the ingredients affordable since we are already doing so much cooking. Out of the 4 things I made, this was one of the most affordable. Minimal number of ingredients and nothing too high class pricey.

Here's how it goes. The only real downside to this is you will get sweaty after boiling so many batches of green beans. But if you are me, you can reward yourself with an ice cream sandwich after. That makes it worth it.
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Throw in green beans for about 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  2. Blend together lemon juice, zest, olive oil and agave nectar.
  3. Combine beans with red onion and crumbled cheese. Toss with dressing. 
Shopping List
1 pound green beans
4 ounces feta
1/4 red onion, super-thinly sliced
1/4 cup your best olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tsp honey

peperonata pasta salad

7.04.2019

I will continue to stand by the principle that I only make things I wouldn't mind eating for several days. That will be the case 1000% with this pasta salad. Turns out I didn't need to double it... one batch would have been just fine.

Thankfully, this super easy pasta salad is light enough that you don't mind. Candidly, when I first saw this recipe pop up on Food52 I thought "peperonata" was going to lead me to some sausage or pepperoni. I read the recipe several times trying to figure out what I was missing. Turns out "peperonata" is just a whole ton of peppers... and more of course, but no meat. At all. Which is fine because at a BBQ with burgers and hot dogs, we will be just fine with a meat-less option.

A few notes:

  • Peppers // When you decide to make this yourself, splurge and buy more than one color of pepper. It makes cooking so beautiful. I stopped to take a picture of the skillet it was so pretty. All the peppers contrasting with the red onion? Showstopper.
  • Ratios // I tend to feel like I always want double of whatever the extra part is in a BBQ side option. Extra sauce for the beans. Extra basil for the top. And in this case, it's extra peperonata. I put the original recipe ingredients below, but know that I did probably 2 extra peppers (+ red onion, etc) in my version.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Cut the peppers into skinny matchsticks. Cut the strips in half if they’re long.
  2. In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers, onion, thyme, and salt and pepper, to taste. Saute for about 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers and onions soften. 
  3. Add the capers and cook for another minute, then add the vinegar and remove the pan from the heat.Transfer the peperonata to a separate dish or pan. 
  4. Add 1 cup of the halved cherry tomatoes so they can marinate along with the peppers and onions. 
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. 
  6. Drain the pasta and toss with the peperonata in a large bowl. 
  7. Toss in the rest of the cherry tomatoes and the mozzarella. For presentation, I like to add the basil at the end.
Shopping List
3 large sweet peppers
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small red onion (either diced or cut into same shape as peppers)
1 tablespoon minced thyme leaves
Kosher salt plus freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, divided
1 pound pasta
1 cup basil, torn into small pieces
5 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks

Roasted Garlic Potato Salad

I love a good potato salad. It can be so many things... extra creamy, extra savory, extra just about anything. There was this amazing potato salad we grew up with that had peas and bacon in it. I'm sure there were other things but I flipping love that stuff. It came as a side whenever you got a sandwich and I demolished that little dixie cup of deliciousness. Unfortunately, Mug Shots the restaurant no longer exists so I just have dream about it.
But - for this year's 4th of July party I created a potato salad that was pretty great. There is no real way you can screw up a roasted potato. I have a hard time resisting snacking on the slightly salty warm squares fresh out of the oven. 

There are a few things that could be said about this salad:
  • Arugula // Some people at the party requested more arugula. I can totally get that. So add more or less to make it fit for your crowd
  • Roasted potatoes // I like the potatoes a bit crispy but that is not the super traditional salad style. The potatoes tend to be softer in grocery store varieties. So do what fits you best... but just don't forget the garlic. It's amazing.
  • Sauce // Is sauce the right word? I'm not sure. Either way, you might want to double the mayo combo depending on how juicy you like your potato salad. Something to keep in mind.
Enjoy!
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Dice the potatoes and add to a bowl. 
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. 
  3. Mix and put on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake the potatoes for 40 minutes flipping twice during baking. 
  4. At the 20 minute mark, add the minced garlic to the pan and mix it around to cover the potatoes.
  5. Roast potatoes until they turn a nice golden brown. 
  6. Take out of the oven and allow to cool. 
  7. In a bowl combine 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. 
  8. Mix and pour over the cooled potatoes.
  9. Add arugula to the potatoes and serve.
Shopping List
1 pound small Potatoes (I like yukon gold)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 1/4 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
4 Cloves of Garlic finely chopped
4 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 bag of arugula
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