Black Pepper Sour Cream Rolls

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I was walking down the street around lunch time the other day and passed by a bakery/cafe– suddenly I was hit by the wonderful, buttery, unmistakable aroma of freshly-baked croissants. I had just eaten lunch so was able to resist buying one to devour right then and there, but the memory stayed with me and I was moved instead to bake something to satisfy the craving at┬ádinner that night.

I decided to go with some soft, buttery dinner rolls– there was no time for croissants, but there were enough similarities between the overall flavor profiles (butter, yeast, golden outer crust) to make them a decent substitution. And when I found a recipe┬áthat promised to have pillowy rolls ready with zero kneading and minimal rising, I knew I had to try it. The added interest of black pepper just sealed the deal.

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Cocoa Nib and Pecan Shortbread

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Slice and bake cookies are some of my favorites for gift-giving or other occasions that require large quantities of portable desserts. You can plan ahead, make a bunch of dough, shape it into cylinders (or in this case, squared-off logs), and freeze them until you’re ready– then just slice and bake!

I actually made these for last year’s holiday season, but never got around to posting about them until now. Never fear, though– these really are delicious, and they only improve with age! I got the recipe from the incomparable Alice Medrich, and her book (a must-read for any real chocolate lover) Bittersweet. It’s one of my very favorite chocolate recipe books, particularly as it gives specific instructions as to how to modify a recipe for use with different-percentage dark chocolates.

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Fluffy Scones

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Did you know that heavy cream lasts basically forever in the refrigerator? I know there’s an expiration date on there, but in my experience it almost never actually goes bad– rather, it just thickens up. And if you’re like me and accidentally leave a pint of cream in the back of the fridge for *way* too long, it keeps thickening and basically turns into clotted cream. Really. It does. At least, that’s what I discovered last night when I got out the cream to make Penne with Vodka Sauce and found lush billows of thick, decadent cream instead of my expected liquid.

I promise I’ll do a post on how to make clotted cream intentionally at some point, but for now let’s stick to the story of what I did with the unexpected bounty in my refrigerator. What goes best with clotted cream? Scones, of course.

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Easy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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** Wow, I just realized that this is my 250th post! It’s hard to believe I’ve done so much in a relatively short period of time! Thanks to all my readers, and I’m looking forward to more projects in the future!**

So I’ll admit right now that I already have a favorite recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (with salted pecans!) and that this isn’t it. However, that recipe calls for creaming butter, and some days you just don’t feel like breaking out the stand mixer, you know? And this recipe only needs you to melt the butter, which makes for chewier cookies anyway, so I decided to give it a shot.

The finished cookies were tasty– not mind-blowing, but pretty darned good. They didn’t spread out in the oven much at all, which surprised me, and the dough remained oddly dry the entire time, which was a bit odd… but they were still chock-full of chocolate and pecans, and it’s hard to go wrong with that combination. I would still prefer a cookie recipe that didn’t require chilling for 2 hours before baking (what a pain)– it’s possible that if I’d baked the dough right away I’d have gotten more spreading. I may try it the next time I have a craving for sweets.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

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Chez Panisse Almond Tart

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Out of the blue one day my husband emailed me a link to the apparently famous Chez Panisse Almond Tart. Since he rarely requests specific desserts I felt compelled to make it– also, we had a bunch of extra heavy cream left over from an earlier baking binge, so any recipe involving cream was welcome! I picked up some sliced almonds, and the rest of the ingredients were already in my pantry– always a plus.

The tart itself didn’t look too hard to make– fussy, sure, with repeated check-ins during the baking time to (weirdly) tap the surface of the tart with a spatula, but not difficult. Surprisingly for me, the crust baked up nicely with minimal shrinkage (I always have issues with that), and while I had my doubts about the filling consistency being too thin when I first poured it into the tart shell, it firmed up nicely in the oven.

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Monkey Bread

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Instead of hosting a Christmas party this year, we decided that it would be simpler and therefore more fun to host a post-Christmas brunch. For some reason a brunch just seems less stressful than a full evening party– maybe it’s the fact that the foods are easier to prepare, maybe it just seems more casual… in any case, that’s what we decided to do. Of course, “casual” doesn’t mean “starving,” so of course I had to come up with an appropriate selection of sweet and savory goodies. And one of the first things I knew I’d be making was monkey bread.

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Kitty Cookies (Slice and Bake)

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One thing to know about my daughter is that she loves cats. LOVES them. Anything that can have a cat on it, or be shaped like a cat, is bound to come out that way at some point. So when I suggested that we make cookies for a party she was invited to, she immediately declared that they would be “kitty cookies, with chocolate chips for eyes.” Fair enough, I could do that!

Since the only cat-shaped cookie cutter I have is a Halloween-style arched-back cat, I decided to make a slice-and-bake roll of dough and go a little more cartoony and do kitty faces instead. I colored the main dough pink, leaving part of it plain to use for the muzzle and the insides of the ears, and formed the two doughs into a log I could slice cookies off of. A little more work to begin with, but easier than rolling out thin and definitely quick at the end for decorating.

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