Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles

It’s strawberry season! And you know what that means! Yes, it means delectably juicy and flavorful strawberries… but it also inevitably means slightly-past-their prime berries that are going mushy, or never-quite-ripened berries that sneaked their way into your box. This recipe turns those berries into pure summer perfection. Plus, it has yogurt in it, so you can claim that it’s healthy…

I based these strawberry yogurt popsicles on a strawberry frozen yogurt recipe I fell in love with from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, which is full of fabulous recipes. It’s a fantastic fruity frozen yogurt– full of bright strawberry flavor with none of the heaviness of regular ice cream. There’s so much fruit in it, it’s practically a sorbet. But I really didn’t feel like waiting to freeze my ice cream maker insert for 24 hours before I could use my fast-ripening berries, so I decided to just make the mix and freeze it in popsicle molds instead.

It was perfect. Ordinarily the churning action lightens the yogurt and makes it soft and scoopable, but frozen in molds it turned out to make the perfect popsicle texture– icy and firm, but still bite-able. And of course, that summery strawberry flavor still comes through perfectly. I’m betting you could make these with frozen strawberries just as well, if you’re looking for a taste of summer when it’s not the height of strawberry season. Enjoy!

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Carrot Cake Ice Cream

Oooh, this is good, you guys. Really good. I swear, I’ve been looking for a good carrot cake ice cream for ages, and I’ve tried it at a bunch of excellent ice cream parlors, but this is definitely the best one I have EVER had. It starts with my carrot cake jam (which I really can’t get enough of, in case you couldn’t tell), which gets swirled generously into a no-churn ice cream that tastes like frozen cream cheese frosting. Add in a generous handful of graham cracker crumbs (you could add nuts as well), and you have a sinfully delicious scoop of creamy, gooey-chewy (that’s a word, right?), carrot cake-y goodness.

Once you’ve made the jam, this recipe takes almost no time at all to come together, and I guarantee it’s worth the effort. I’m already plotting when I can make my next batch, because I’m already reaching the bottom of the container on this one and can’t stand the thought of running out!

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Carrot Cake Macarons

So, having made (and loved) my carrot cake jam, it was time to make macarons! They turned out absolutely delicious– the macaron shell was just “cakey” enough to really evoke carrot cake, with the almonds lending a nutty background. The filling combination– carrot jam and cream cheese frosting– was perfectly sweet and tangy at the same time. I know I say this a lot, but these may be a new favorite macaron recipe!

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Hong Kong Style Egg Tarts

Going out for dim sum as a kid, we would always get egg tarts for dessert. They were my dad’s favorite, and since they came three to a plate I would sometimes split one just for the sake of having something sweet to finish off the meal. Back then I leaned more towards chocolate desserts, but as I’ve grown up my tastes have gotten more diverse, and I’ve learned to appreciate a flaky crust filled with smooth, silken custard– and I’m betting that if my dad ever gets to taste these, he’ll like them even better than the ones in the restaurant.

I admit that making a fully-laminated dough for the crust is a bit labor-intensive– certainly more so than simply making a flaky pie crust or a melted-butter tart crust– but the crust is one of the distinctive elements that makes these tarts a classic.

I actually made two different crust recipes, just to see which one I liked better, and while I’m only 95% sure that I noted the correct recipe to use here (oops!) they were both pretty tasty, so I’m comfortable giving you this one. It was a little tough to roll out but the flaky layers were perfectly crispy.

I used foil tart pans (these were perfectly sized), but you could probably use a regular muffin pan if you were so inclined. There’s enough butter in the dough that I wouldn’t worry too much about sticking.

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Crispy Almond Cookies

For Lunar New Year this year, I decided to try my hand at making some childhood favorite recipes– in this case, almond cookies. Honestly, store-bought almond cookies were never my favorite– I remember them mostly being vaguely sandy and shortbread-y and only slightly almond flavored– but nostalgia compelled me to try making my own. And I’m so glad I did!

These almond cookies are crisp and buttery, melting away in your mouth and leaving behind a distinctive almond flavor (okay, that’s almond extract). I think I might try an egg-yolk-only wash on top next time for an extra-golden color, but aside from that they’re perfect. Also in their favor is the fact that you don’t need to soften your butter ahead of time, though chilling the dough is still necessary. And the shaping and decorating process is something the whole family can get involved in!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Pumpkin Pasties

To continue the Harry Potter theme, I baked up a quick batch of pumpkin pasties– basically mini hand-pies filled with spiced pumpkin purée. Previously when I’ve made pumpkin-filled desserts I have gone to the trouble of baking a pumpkin custard, basically a pumpkin pie filling, and then scooping it into whatever I’m filling (phyllo triangles, for example), but I was in a bit of a hurry with this one and it ended up tasting just fine, so I’ll give you the recipe as-is.

Not too sweet, these two-bite desserts have a nicely spiced filling and sparkle with coarse sugar on top. I actually like them better cold than hot– the pumpkin flavor seems to come through better that way– but they’re tasty either way!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Mini Treacle Tarts

In yet another dessert for my daughter’s Hogwarts birthday party, I decided to make miniature treacle tarts– treacle tarts are not only quintessentially British, but the first dessert that Harry eats at Hogwarts!

A moment later the desserts appeared. Blocks of ice cream in every flavor you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding…
As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned to their families.

-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

These are made with a pate sucrée crust and a slightly non-standard filling– the recipe I used had a bit more cream in it than most other recipes I saw later (oops!), which I expect made it less gooey and more custardy in texture than is usual. Also I did have extra filling, which I baked in two small ramekins and enjoyed later with berries on top. Enjoy!

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Candy Melt “Wax” Seals

I’ve always loved the old-timey look of envelopes sealed with wax and stamped with a crest– they just look so important and mysterious at the same time. And while I’ve never had a reason to send a letter in such an envelope, an opportunity arose when my daughter decided to have a Harry Potter-themed birthday party.

As you may remember, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry receives a letter (many letters) from Hogwarts regarding his acceptance, and in the movie those letters are sealed with red wax.

Harry Potter, Star Wars and Jurassic Park - rare film and TV memorabilia  going up for auction in the UK next month - Radio Times

While our party invitations weren’t paper invitations, we did have a Hogwarts seal (included in a fancy quill pen set she got for Christmas), and I was determined to use it. The solution: Cookies!

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Pink Peppercorn Shortbread

Shortbread is one of those cookies that (if you’re anything like me) you grow up thinking of as a basic, boring cookie– one that will do in a pinch, but which can be abandoned at will in favor of something more exciting. Something with chocolate, or nuts, or really anything other than plain old shortbread.

I was so wrong.

A good shortbread is a masterpiece of simplicity, showcasing butter and sugar and (if you have it) really good vanilla extract. It can be easily made in a 1-2-3 ratio of sugar-butter-flour (by weight), and it keeps nicely for what seems like forever.

But you know me, I can never help but gild the lily. I do appreciate a plain shortbread now, I promise, but can you blame me for wanting to give people a little surprise when they bite into it? Enter the pink peppercorn. You may remember my using it in a raspberry-rose-peppercorn layer cake (which was excellent), but the first time I ever used it was in pink peppercorn shortbread, and that was when I fell in love. The floral spiciness is just unbeatable, and the simplicity of shortbread is ideal for showing it off.

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Lebkuchen/Dominosteine

A few Christmases ago, my family and I spent an amazing week in Germany to take advantage of the outdoor Christmas markets– we had a fantastic time, indulging in innumerable sausages and mugs of mulled wine, and of course the traditional lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies). That being said, the traditional recipe wasn’t my favorite– the cookies were somewhat dry, and the flavor profile seemed to be missing something, at least to my American palate. I much preferred the less traditional confection that was being billed by one seller as “lebkuchen,” but which had a lot more “oomph” to it, being sandwiched with jam and marzipan, and coated in chocolate. I found out later that these were not technically lebkuchen, but were actually “Dominosteine,” which were popularized in the 1930s and which are basically gingerbread petits fours.

In any event, whatever they’re called they’re delicious– this recipe keeps the slightly dry lebkuchen layer (it moistens over time), but instead of sandwiching the jam and marzipan between two cookie layers, they’re both layered on top. I also simplified the process by dispensing with the whole “dipping in chocolate” step and simply using the chocolate as a thin top layer. The finished product is spicy, sweet, and Christmas-y– just tasting it takes me back to that lovely Christmas in Germany!

The recipe makes an entire 13×17″ half-sheet pan worth of cookies, which is a LOT when you’re cutting them into small squares, but which makes these perfect for gift-giving!

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