I love storebought puff pastry. It’s so easy to use, makes everything look impressive, and best of all I don’t have to deal with endless hours of rolling, chilling, and stressing over whether the butter is going to leak out in a mass exodus, leaving behind bone-dry pastry and the smell of burning fat in my oven. (which is what’s happened the last few times I tried to make it from scratch)
Anyway, it’s obviously a great thing to have in one’s freezer for occasions where a quick and fancy dessert is required, but it works just as well for less elaborate applications when all one wants is something to nibble on with tea. This is one of those times. I had an extra lemon in my fridge (leftover from my latest batch of lemon curd) and some fresh rosemary that was starting to wilt, and while looking for recipe ideas I saw one for lemon-rosemary palmiers. Well, those sounded great, as well as being incredibly easy (ingredients: puff pastry, lemon, rosemary, sugar), so I got started!
I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.
After a recent party, I found myself with half a bag of potato chips left over and no idea what to do with them. I didn’t want to just snack on them out of hand– that seemed boring and overly salty– so it seemed providential when a recipe for potato chip cookies appeared in my online feed. I’m always a fan of a sweet-salty combination, and since I had plans to bake one morning anyway I decided to take advantage of the stand mixer already on the counter and the preheated oven, to try them.
I was a little concerned about the low flour content and the lack of any leavening in this recipe, but once I tasted a cookie I was an immediate convert, as were all of my coworkers who got over their initial skepticism and tried one. These are great– crispy with a hint of chew to them, with a salty, slightly warm flavor that’s not immediately identifiable as potato chips but which people appreciate once the secret ingredient is disclosed. I’ll bet they’d also be great dipped halfway into dark chocolate…
I’ve made cream puffs on this blog before, but while they’ve been light and puffy and filled with delectable cream, they’ve never been what I would call “pretty.” I’ve come to the conclusion that my standard choux recipe is just a tad too thick– not eggy enough– and that’s making the piped choux blobs slightly irregular in shape, which translates to unevenly-puffed cream puffs. I’ve decided to adapt my recipe to add a bit more egg, and to add an extra layer of protection– a craquelin.
A craquelin topping is a circle of sugar-butter dough that you put onto the unbaked choux. As the choux bakes, the craquelin cooks over the top, expanding with the choux and creating an uneven, crunchy, sugary top that adds texture to the puff as a whole. Also, I figured that having something on top of the choux would help even out the rise in the oven.
This frosting really is fantastic– it’s light and creamy, silky and smooth, and it has a nicely chocolate-y flavor without being cloying.
Unlike my favorite Vanilla Frosting, which has a thickened flour/cornstarch base sweetened with granulated sugar, this frosting uses powdered sugar for sweetness; however, it avoids the underlying grittiness of powdered sugar frostings by dissolving the powdered sugar in a cocoa slurry made with boiling water. The result is a perfectly smooth frosting without a trace of grit– plus, the water itself cuts the butteriness of the frosting and allows it to whip up into a light and fluffy mass that’s perfect for spreading over a cake. I really just can’t say enough wonderful things about this frosting, so go ahead and make it for your next cake– I promise you won’t be sorry.
I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting holiday baking recipes– my favorites are desserts that are rich, gooey, highly decorated, or a combination of all three. However, sometimes you just want a break from the elaborate stuff and just need something deliciously simple… something you can idly nibble on between multiple courses of festive holiday food without overdoing things.
Enter the butter cookie. Basic butter cookies are amazingly versatile, and can be flavored with all sorts of things without losing their elegant simplicity. In this case I decided to go with a kick of black pepper to set them apart from the crowd. I know that black pepper isn’t exactly an original idea for holiday cookies– Swedish pepperakor are well-known– but most recipes combine pepper with other warm spices and flavors, like cinnamon and molasses. Here, the butter and vanilla background really lets the floral notes of the black pepper come through– it’s not immediately apparent, but after a moment the flavor fills your mouth and it’s nicely aromatic. The pepper flavor becomes a touch stronger as you store the cookies, so keep that in mind– I thought these were even better on the third day than when freshly baked!
You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning, with a long day of doing nothing in front of you, and you feel like having an indulgent breakfast? It doesn’t happen very often for me (at least not the “doing nothing” part), but recently I found myself with just such a day, and decided to take advantage of it. But what to make? Pancakes weren’t special enough, I didn’t have any good bread to make french toast, and we didn’t have any good omelette fillings in the fridge. I scrolled through my list of bookmarked breakfast ideas when I came across a recipe for “breakfast puffs.”
Breakfast puffs (also referred to as “french breakfast puffs” or “doughnut muffins”) are basically nutmeg-scented muffins, dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar while still warm. They supposedly taste just like warm doughnuts, but without the frying. Sounded perfect.