Raspberry Danish Twist - Entenmann's Style

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Entenmann’s Style Raspberry Danish Twist

Makes two danishes, or one large one


For the danish-

  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 packet (7 g) active rise yeast
  • 3 cups (450 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting or as needed
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla powder, or 1 vanilla bean (split, and seeds scraped out)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 1 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 egg yolk plus one teaspoon of water, for the egg wash

For the icing-

  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or ½ a teaspoon vanilla extract


Grease two 8 x 6 baking dishes and line with parchment paper. You can also make one large danish in a 9 x 11 baking dish.

Heat the milk until warm to the touch but not too hot, about 100°F. Add the sugar and active dry yeast to the milk, and allow the yeast to proof for 5-10 minutes. The yeast will get foamy and bubbly, if it doesn’t your milk may have been too hot or too cold and it is best to start again.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combined the flour, salt, and vanilla powder. Alternatively, you can make the dough by hand, you will just need to mix and knead for longer.

Add the milk and yeast mixture to the dough, along with the two eggs. On medium, mix until a very shaggy dough is formed. Next, with the mixer still on medium, add the room temperature butter one cube at a time; allow each piece of butter to incorporate before adding the next. Once all of the butter is incorporated, the dough will appear smoother and stickier. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 5-6 minutes, or until a soft, smooth, elastic dough is formed. It will start out looking very sticky and wet, but will ball around the dough hook towards the end. If it looks too wet and does not start forming a ball, you can add a few tablespoons of flour to help with the consistency.

Gently transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl (it will be very soft and pour out), and cover it with a damp clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until roughly doubled in size,1-2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it in half. You can make two 8 x 6 raspberry danish twists at this time, or freeze half the dough for future use (just allow it to defrost and come up to room temperature). Dust a clean surface with flour, then take one half of the dough and divide it into three equal balls. Roll each ball into a strand that is about an inch longer than the length of the baking dish, then gently twist each strand and fit them in lengthwise into the baking dish. Cover with a lightly damp clean kitchen towel, and let the dough rise again for another 15-20 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the jam to the danish. Between the 3 strands of dough, you’ll make two strips of jam, each about a ¼ cup of worth of jam, or ½ a cup per danish (if using a larger dish, simply evenly add jam between each strand). I gently nudge the stands apart, and with a spoon, fill with jam between the strands. Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until deep golden brown on top. Rotate once halfway through baking.

Once baked, allow to cool on a rack. While the cakes are cooling make the icing. Once mostly cooled, you can ice the cakes by drizzling the icing free form with a spoon, or you can fill a small ziplock back with the icing, and snip off a small piece of the corner to ice in any design you prefer.


Peach and Plum Crostata

I never get tired of making crostatas (also sometimes called galettes). They're basically pies... except they're free-form, less dense, and require no blind baking or much fuss.

Due to the warm and dry winter, stone fruit season arrived early in Southern California. I want to take full advantage of everything peach, plum, pluot, apricot and cherry while the season is still here. Of course, the fruit is perfect to eat just as it is... but somehow when I use stone fruit for baking I feel like I'm really doing the season justice.

This recipe makes really flaky not too sweet pastry. The fruit is great, but honestly the crust is my favorite part of the dessert (but I am a pastry and baked-good fiend). I don't like my filling too sweet, but if you prefer a sweeter fruit you can add 1/4 cup of sugar instead of 2-3 tablespoons. Also, taste your fruit. Some stone fruit is sweeter, some is pretty tart. Mine were on the sour side, and I don't mind that too much, but next time I want a slightly sweeter fruit to start with. The natural flavor of the fruit can't be masked when it is baked: a sweet fruit will be sweeter, and a sour fruit will stay pretty tart. Also, if you find that you have those dry mealy flavorless peaches and plums they won't really get much better when they are baked. This is a simple dish so each ingredient should be the best it can be.

This is the perfect sweet thing to serve on a day when summer is coming, but it's still not too hot to bake. Or... suffer the heat, just make sure to serve yourself a slice with a big scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.

Peach and Plum Crostata
makes 2 crostatas
recipe can be halved - each crostata serves 6-8 (depending on slice size preference)

for the crust-
2½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), very cold diced into cubes
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, very cold

4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk
1 splash of water

for the fruit filling-

1½ lbs. (about 9-10 small) plums or pluots, pitted and cut into equal sized slices
1 lb. peaches (about 4 medium) peaches, pitted and cut into equal sized sliced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar plus more for garnish, depending on preference and how sweet the fruit is
1 tablespoon honey, plus more for garnish
zest of 1 organic lemon (if you're using the zest, organic is important)
juice of ½ a lemon

2 tablespoons butter, divided

for the crust-

In a food processor or using a whisk and a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar together. To the dry ingredients add the cubed butter, pulse until pea-sized pieces of dough are formed. Or, use a pastry cutter and combine the butter and flour mixture until the same pea-sized pieces of dough are formed.

To the dough, add the apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Pulse in the food processor, or mix with your hands, until the dough comes together but is not too wet. It should look kind of crumbly but will easily stick together between your fingers when squeezed. Transfer the dough onto a lightly flour dusted clean flat surface. Divide the dough in half. Form the dough into two equal-sized disks (flatter disks are easier to roll out than balls of dough). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour (two to three hours is ideal). 

for the filling-

Slice the stone fruit so that they are all roughly the same thickness. Transfer the fruit to a large bowl and add the flour, sugar, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Lightly toss the mixture; be careful not to break the fruit.

assemble and bake-

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the racks on the top and bottom third parts of the oven.

Place parchment paper on a flat surface and lightly dust it with flour (the parchment paper will help you transfer the dough onto a baking sheet - I usually do this and forgot this time and it was fine just trickier). Roll out one of your disks into a large circle about 13-14 inches in diameter, and about 1/2 an inch thick. The edges do not have to be perfectly round. It can actually be prettier if the edges are slightly broken and uneven.

Fill the center of the rolled out dough with half of the fruit filling mixture. Dot the top of the fruit mixture with little bits of butter (about 1 tablespoon per crostata). Leave a 2-3 inch border of dough around the fruit.

Fold the border of dough over the fruit (see below). Again, this doesn't have to be perfect... you just want the dough to fold over and cover part of the fruit. Transfer the finished crostata onto a baking sheet (line with parchment paper if you didn't roll the dough out onto to begin with). Repeat the process with the second disc of dough, and the rest of the fruit filling. Transfer the crostata onto a second baking sheet.

Make an egg wash by beating together 1 large egg yolk with a splash of water. Brush the egg yolk onto the dough. Sprinkle more turbinado sugar (or any coarse sugar) onto the the brushed dough.

Place both sheet pans into the oven. After 20 minutes, rotate and switch the sheet pans so the top crostata moves to the bottom and the bottom crostata bakes at the top. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the crostatas are golden brown and the fruit is tender. If the crust starts to brown too much before the fruit is cooked, cover the the exposed crust with foil. 

Once baked, drizzle a little honey over the fruit-exposed part of the hot crostata. Slice and serve warm or at room temp.

Simple Salted Butter Cookies

Remember those Danish sugar cookies that come in the blue tins? I haven't had them in forever, but they were THE staple cookie of my childhood. My parents and my grandparents often had them on hand for a sweet treat and their tins were always repurposed into excellent storage containers. I liked the crinkly paper that contained the different shapes of cookies that all tasted exactly the same. I never thought much of them because they were so unassuming and plain, but before I'd know it I'd eat ten of them. They were addictively satisfying in their simplicity.

That's the inspiration for these cookies. I just wanted to make a cookie that had almost no frills and tasted mostly of butter. Good butter.

If you've made pie crust from scratch then this recipe will feel familiar. If you have never made pie dough, this recipe is still on the easy end of the baking spectrum. A food processor helps the cause, but a pastry cutter or hands will work too.

The key for simple dishes is that all of the ingredients should be great. For these cookies you'll want to invest in very good butter above all else. A nice fleur de sel, sel gris, or flake salt would be helpful, too. And that's it... anyway, there are only about 5 ingredients in this cookie. It's the perfect recipe for when you're in a baking mood but not in a going-to-the-store-to-get-what-you-need mood.

These buttery crumbly crisp things are especially perfect dunked into a hot beverage. Good strong black tea or coffee with a drop of cream.

Salted Butter Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Salted Butter Breakups recipe
Makes 22-24 cookies, depending on size (or one sheet-pan's worth)

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar (I throw discarded vanilla bean pods into a jar and fill it with sugar. Voila! Vanilla sugar is born and used all the time)
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar (I like the texture of this - it's usually coarser - and I like it in baking. You can use 100% vanilla sugar, 100% cane sugar, 100% regular sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, or sel gris (gray salt), or flake salt, or 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold good quality unsalted butter, small cubed
  • 3-5 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 cold egg yolk + a few drops of cold water beaten together
  • Turbinado sugar to sprinkle on in the end (optional)

In a food processor (or using a whisk), pulse the flour, sugars, and salt together.

Cube the butter into small chunks and drop them into the processor. Pulse a few times until the pea-sized clusters form. You want this pretty coarse so that you don't overwork the butter. Small chunks of butter will be visible in the finished dough. If you don't have a food processor, you can combine the butter and flour mixture using a pastry cutter, or you can even use your hands.

Add the cold water to the food processor one tablespoon at a time and pulse again. Pulse until the mixture sticks together when you press it with your hands (or using your hands to combine if you're skipping the FP). Only pulse to combine everything. Again, don't overmix or your dough will be tough and gross instead of crumbly and wonderful.

Transfer your mixture to a flat surface. Form it into a large disc or ball (flatter round disks are easier to roll out later). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Here's where patience is a virtue: refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You could keep it in the fridge for hours before you're ready to use it, but definitely you need at least one solid hour of chilling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly dust a flat surface with flour. Roll the dough out until it is 1/4-1/3-inch in thickness. Using a fork, run the tines of the fork into long stripes in the dough. I go in one direction and then I do the second direction after. I like a crisscross shape (see cookie above). This step is so optional... it's mostly for aesthetics but it is also nice texturally. You can go pretty deep, the dough will rise and the lines fade as it bakes.

Cut out the cookies and transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a square cookie cutter, but you can use any size/shape/style cookie cutter you'd like. Alternatively, you could cut it into squares using a knife.

Beat together one cold egg yolk with a few cold drops of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly (!) brush the tops of the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle the cookies with Turbinado sugar (or coarse sugar) if you like that kind of thing. You can skip this step and it will be fine. You can also sprinkle with a tiny bit more salt if you're into saltier cookies.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch carefully, ovens vary and you don't want them to get too dark/browned. Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack and let them fully cool. The texture will be better once they're room temp.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days (or longer if you can make them last that long).

Flourless Almond Cake (Gluten and Dairy Free)

Passover always inspires me to try new flourless cake recipes. This year I wanted to make something classic, simple, and light for seder. This recipe comes from Claudia Roden, the acclaimed author of multiple Jewish cookbooks (among other accomplishments).

I served this almond cake with a mix of berries that had been macerated in a little Chambord (raspberry liqueur) and honey. I also served it with whipped coconut cream. The mild creamy coconut goes really well with the subtle almond flavor in the cake... but don't get me wrong, this cake is good all on its own.

The cake is crispy and delicate on the outside, and kind of gooey and crumbly on the inside. It makes a really wonderful crackly sound when you cut into it. As it bakes, the top puffs up and as it cools it sinks back down into the cake. The recipes is very similar to how one makes a flourless chocolate cake.

If you do not like the combination of almond and citrus I would omit the zest from this recipe. I think you could also get away with adding other flavorings to the batter (maybe coconut extract, actual coconut, or even cocoa powder/chocolate).

The recipe for this cake comes from Spain, and it is perfect for any meal that requires a dessert without flour, dairy, or too much work.

Flourless Almond Cake
Recipe ever so slightly adapted from Claudia Roden's
Serves 10-14

1/2 lb. blanched almonds (or 1 3/4 cups), finely ground
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract (or less depending on your preference)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Finely grind the blanched almonds in a food processor. Don't grind them too fine or they will start to form a paste.

Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper (11-inch works too). Grease the pan really well (I used non-dairy Earth Balance... you could also use margarine, butter, or even coconut oil to grease the pan).

With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until a smooth pale yellow cream is formed.
Add the zests and almond extract and beat some the mixture until everything is well-incorporated.

Mix in the ground almonds.

Using a stand-mixer, electric mixer, or whisk, and using a very clean and dry bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (like you would for classic meringue).

Carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and almond mixture.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is firm (no jiggle), and golden brown. Let the cake fully cool in the pan.

Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

The cake actually tastes even better the next day and can be made 1-2 days in advance.



Hamantaschen are generally a simple cookie: sweet pastry filled with jam, poppy seed fillings, prunes or other dried fruit combinations in triangular form. They're usually made of a sturdy sugar cookie-type dough. They're also often a little dry and boring.

Last year, I used basic pie dough for my hamantaschen. I really like those cookies because you can never go wrong with good pastry, but this year I wanted to bake more traditional hamantaschen. I did a little research and found the Ovenly recipe. Their pie dough + powdered sugar + egg yolk combination inspired me. I found I needed a little more liquid than the original recipe called for, but otherwise it's very similar to theirs. Next time I would probably omit the honey from the dough as it's plenty sweet with the powdered sugar (if you do this you may need to add a little extra water). 

You can fill these cookies with your favorite thick jam, or you can make a poppy seed or dried apricot filling. Ovenly also has a few ideas for inspired hamantaschen fillings. 

These hamantaschen are perfect along with a hot cup of tea or coffee, especially during these lingering winter days... They are soft and delicate, buttery and crumbly, small and sweet. 

Happy Purim!

Raspberry Hamantaschen
Recipe slightly adapted from Ovenly
Makes approximately 40 hamantaschen

for the dough-
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, cold and cubed
2-3 tablespoons ice water

for the filling-
1/2-3/4 cup thick jam (I used organic low-sugar raspberry jam... or sub with your favorite filling choice)

for the egg wash-
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water

for the dough-
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt. This step is critical as powdered sugar is generally lumpy, and this step eliminates the lumps. Cube the butter. Add the flour and butter to a food processor. Pulse until a coarse meal forms. If you don't have a food processor, combine the flour mixture and the butter using a pastry cutter.

Next, make a well in the dough, and add the egg yolks and the honey to the well. Combine everything together with your hands or a spoon. The dough will be crumbly and it will just start sticking together. Add 2 tablespoons of ice water, and combine the dough. If the dough still isn't coming together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. Be careful not to over-mix or your dough will get tough. Also, be careful not to add too much water. You want to just form a ball of dough without it being too sticky or wet.

Form the dough into a 6-inch dish. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. If you see flecks of butter in the dough that is a very good thing

to assemble the hamantaschen-
Once chilled, roll the dough out until it is about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit or round cookie cutter, or using a small glass, cut rings out of the dough.

Combine the scraps of dough, and re-roll it and cut out more rounds.

Add about 1/2 a teaspoon of filling to the center of each cookie. Pinch the sides closed so that you form a triangle. You want to make sure the dough is sealed very well together, otherwise the filling will escape as the cookie bakes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Transfer the hamantaschen to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze the cookies for 15 minutes before baking, or about as long as it takes for the oven to preheat.

Make an egg wash by whisking the egg yolk and water together. 

Before placing the cookies in the oven, brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow them to cool. 

Classic Banana Pudding

I have a soft spot in my heart for classic American food: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, mac n' cheese, all kinds of pie (especially chocolate cream pie), and banana pudding. I have a sort of false nostalgia for these foods. In my Russian immigrant house growing up, we rarely saw any dishes that could be featured in a Norman Rockwell painting or on a typical Southern table. It wasn't all borscht and pirozhki (although certainly I saw those things more than fried chicken or hamburgers), both my parents were and are adventurous cooks, but they veered more into Mediterranean, Italian, and Chinese directions when they prepared food that didn't exist in the motherland.

I don't think this sentimental affection of Americana has to do with filling an empty void of some childhood I wish I had... it's just that when I think of these foods they evoke feelings of warmth, youth, and family. Growing up, I ate these foods at friends' houses with glee. I read about these foods in my favorite childhood books, saw these dishes being served in my favorite movies and TV shows, and watched them being prepared on PBS and the Food Network. Most importantly, classic American dishes are so often comforting in their richness and belly-filling qualities.

I can't advocate for the nutritional benefits of banana pudding, but sometimes you just need a mood-boosting plate full of something delicious. Sometimes, special occasions demand a little indulgence. Sometimes, your favorite sports team loses the big game and you need something to ease the pain of loss. Sometimes, you just want vanilla pudding mixed with bananas and 'Nilla wafers.

The pudding recipe for this dessert is infinitely interchangeable (and if you haven't made homemade pudding before it's much easier than you think and you will be thrilled with the fruits of your minor labor). You could make just the pudding and call it a dessert. You could add vanilla wafers to the pudding and skip the banana (or vise versa). But when you combine the pudding, the wafers, the bananas, and you let that all sit and soften and meld together in the fridge... well, very good things happen.

Banana Pudding
Serves 14-16 (this generously fills a DEEP 9 x 13 casserole dish, you can easily halve the recipe)
Slightly adapted from this recipe in Bon Appétit (June 2014)

For the pudding-
8 eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ cup cornstarch
8 cups whole milk (you can use low/non-fat, but this is a treat and whole milk tastes better)
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out with the back of a knife (or substitute 2 tablespoons vanilla extract)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of kosher salt

To assemble-
 11oz. boxes vanilla wafers, plus extra for crushing
6 ripe bananas, sliced

½ cup banana chips (optional)

For the pudding-
In a large bowl, start by whisking your eggs until they are just blended. In a large pot combine the sugar and cornstarch and whisk together. Over medium heat, slowly whisk the milk into the sugar mixture. Add the seeds from a vanilla bean to the pot (if you are using vanilla extract instead, you will add the vanilla later). Whisk continuously until the mixture is warm to the touch, but not quite simmering. 

Slowly add a third of the warm milk into the beaten eggs. Whisk constantly as you add the milk to the eggs; this stage is called tempering. You want to gently raise the temperature of the eggs so that they do not scramble when combined with the rest of the hot milk and are heated over the stove. Again, SLOWLY add the warm egg and milk mixture back to the pot whisking as you add. 

You're going to keep on whisking as the mixture heats over a medium flame. You want to cook the pudding until it thickens. The whisk should leave a visible trail in the pudding, and should be thick like yogurt. This will take 8-10 minutes for this amount, or 4-6 minutes if you halve the recipe. 

Once thickened, remove the pot from the heat. Add the butter and a pinch of salt to the pot. Stir until everything is just combined, the butter is melted, and the pudding is smooth.  If you didn't use a vanilla bean, this is when you add your vanilla extract. 

Using a large fine-meshed sieve, strain the pudding into a large bowl. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap; you want the wrap to touch the top of the pudding so that it doesn't develop a thick film. Refrigerate the pudding for at least 2 hours. The pudding can be made 1-2 days ahead of time (great for parties).

To assemble-
After the pudding has chilled for at least 2 hours, you can assemble the final dish. In a deep 9 x 13 baking dish, or in a large trifle dish, start by placing about a third of the pudding into an even-ish layer at the bottom of the dish. Top the pudding with a layer of vanilla wafers, and top the wafers with a layer of sliced bananas. I added a few banana chips to this layer, too.  Add another layer of a third of the pudding, wafers, and the rest of the bananas. Top with the final third of the pudding. Garnish with banana chips and crushed vanilla wafers. You could even do chocolate shavings or a caramel drizzle if so inclined.

Let the assembled pudding chill for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before you intend to serve it. The more it sits the more the flavors come together.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I love happy accidents in the kitchen. The other night, I was testing out apple crisp topping recipes. I was playing around with ratios for the perfect, crumbly, buttery, lovely crisp topping. One batch of topping felt more like cookie-dough than the crumbly mixture I was looking for. I could have tried to salvage the mixture by adding more flour, but instead I thought, "what if I add an egg, some baking soda and some chocolate chips to this... will it make a cookie?"

The answer is a BIG yes. Not only did it make cookies, it made delicious cookies. It made the kind of cookies I'm always going for: crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.

Usually I make cookies by creaming room temp (or melted) butter and sugar together, then adding dry ingredients to that. What I discovered with these cookies is that you can actually use super cold butter, and make the dough similarly to how you make pie or biscuit dough. No creaming of sugar and butter first. No waiting for butter to come to temp. No stand-mixer. This recipe doesn't make a huge batch of cookies, but because the recipe is so easy, it's the perfect thing to whip up for a small group of friends or family when you're craving cookies and want them fast. Of course, you can also double or triple the recipe.

One note about my brand preferences - I'm a big fan of Ghiradelli's semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips. They're a little larger than most of the mainstream brands of chocolate chips. I think they have deeper chocolate flavor, and a silkier texture. I'm also a fan of Guittard. I always pick up a bag when I see it on sale. Regular semisweet chocolate chips will do just fine. You can also swap dark chocolate for milk or white chocolate chip. I'm not a big fan of white chocolate, but if you are and want to make this recipe festive, you could also add dried cranberries to the mix. You can also add your favorite spices to the batter, or omit entirely.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 12-14 medium-large cookies

1¼ cup all purpose flour (can substitute with gluten free flour)
½ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
good pinch of kosher or flake salt
8 tablespoons (½ a cup or 1 stick) of COLD unsalted butter, cubed small
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup good quality dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir until evenly mixed.

Cube the butter into small pieces. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Using your hands, combine the butter and dry ingredients together until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture resembles a coarse pea-sized meal.  Don’t worry too much about perfection here… you’re looking to just break apart the butter as you mix-in the dry ingredients. It takes a little elbow grease, but it’s not hard. If you are nervous you can use a pastry cutter or a food processor instead.

Next, add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined (be careful not to over mix at this point). Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out heaping spoonfuls of dough. Flatten slightly so the dough is2-3 inches in diameter (as shown below). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the sheet pan for 2 more minutes, than transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

If you prefer smaller cookies, you can use heaping teaspoons and bake the cookies for 8 instead of 10 minutes.

The cookies should be crispy on the edge and chewy on the inside. They will look a little undercooked when you first take them out, but don’t worry, they’ll harden and firm up as they cool.

Edith's Chocolate Babka

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had the great pleasure of learning how to make babka.

At 87, Edith still loves to bake and cook in her kitchen for her children, grandchildren, family and friends. Edith has more spunk than most people have at half her age. Her baking, like many talented cooks, is imprecise and relies on experience and feeling. I was deeply inspired by Edith, her food, and her stories.

That afternoon, Edith taught me her recipes for chocolate babka and walnut cake (both use the same dough) while telling me me stories about her family and her life. At first I was concerned about asking Edith difficult questions about her past. Her daughter, who was with us, assured me that Edith was happy to talk about her experiences. That's one of the many amazing things about this woman - she is incredibly open about her life. She will tell you like it is or like it was, but she does so without anger or hostility. She is aware and grateful for her fortunes even in the context of unfathomable unfairness and inhumanity. I only got to spend one afternoon with her, but it was clear that this is a woman who has an incredible sense of humor, sharpness, wit, and a deep understanding of humanity and the complexities of life. The Shoah foundation recorded Edith's holocaust survival story in full; I'm happy to help you locate it if you want to hear more about her story.

This short synopsis will hardly do justice to her full story, but nonetheless...

Born in 1926, Edith grew up in Lastovce, Czechoslovakia. In 1942, Hitler decreed that all Jewish girls 16 years of age and older had to be reported to the Slovakian government. At that time, 16 year old Edith was sent to live at her aunt's house in Hungary. Many Slovakian Jewish girls fled to Hungary at the time, and the Hungarian police were instructed to hunt them down. Edith hid in the basement of her family's home during that time. After six months, Edith was sent to Budapest; her family felt her chances of survival were better in a big city where she could get lost. Edith worked at an undergarment factory where she somehow managed to get her hands on the birth certificate of a Hungarian non-Jew. She also dyed her hair blonde. One day on a train, Edith was caught by two detectives. Unimaginably, during a time of war and bloodshed, not one but two detectives were on the case of tracking down a single Jewish girl in Budapest. Edith was sent to what was essentially a holding camp. She was there for about 6 months. Whenever the Germans were bombing, all the Jews were sent upstairs to the upper level of the building so that if the building were to be bombed they would perish. After 6 months, Edith was sent to Auschwitz. From Auschwitz, Edith was sent to the Liebau concentration camp. At the camp, there were approximately 200 women and 200 men that were kept separate from each other. The men and women were mostly young, and were forced to do excruciatingly hard labor. When Edith speaks of this, she talks about how impossible it is to explain the pain of hunger, the pain of the particularly horrible lice, among all the other types of pain. Edith managed to survive, and her camp was liberated by the Russians. In fact, Edith was liberated by a Russian Jewish general who made it his mission to protect the girls from being raped by other Russian soldiers (something that was happening), and made sure that they did not eat the food the Germans left behind (which was often poisoned).

After the war, Edith returned to Czechoslovakia. Two of her brothers had also survived the war. Back in Czechoslovakia, Edith was set up on a blind date. Edith and her future husband clicked right away. They were married for 65 years (what's the secret? there's no secret. But don't go to bed angry, don't think relationships are a perfect 50/50 partnership, be willing to ungrudgingly compromise, and it helps if your husband tells you you're beautiful in the middle of an argument). Her husband passed away a few years ago at the age of 90. In 1948, Edith and her husband left Czechoslovakia for Israel where they lived for 10 years before immigrating to the United States to start a new life with their two daughters.

Edith originally got this recipe from a friend of hers. To the delight of her family and friends, Edith has been making this babka for many years. I have never seen babka prepared in a bundt pan, but it's pretty genius (and beautiful). This is a dense, chocolate-y, rich dessert with a lovely dough. If you need an exact recipe, I recommend you google "babka." If you're looking for a recipe with room for error and customization, see below.

I am so grateful to have heard Edith's stories and to have learned this recipe.

(The above recipe is for the dough for both the babka and a walnut cake. The filling is for the walnut cake. Edith has altered this recipe slightly. See below.)

Edith's Chocolate Babka

for the dough-
3.5-4 cups of flour
1 packet yeast (or 1.5 tablespoons)
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
2.5 sticks crisco or margarine, at room temp, cubed
5 egg yolks
1 cup seltzer water (secret ingredient)

for the filling-
finely ground walnuts
unsweetened cocoa powder
vanilla extract
strawberry jam
mini-chocolate chips

for the dough-
Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar and a 1/4 cup of warm tap water (no more than 110°F). Let the yeast activate for 10-15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 3.5 cups of flour (you can add more flour later if the dough feels too wet). To the flour, add the cubed crisco. On level 1 or 2, mix the crisco and flour together until pea sized pieces form and you have a coarse meal.

Add the egg yolks, sugar,  activated yeast, and seltzer water to the mixer.

Mix on low until a dough forms, this will take a few minutes. Scrape down the sides periodically to make sure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated with the wet ingredients. If the dough seems too dry, add more seltzer. If the dough seems too wet, add more flour. You want a sticky silky dough (similar to challah dough in texture).

Add a little oil to a mixing bowl (either olive or vegetable is fine). Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Kneed the dough 5 or 6 times in the bowl. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap, place a towel over the bowl. Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge.

 for the babka-
Dust a flat surface with flour, and place the dough on the flat surface. Cut the dough in half, and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 15 inches long and 1/4-inch thick.

Spread a thin layer of jam onto the dough leaving a 1-inch border around the sides.

GENEROUSLY top the dough with the cocoa and nut mixture. (I do not have amounts for this. Edith combines cocoa powder with sugar, walnuts and vanilla extract. I would blitz all of this in a food processor until it's finally ground. You could do: 1 cup nuts, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla - taste and adjust to your liking).

Don't be stingy! Add a handful of chocolate chips on top of the cocoa and nut mixture. Edith prefers mini-chocolate chips, but we had regular-sized that day. Once you've topped the dough, wrap it tightly into a roll.

You're almost there. Place this rolled up dough, into the bottom of a greased Bundt pan in a ring formation. 

Now, repeat that process with the second half of the dough. Once you've made a second roll of chocolate and jam filled goodness, place it on top of the first ring in the Bundt pan. Press the edges together with your fingers. Make sure the dough is sealed.

Now, your  babka is ready to go in the oven. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered, and then cover the pan with foil and bake for another 45 minutes.

Let the babka cool on a rack in the Bundt pan for at least 20 minutes. Then, hope and pray that it will easily come out of the pan when you try to pop it out onto a serving plate. It seems to be easier to get the cake out of the pan after it cools for a bit.

Dust the babka with powdered sugar, slice, and serve with a hot cup of coffee or tea!

This babka freezes well. It can be baked, then frozen and reheated when ready to eat. 

Berry Trifle

I made this red, white, and blue dessert for the 4th, but I don't see any reason why one shouldn't want to make this at any point when berries are in season. Actually, you could make this all year with whatever seasonal fruit you find delicious and complimentary to cake and cream.

The thing about trifle is there are a lot of cheats and its endlessly versatile. Certainly, there are trifle purists out there who know better than I do, but in my humble opinion, make trifle however you please. If you aren't in the mood to make things from scratch, you can buy pre-made pound/sponge cake and whipped cream (or whipped topping). If you don't feel like using traditional jelly or custard, you can skip those things (I did). If you don't have fancy liqueur on hand, use fruit juice instead. Then it's just a matter of layering the things you have chosen to use in a dish or bowl. It's nice if the serving dish you're using is clear so that you can see the pretty layers, but anything that will hold cake, fruit, and cream will suffice.

For this recipe, I made my own lemon pound cake (recipe below), I chose to drizzle the cake with Chambord instead of Cointreau (raspberry liqueur instead of orange liqueur), and I made a whipped cream with very little sugar. The mix of subtle lemon and raspberry flavors worked well together, and although certainly decadent, there's something refreshing about this this dessert.

Berry Trifle with Lemon Cake
Serves 10-12

1 8-inch loaf lemon cake (or vanilla pound cake), cut into 2 x 2 x 1.5-inch pieces
1 16-ounce container organic whipping cream (you'll end up with extra)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 quarts strawberries
3 pints blueberries
2 pints raspberries
6 tablespoons Chambord (or Cointreau, or another fruit liqueur)

Start by prepping your trifle ingredients.

Wash your berries, and lay them out to dry on paper towels. Trim the ends off of the strawberries.

Cut your cake into squares or any shape you like best.

In a stand mixer or using a handheld blender or whisk, whip together 1 16-ounce container of organic whipping cream, with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1-2 teaspoons sugar. I don't like super sweet whipped cream, if you prefer yours sweet, add more sugar. You can taste the mixture as it whips and add more accordingly. Once whipped, reserve in the fridge. You can substitute homemade whipped cream with a store bought whipped topping.

In a trifle dish or medium sized glass bowl, or whatever thing you want to put all these delicious ingredients into, start layering your ingredients in the following way:

  1. Layer the cut up cake in the bottom of the dish. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of Chambord over the cake. 
  2. Slice strawberries and layer them evenly over the first layer of cake.
  3. Put another layer of cut up cake over the strawberries. Drizzle the cake with 3 more tablespoons of Chambord. 
  4. Add a layer of blueberries on top of the cake
  5. Add a layer of whipped cream onto the berries 
  6. Add another layer of sliced strawberries onto the whipped cream
  7. Add another layer of whipped cream onto the strawberries
  8. Decoratively top the the cake with raspberries, remaining strawberries and blueberries

Chill 2-3 hours before serving, or up to 8 hours. 
Scoop and serve!

For the Lemon Cake...
I adapted Ina's recipe and it makes 2 loaves. I only needed one loaf for the trifle, so you could halve this recipe, or make the whole thing and have the joy of an extra cake in the house.

Lemon Cake
Very slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Makes 2 (8-inch loaves)

for the cake:
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temp
zest of 4-5 large lemons
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (8.5 x 4.25 x 2.5-inch) loaf pans.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (you can also do this with a hand mixer).

Don't skip this step. Having your ingredients at room temp, and taking the time to whip your sugar and butter into something light and fluffy are two key components to successful cake baking.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, and then add the lemon zest. Beat together for another 30 second or 1 minute.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In another bowl combine 1/4 cup of lemon juice, the buttermilk and the vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Blend until just incorporated and be careful not to over mix at this stage. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester (or bamboo skewer) comes out clean)

While the cake is baking, combine 1/4 cup of granulated sugar with the remaining 1/2 cup of of lemon juice. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the mixture until the sugar has fully dissolved. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Once the cakes are done, allow them to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Take them out of their pans and place them on a cooling rack set on a sheet pan. Spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes while they are still warm. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Strawberries with Balsamic and Basil

This simple strawberry salad is one of my favorite ways to end a meal. Especially now, when the days are long, warm, and the markets are overflowing with super ripe sweet berries and fruit. Best of all, this dessert is as delicious as as it is beautiful, and it requires zero baking, measuring, and very little time.

Balsamic macerated strawberries are a classic, and yet I've met many who have never tried them. The acidity and murky sweetness of the balsamic (real, good balsamic - read the bottle carefully, make sure it doesn't have artificial coloring or high fructose corn syrup) goes so nicely with the perfectly ripe summer strawberries. I also added juice from an orange, and fresh mint in addition to basil - both those ingredients did something special to the salad. Really, you can mix and match any of the ingredients below and you'll have something that's sooo good. At the end of the day, how can you go wrong with fresh strawberries and cream?

Strawberries with Balsamic, Basil, and Mint, served with Mascarpone Topping
Serves 6

3 pints strawberries, lightly rinsed and dry
3 tablespoons very good aged balsamic vinegar (or to taste, depends on your vinegar)
Juice of 1/2 an orange
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
8-10 basil leaves, sliced thin (i.e. a chiffonade)
5-6 large mint leaves, chopped fine
1 cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon maple syrup.

Slice your berries into halves or quarters, depending on the berry's size and your preference. Add them to a bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar, orange juice and sugar to the berries. Gently toss the berries. Add the basil and mint to the coated berries, lightly toss again. Be careful not to bruise the berries too much. Let the berries for marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone, half and half, and maple syrup.

Guests can top their serving of berries with a dollop of the very lightly sweetened mascarpone.

The berries should be eaten the same day you make them. They'll last for an afternoon or an evening, but not much more than that. I hardly expect you'll have leftovers.

The best chocolate chip cookie

People tend to fall into two camps: those that like crisp chocolate chip cookies, and those that prefer them chewy. For me, I want a cookie with a slightly crisp edge that is chewy in the center. I don't want a cookie that's too doughy, hard, or crunchy. We can agree to disagree if your preferences don't align.

In the quest for the perfect cookie, I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably continue to pursue a flawless, un-improvable chocolate chip cookie recipe. True perfection may take years to master, and my definition of perfection may change. However, I'm getting pretty close...

A number of things are crucial to the success of this recipe:
1) Cooking time and temperature
2) Equipment
3) The size of your scoop of cookie dough
4) Butter in addition to shortening
5) Starting with ingredients at room temp

Those things matter a lot, but it's important to note that your results will differ based on the fact that every egg is different, the way each person scoops their flour differs, the lightness or darkness of your baking sheet affects the cookie, the quality and type of your sugar matters, the type of chocolate chip you use makes a difference, and so on and so forth. Just like pizza, your cookie will taste good even if it doesn't always match up to your dreams. But if you're unsatisfied with the results, keep fiddling with those things until you arrive at your cookie nirvana.

The one thing that everyone says makes the biggest difference is baking the cookies on a baking stone. I don't own a baking stone (yet), but my stubborn side also feels like there has to be a way to create cookie perfection on a baking sheet. I've done it before with other recipes, so why should this type of cookie be any different?

There are a lot of similar recipes on the Internet, and I have tried so many that my own recipe is derived from all of them. Most recently, I have been using this recipe as my starting point, sent along to me by my friend. After I made these cookies, I found this post which has a similar recipe, and if you want to get super technical it has all the info you need. I'd like to thank all the chocolate chip cookie makers who have come before me and already discovered these ratios... I'm happy I'm catching up.

Classic Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 36 cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (table salt, which has a different sodium content than kosher salt)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup organic vegetable shortening, at room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 10 oz bag chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate baking chips for their size and flavor) - I also am a fan of mixing 1/2 dark and 1/2 milk chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together your flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the room temp butter, shortening, white and brown sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, no less than 3 minutes, and you can go as long as 5 minutes. You can't over beat your dough at this point.

On medium low, add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract. Beat for a minute.

On low, slowly add your flour mixture to the egg mixture a little at a time. Mix until just incorporated. You can over-beat your dough at this point, so don't let the flour mix too long. If you're nervous, stop the stand mixer, take the bowl out, and finish mixing up the wet and dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Fold in your chocolate chips until they are evenly incorporated. Again, be careful not to over mix. Place your dough in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (truthfully, it didn't make THAT much of a difference whether or not I chilled the dough first, but lots of people swear this step is crucial... so there you go).

At this stage, an inexpensive piece of equipment makes a huge difference in the outcome of the cookie. I use a 1.5 tablespoon ice cream scoop to make even balls of cookie dough. I use that same ice cream scoop for meatballs, matzoh balls, and for ice cream (of course). It's a good investment and really helps these cookies become the right shape and size.

Scoop out 12, 1.5 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Space each piece of dough a few inches apart. Resist the urge to flatten the dough. The cookies come out less chewy when I've done this.

Bake the cookies in the oven for 8-9 minutes or until the edges are just slightly starting to turn golden. Your cookies will look a little underdone. Don't worry about that. If you want a chewy cookie, err on the side of under-doness. Also, the cookies will continue to cook as they cool. Keep the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 minutes (no more). Transfer them to a cooling rack so that they can cool properly. This final step is as important as any of the ones that came before it. If you leave the cookies in the pan, they will continue to cook and will potentially become too dry and won't stay chewy. That would be a bummer. A cooling rack is another great inexpensive investment, and a must for anyone that likes to bake things.

Let the cookies cool for 8-10 minutes, or for as long as you can resist biting into one. Serve with milk. Cookies will stay chewy and great for 3-5 days after baking, but they probably won't last that long. You can also scoop and freeze the dough. If you are baking frozen cookies, make sure the dough comes to room temp (about 30 minutes) before you bake them in the oven.

Happy cookie baking!

Cherry Almond Cake

It took me a while, but I figured something out: making cake is easy. Once I got over that whole pastry-is-an-exact-science-and-there-is-no-wiggle-room-or-disaster-will-ensue thing, I found that I've gotten a lot more creative and comfortable with the whole idea of making baked desserts. I learned a few key things: 1) the temperature of your ingredients is critical, 2) most cakes are just combos of eggs, butter, sugar and leveaners, you can be slightly off about all those things and stuff will probably come out ok, and 3) keep an eye on things, because no two ovens or batters are the same.

There's one caveat to this whole ease business... baking started to get A LOT easier for me once I had the right gear. My favorite piece of gear is the stand mixer. The stand mixer makes me feel like I'm cheating at baking. But even without a pricey stand mixer (thank you older brother for the gift!) cake isn't hard. If you have a hand mixer, or lots of upper body strength and a whisk, you'll be just fine.

On Sunday I got in a cake making mood. That day, cherries were the stars of the Hollywood Farmers' Market and I couldn't resist them. I grew up with a cherry tree in my back yard, and as early as six years old I could be found climbing said tree and picking and eating sun-warmed cherries directly off unstable branches.

I brought home the cherries, and thought about classic cherry pairings. Almonds immediately came to my mind. I figured I could make a pretty basic cake, replace some of the flour with ground almonds, add some almond extract, and throw some cherries in there. I knew the cherries might sink to the bottom of the cake, but I didn't care. I wanted to keep this easy. If you want to add a step, you can make the batter without cherries, add it to the baking dish, dust your cherries in flour, and lightly place them on top of the batter. They will sink less that way, but I honestly couldn't be bothered.

If you can't get fresh cherries, frozen cherries are pretty awesome. I really like this brand, and I snack on them all winter. They'll work in this recipe, so you don't even have to sacrifice your perfectly good-as-is fresh cherries.

Long story short: this cake is crazy good.

Cherry Almond Cake
Serves 12 (or 1)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature (very important)
1 cup organic cane sugar (regular white sugar works too)
2 eggs, room temperature (very important)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely ground almonds (or almond meal or almond flour)
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (add a full teaspoon if you like extra almond flavor)
2 cups cherries, halved and pitted
1/3 cup raw sliced almonds
raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C

Grease a 9 x 11 baking dish, and line it with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside.

In a stand mixture with a paddle attachment on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. If you use regular white sugar this will take 3-4 minutes. If you are using organic cane sugar it takes about 5-6 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and beat them well for another minute or two.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the ground almonds into the flour mixture. I ground my almonds in a coffee grinder, you could also use a food processor, or you could just use almond meal or almond flour.

Turn the stand mixer to low, and add a third of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Add a third of the milk. Alternate the dry ingredients and the milk until everything is fully incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix your batter at this stage. Gently fold in the almond extract, vanilla extract, and the cherries.

Pour the batter into the baking dish, and top it with the sliced raw almonds and raw sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a cake-tester or toothpick comes out clean.

Let it cool in the pan. Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner... it works for all three.

Whipped Coconut Cream (vegan)

There's nothing wrong with traditional whipped cream. It's pretty flawless in its classic form. I'm happy to eat something decadent if it's delicious and used to top something warm that's just come out of the oven. However, certain occasions and situations call for non-dairy/vegan desserts. On those occasions, I have often wondered what would be a good non-dairy alternative to classic whipped cream.

While working on the second season of Recipe Rehab I learned this trick from one of our chefs: take a can of regular coconut milk, put it in the fridge overnight, scoop out the creamy part that separates from the liquid, and whip it just as you would regular cream.

I figured coconut cream would work just as well as coconut milk, and it did! You can use either coconut milk or coconut cream to make this delicious vegan dessert topping. The texture is just like homemade whipped cream, and the taste is mildly coconut-flavored.

I served it with flourless chocolate cake and berries (recipe coming soon), but you could use it to top any dessert you'd like.

Whipped Coconut Cream
Serves 12-14 (this recipe can be easily halved)

2 cans of coconut cream, chilled overnight in the fridge
2 teaspoons agave syrup (or honey/sugar/maple syrup )
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Start this recipe the day before (or days before) by putting your canned coconut cream in the fridge. At least an hour before you whip the cream, place the bowl you plan to use in the freezer. It helps if all of your tools and ingredients are very cold.

Add the coconut cream, agave (or other sweetener or none at all), and vanilla extract to the bowl you will use to whip the cream in.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or a hand mixer, or a whisk and lots of elbow grease, whip the coconut cream mixture on medium high until it is thick, fluffy, and looks like whipped cream:

Transfer the whipped coconut cream to a bowl, garnish if you feel like it, and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies (gluten free)

I stumbled across this recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cookies in the January 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. The picture of the cookie looked great, and the recipe seemed as simple as any cookie recipe could possibly be.

Well done Bon Appetit test kitchen!  This is a stellar cookie, and an excellent gluten free dessert.

Look, I'm a big fan of gluten.  I don't have an intolerance to it, and I have nothing against it from a nutritional perspective.  But, I know many folks that do have difficulties with gluten; and it's nice to have more recipes I can serve those friends.

Plus, the omission of flour is texturally significant in these cookies. They are crispy and light on the outside, and gooey in the center.  They remind me of a cross between a meringue and a french macaron.  What could be bad about that?

I only made a few changes to the recipe. Next time, I might add cinnamon or cayenne to the batter. But really, it's pretty perfect as is.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies 
Makes 2 dozen cookies

3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar (you can also use regular powdered sugar if you aren't gf)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the better the powder, the better the cookie)
1 tsp. kosher salt (essential)
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 oz. (1/2 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips instead)
3 tbsp. cacao nibs (I did not have these on hand. Instead, I added 3 extra tablespoons of chocolate chips)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F.

Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate and cacao nibs.  You don't have to be perfect about any of these steps. This batter is very forgiving.  Just don't overmix the batter once you add the eggs; err on the side of clumps.  

Your batter should look glossy and almost like melted chocolate

Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2" apart.  I used an actually measuring tablespoon.  The batter is very very sticky, so I scooped up spoonfuls, and needed to use my hand to release the batter from the spoon.  

Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14-16 minutes. Mine took 14, I always prefer cookies just under, and they continue to cook even out of the oven.

Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they'll firm up). Okay, here's the ONLY tricky part of this recipe.  My cookies needed to cool in the pan for a minute or so before they would unstick from the bottom. The first hot cookie I tried to move with a spatula broke apart.  After a minute, it was easier.  It also helped to lift up the parchment off of the hot cookie tray, transfer the parchment to the counter, and lift the cookies off the parchment once they were not in the pan. This is still a delicate process, and you'll want a good spatula for the operation.

Do ahead; Cookies can be baked 3 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.  

And this is what you get!