Lavender Shortbread Cookies

I’ve wanted to make lavender shortbread cookies since the beginning of the school year. Ever since my friend Hannah mentioned that she had made some, I hankered to make my own cookies. However, I was held back by my inability to find dried lavender at a store near me. Living in the middle of Baltimore doesn’t make it super easy to find niche ingredients so I put my desire for lavender cookies on the back burner because I knew it would be hard to find what I needed. However, on a recent weekend trip into Virginia, I found a great spice shop that had a huge selection of niche spices! It was a great find and they ship nationwide so I may come back for more! However, now I am left with more dried lavender buds than I think I’ll ever be able to use because I bought an 8 ounce bag…I guess I’ll just have to be creative and find other ways to incorporate them into my cooking! After finding the lavender at last, I told myself that it was time to make my lavender shortbread dreams come true!

As with most floral flavors like rose or elderflower, lavender can pack a punch and if too much is used, the food or beverage item with the flavor may end up tasting soapy. Thankfully, that was not the case with these cookies! I’m also extremely fond of lavender lattes which may make me more disposed to enjoy other food items with lavender in them. This recipe is a straightforward shortbread recipe and includes steps for chilling and rolling out the dough. I was a little overly enthusiastic when microwaving my butter so I ended up chilling for longer than the original recipe. The first step in the recipe has you blend the lavender buds with sugar in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, a mortar and pestle could do the trick to blend the two. What you’re really trying to avoid is biting a chunk of lavender by itself. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, rubbing the lavender with the sugar in between your fingers will do the trick to imbue the sugar with a mild lavender flavor. If you opt for the rubbing, you may want to try to chop up the buds just to avoid eating one whole. Otherwise, I think this recipe turned out great for me and if you have any suggestions on recipes to use up the rest of my lavender, add a comment below! Happy baking!

Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

  • 8 ounces (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender bulbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar + extra for dusting before baking
  • 2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Blend together the sugar and lavender in a food processor or blender for about 30 seconds.
  2. Cream the butter in a separate bowl by itself then add the lavender/sugar mix. Mix until well-combined. Add in the flour and mix until smooth and there are no lumps.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on to plastic wrap. Cover with an additional sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Let chill for 30 minutes or more in the refrigerator before the next step.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle some flour onto a hard surface and place the dough disk on top, removing the plastic wrapping. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or your hands to cut out shapes and transfer cut out cookies to parchment paper. Let chill on cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more. (I used a random plastic bit in my kitchen to cut out my cookies and it turned out well so be creative!)
  5. Preheat the oven to 300F. When ready to bake, remove the cookies from the fridge. Setting down the sheet, take some sugar and sprinkle it in an even layer on top of each cookie. After the sugar coat, bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges and aromatic. (You should smell butter more than lavender if you’re relying on your nose)
  6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let cool. Enjoy your cookies!

Makes about 24-30 cookies depending on thickness and shape.

NYT Butterscotch Cake

This recipe was a request from one of my friends and I can never refuse a friend! I put out a call for what people thought I should do next on my Instagram and she sent me this! It looked delicious and it ended up making one monster of a cake! I would recommend making this one for a group, it took me about two weeks to finish it off myself after I gave her half…it was a lot of cake! It was delicious but the flavor may not be for everyone! It doesn’t taste quite like caramel, contrary to the description of the recipe from the New York Times cooking section. It is definitely more of a butterscotch cake and I really enjoyed it. If you’re not a butterscotch person, you could still make the cake but change up the frosting type. The frosting is incredibly thick and lends most of the butterscotch flavor. I also followed the recipe to a tee and I would recommend not doing any crazy substitutions until after you’ve made the recipe once. I’ve found that it’s easier to substitute and get creative when I’m not forced to do so by my lack of ingredients and easier still when I’m substituting in a recipe that I’m familiar with. I’d be pretty hesitant to substitute in a complicated dessert recipe because I worry about it going wrong and wasting all the ingredients!

So how did this recipe go for me? Honestly, pretty well! The cakes were easy enough to make and once made, the cake kept really well in the refrigerator. I’d even say that I preferred to eat it cold out of the refrigerator than fresh out of the oven. This recipe calls for a stand mixer but I used a handheld. If you prefer one or the other, use that, it doesn’t matter a ton in this recipe. I think the trickiest part of the recipe was the icing. I didn’t have a problem making it on the stove but it was really hard to actually ice the cake. I choose to drizzle the icing onto the cake after I had put it on the cake stand and the icing got everywhere. Not only was the icing messy, it also hardens immediately as it cools which meant that it hardened all over my prep table as it oozed off the cake. Definitely not the ideal especially as I was frantically trying to ice it before I was expecting a delivery…. It was messy but I’d be happy to do it again now that I know about the potential for mess. I would recommend doing two passes of icing on top, an initial drizzle over the top then one last pass to even out the layer. Doing a smaller layer twice will help to keep the mess to a minimum and prevent any unnecessary icing loss. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did and happy baking! Let me know if you have any ideas of what I should try next in the comments below!

NYT Butterscotch Cake

For the Cake

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 375 grams (3 cups) self-rising flour
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 240 milliliters (1 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Icing

  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 440 grams (2 packed cups) dark/light brown sugar (OG recipe calls for dark, I used light)
  • 120 milliliters (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 305 grams (3 cups) sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake rounds.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, four minutes. Scrape as you cream if you can.
  3. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well and then scraping the bowl. Then alternate adding in flour and buttermilk, starting with flour and ending with flour. Add the vanilla extract last and mix gently to combine.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (It was roughly 650 grams in each pan for me). Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out into racks and let cool completely.
  5. For the icing, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and let bubble for five minutes, whisking constantly to prevent any of the mixture from burning.
  6. After five minutes, carefully and slowly add the buttermilk, stirring constantly until it comes to a roiling boil. Remove from heat and add salt. Transfer to a bowl.
  7. Mixing on low, add the confectioner’s sugar, whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Icing should be glossy and pour easily.
  8. While the icing is still hot, spread one cup over the top of the bottom layer then add the top layer. Use the rest of the icing on the top and sides of the cake. It will set as it cools so work quickly and carefully.
  9. Enjoy your cake!

NYT Pecan Pie Brownies

I bring you to another one of my mail ready recipes! This was another one of the recipes that I tested out for mailing and according to the recipients, they made it through beautifully! I think the key to mail-able baked goods is both density and freezing! I made these twice because I made a few mistakes the first time. The second time that I made them was about a week before I mailed them and once they were cooled, I froze them in ziplock baggies until I was ready to ship them. Even from Baltimore, they only took two days to make it to the recipients on the West Coast which was fantastic! I was really excited to make these because they combine brownies and pecan pie, two of my favorite baked goods! I found these as a I was going through the New York Times Cooking website. I’ve featured a couple of their recipes now and I cannot stress how much I love their cooking section. In an effort to keep the New York Times alive, the cooking section was monetized and a subscription costs about $45 a year. If you’re able to pay, it is absolutely worth it. Some of their cooking recipes can be hard and unnecessarily complicated but I’ve found that the variety and quantity of recipes is unmatched. This specific recipe is from Melissa Clark, one of the many wonderful writers for the food section. These brownies took a little time to perfect but are a wonderful afternoon treat! As I’ll share below, the first time I made them was a little bumpy but I got the hang of it by the second time.

So what went wrong the first time that I made this? A couple things but the biggest issue was the pan size. This recipe calls for a 8 inch square pan, the typical brownie pan. However, the closest thing that I have to an 8 inch square pan is my 9 inch cake rounds. Instead of buying yet another pan, I decided to make the brownies in my rectangular cake pan (8 by 13) which caused them to burn pretty badly because I misjudged the baking time with the thinner layer of brownies in a larger pan. The second time, I used my nine inch cake rounds and cut the brownies into squares once they had cooled a little bit. I also didn’t bake as long on round two because I was worried about burning them. The original recipe said to bake up to 55 minutes for the topping to set. I only baked for fifty minutes and found the fudge-y texture of the brownies to be so yummy that I didn’t want to bake it any longer. Because I chose not to bake it as long, the pecans were liable to coming loose. So a bit of a trade-off but one that didn’t affect my brownies too much after I froze them. I also found the recipe to a be a little bitter both times I made it. The brownie batter itself is very sweet but the topping wasn’t. It may have been because I used whole milk rather than heavy cream in the topping and I think you may have better results if you add an additional tablespoon or two of light brown sugar. So let me know how it goes for you in the comments below and happy baking!

NYT Pecan Pie Brownies Recipe

For the Brownies

  • 115 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter,
  • 115 grams (4oz) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 250 grams (1 /4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130 grams (1 cup+ a lil more) all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 45 grams (1/4 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

For the Pecan Layer Topping

  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 60 milligrams (1/4 cup) honey
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used whole milk, if you do so, add another tablespoon of sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 200 grams (2 cups) toasted pecans halves, roughly chopped
  1. Heat an oven to 350F. Put the pecans onto a large sheet pan and roast for 8 minutes or until you can smell the nuts. Set on a rack and let cool.
  2. Once ready to bake, heat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8 inch square pan with two inches of excess parchment on each side to help lift out the brownies once they’re baked.
  3. To make the brownies, place the butter and chocolate into a medium pot and place on the stove over low heat. Melt, stirring constantly. Once melted, scrape into a large bowl and mix in the granulated sugar. Let sit until cool to the touch, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Once cooled, whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Mix in chips and scrape into the prepared pan. Smooth over the batter into an even layer and set aside.
  5. Make the pecan layer by whisking together the melted butter, honey, brown sugar, heavy cream, and fine sea salt. Fold in the pecans until well coated. Once mixed, pour pecan mixture in an even layer over the brownie batter.
  6. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt and bake until the top is set and firm to the touch, 45-55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into 16 squares.

No Roll Lemon Shortbread

These lemon shortbread cookies are great! It could be argued that they’re just a cookie lemon bar but I love them! As some people may know, my new quest is trying to figure out which of my recipes do well when mailed across the country. Some lucky readers will even get to taste these once they make their way through USPS. I wouldn’t count on the reliability of the post in the US at the moment but I’m always willing to try something new. According to the online news sources that I read, the best baked goods to ship across the country are dense and hardy. I can vouch for the density of the cookies, but I’ll have to ask the recipients about their hardiness! I’m hoping that they stand up to the test of the mail but we’ll see! Obviously, once I heard that I needed to make something dense, I HAD to look for new recipes rather than use the old favorites. If these do ship well, I may experiment with those too! So here’s hoping to a problem-free transport process!

These cookies are very easy shortbread cookies. They’re “press-in” shortbread which means that you select the tin of your choice and press the dough in; no rolling out needed! It’s a super simple recipe and I would recommend doing it with your little ones if you have any. In about fifteen minutes, I was able to go from prepping my ingredients to putting the dough into the oven. The recipe calls for using a nine inch square tin however I am somewhat limited by my kitchen storage space so I used my nine inch cake round instead! It worked out really well and like the nine inch square pans, you just need to be careful to distribute the dough evenly as you press it in. If you have any spots that are a lot thicker than the rest of the recipe, they won’t bake properly and will mean that the rest of the dough may burn while you’re waiting for that spot to cook. Again, this recipe is really easy so that’s probably the only part that you could mess up. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and happy baking!

No Roll Lemon Shortbread Recipe

  • 149 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon zest (roughly the zest of one or two lemons) I like mine really lemon-y so I just pour in the zest
  • 340 grams (3 sticks or 1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 390 grams (3 1/4 cup) All Purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9 inch pan with parchment paper. Don’t just butter or grease, it will prevent the cookies from baking, use paper or a silicone mat inside the tin if you have an appropriately sized one.
  2. Combine sugar and lemon zest with your fingers in a medium bowl. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until fragrant.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and lemon/sugar mixture. Once combined and fluffy, mix in the vanilla and salt.
  4. Add flour and mix until just combined. Will be thick.
  5. Press into an even layer in the prepared pan. Prick every inch or so (I forgot this step but try to if you can, it’ll help it to bake through)
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes, until just golden. Remove from the oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before cutting or serving.

Chocolate Sourdough Discard Rolls

As always, I was on a hunt to find new things to do with my sourdough discard and came across this recipe on my Instagram feed. This recipe is from @bakingwithgina, a home based baker from Singapore! Gina is lovely and I’ve been following her account for a couple months. Her recipes are always beautiful and absolutely mouthwatering! At first, I thought that her account only showed bread recipes that used active sourdough starter until I came across these rolls! I was overjoyed! The first time I made it, I followed her recipe exactly. It didn’t come out as nice as I wanted but my boyfriend enjoyed the whole loaf regardless! I prefer the rolls which are really yummy as sweet breakfast treats. I’m still looking for some sort of filling, maybe with candied orange peel or orange marmalade so that might be added to this page as I continue to experiment with this recipe.

My second time trying this recipe went much better! I added another third of a cup of flour and an egg. By enriching the dough, I made a more American bread, one that is sweeter and has a longer shelf life. As a college student, I usually can’t eat my baked goods within the week unless I give a few away first! So baking these as pull apart rolls made more sense for me. You can shape it into a traditional sandwich loaf and it will rise just as well. The first time I made this dough, I also didn’t realize that yeast should be added if your discard is a little old. I keep my discard in the refrigerator for up to three weeks because I think it stays good for that long. Scientifically, you should use it within three to five days according to King Arthur Flour so take my word with a grain of salt! Discard that is older can be added to almost any recipe to add flavor and just a tablespoon or two can go into most recipes without a problem. Lately, I’ve been using my discard for these rolls or for crumpets (hopefully a blog post will follow about that but I’ve been eating them before I can get a good picture!). Let me know if you have any favorite discard recipes that I haven’t yet featured on the blog and I’ll be sure to check them out! Happy baking!

Chocolate Sourdough Discard Roll Recipe

  • 200 grams (about 1 3/4 cup) sourdough discard
  • 100 grams whole milk
  • 290 grams bread flour
  • 30 grams sugar
  • 3 grams kosher salt
  • Pinch of yeast (about 1 teaspoon instant yeast) (This one depends on the age of your discard, it may need more or less depending on how long it has been sitting in the refrigerator
  • 30 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips (If you use bittersweet, add some sugar to balance the recipe out)
  • 40 grams whole milk
  • 20 grams cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  1. In a small bowl, melt the chips in the microwave in thirty second increments. Mine took about 1 min 30 seconds to melt fully but I still did it in increments to prevent burning the chocolate. Add the cocoa powder, 40 grams whole milk, and espresso powder and mix to form a paste. Set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together the discard, flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, egg, and the chocolate paste. Knead until smooth. The bread should spring back when touch and the dough should be brown throughout the whole dough, not just marbled in.
  3. Set in an oiled bowl and cover. Let rise 3 hours.
  4. Punch dough down and let rest 15 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough. I made rolls like my other sourdough discard rolls. I rolled all the dough into a log and used unflavored dental floss to cut it into ten. I arranged those on prepared 9 inch cake pans in a circle to make tear apart loaves. This can also be made into a loaf like regular bread.
  6. Cover and let prove 3-3 1/2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F. Once the dough has doubled and is puffy, bake for 25-30 minutes. If baking a loaf, you may need to bake 35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the tin and let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy some yummy bread!

The Ultimate Challah Recipe

I did it folks!!!! I found the challah of my dreams!! After multiple unsatisfactory attempts, I have found the perfect challah recipe. However, I didn’t do this on my own. After my previous attempts, I sent out a cry for help to my lovely friend Laura and she sent me the challah recipe from her family. So thank you Laura!! This challah recipe is absolute perfection. It creates beautiful, fluffy, and rich bread. One of these rolls was enough to satisfy my appetite! They are pretty simple to make, taking far less time to rise/prove than other recipes. I’ve changed one or two things like proving times within the recipe but otherwise credit goes to the original creator! Now let’s dive into a few technical parts to the bread before we get to the recipe.

This recipe calls for SEVEN egg yolks with an additional egg beaten for the egg wash before baking. Seven eggs is a LOT of eggs but even that number of eggs is not sufficient to make the dough the startling yellow that it is in store bought versions of challah. However, I discovered the dirty secret of commercial challah baking and it is simply food dye. Challah relies on egg yolks for its hallmark richness but the cost of eggs can add up for bakers. To cut down on costs, many commercial bakers use yellow food dye to get the yellow color that most associate with really rich challah. I was a little bummed when I learned this but it also made me set my sights on more realistic expectations for my challah. One issue with using seven egg yolks in a challah recipe is that you have to separate them all out. I would recommend doing the separation while the eggs are cold. Cold eggs have firmer yolks that are easier to separate. There are three methods to do this and I suggest trying all of them to find which one you’re most comfortable with. You should also use at least three bowls while you’re separating egg yolks, one for the current egg that you’re working with, another for the leftover egg whites, and a third for the yolks. Doing it this was makes more dishes but it’ll ensure that you don’t get any cross contamination between the whites and the yolks.

The first method is using your hand. This is a good technique to start with because it doesn’t require a ton of skill and gets you really familiar with the egg and its white. All you have to do is crack the egg over a bowl and put the yolk in the palm of your hand while you sort of jiggle the white into the bowl. The white will slide off and you’ll be left with your yolk. The second method uses the shells. Once you crack the egg (which you should do firmly to give the shells clean edges), you juggle the egg between the shells to get the white to slid off. I would recommend turning to youtube to see how this is done. The third method uses a clean and empty plastic, disposable water bottle. With this method, you crack the egg into a bowl and then use the opening of the empty water bottle to suction up the yolk and transfer it to another bowl. This can take some practice and time but it’s the most fun and cleanest of all the methods. Please save your egg whites once you’ve separated out your yolks. Egg whites will stay good in the refrigerator for three months and can be used in omelets or macarons or many other confections! However, egg yolks will only stay good in the refrigerator for three days and their quality will degrade with each passing day. So if you’re thinking of separating your yolks ahead of time, I beg you to reconsider! Also, I would always recommend having backup eggs around. Even the best pastry chef will puncture an egg yolk or two while separating eggs and it’s best to be prepared for this possibility!

My last few words are about braiding the challah strand. I really like to make knotted challah rolls but I have yet to perfect my knotting method. When I make large loaves, I usually do three or nine strand braids which are not terribly complicated. A three-strand braid is just like doing a regular hair braid while a nine strand braid consists of three separate three-strand braids that are braided together. There are lots of youtube videos on braiding so if you’re itching to get more complicated, the internet can provide guidance! At the moment for my rolls, I do a simple square knot and tuck the ends underneath my rolls. I’m trying to get more complicated but have had issues with the bread bursting through its shape while in its second prove. If anyone has a suggestion, put it in the comments below and I’d be happy to try it! Otherwise, just do what you want to do with the challah. It’s a very forgiving bread and will be tasty regardless of its final form as long as its baked through! Happy baking!

Challah Bread Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon instant or dry active yeast (If you’re really fancy, use SAF gold yeast, it’s for enriched breads like challah)
  • 227 grams (1 cup) warm water (75-95F)
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I’ve started using flaky kosher salt and have liked the results a lot!)
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil (I used sunflower oil and it also worked great so feel free to substitute!)
  • 1 large egg beaten with a tablespoon of water
  • Black sesame seeds or Demerara (raw) sugar
  1. Combine bread flour, yeast, egg yolks, sugar, salt, oil, and water together. Mix until the dough is almost cohesive then turn out of the bowl onto a kneading surface. Knead for up to five minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked with a floured finger.
  2. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover and let rest 1 1/2-2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
  3. Punch down the dough. Divide into three or nine if you’re making a three or nine strand loaf. For large rolls, divide dough into 10. For smaller rolls divide into 15 or weigh out 45 gram pieces of dough. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
  4. Once rested, roll dough out with your hands to 12-24 inch strands. For smaller rolls, 12 inches is sufficient but for other braids, 24 inches is needed. Don’t force the dough to stretch, it will shrink back once left alone so decide on the length as you roll out each piece of dough. Shape the dough and place it on the baking sheet where it will be baked.
  5. Once shaped, let rest 1 hour for its final prove.
  6. During its final prove, preheat over to 375F for loaves and 400F for rolls. Prepare the egg wash by beating together an egg and some water to thin out the consistency. Before baking, brush the rolls all over with the egg wash and sprinkle on topping of choice like black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, or Demerara sugar.
  7. Bake. Baking time will vary on the loaf or roll type. Loaves will bake 35-45 minutes and if extremely large, may take 50 minutes and you may need to cover with foil to prevent it burning. Large rolls will take 15-20 minutes to bake while smaller rolls will bake 10-13 minutes. To check for doneness, remove the bread from the oven and roll onto its top. Knock the bottom of the roll or loaf. If you hear a hollow sound, it is done. If no hollow sound is heard, put back into the oven for another five minutes.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

A Post on Challah

I’ve recently become fixated on Challah and this post will contain some pointers and tricks but no actual recipe. I’m still working on finding my favorite challah recipe, I’ve tried two within the past week but I haven’t yet found one with the “egg-y” quality that I adore in challah. My ideal loaf of challah is lightly sweetened but with so many eggs inside that the dough itself is yellow and the crust is hard and beautifully browned. So far, I’ve been able to achieve beautiful puffiness with my challah dough but not that egg-y quality that I want. In my quest for the perfect challah, I’ve tried a recipe from a Le Pain Quotidian cooking class that I took several years ago and one from King Arthur Flour. Next on my list is the “Perfect Challah” recipe from the New York Times and I will let you all know how that one goes! As a baker, I often become fixated on one specific recipe for several days until I believe I have perfected it! One of the most memorable recent occasions of this was my obsession with quiche where I got up at four in the morning to re-do my quiche recipe multiple times. I just have a tendency to want to find ~the recipe~ for something, a recipe that I can count on always. During the semester, I got hung up on baguettes which I’ve made both in Baltimore and home in California to varying degrees of success. I’m still working on that but I took a break to focus on enriched breads which I find are easier to make in a pinch.

Challah is my favorite enriched dough and the only one that I make on a semi-regular basis. Its “enriched” qualities come from the use of oil and eggs as the fat that the yeast feeds on. The dough itself is very light and fluffy and the crust is browned but still soft and often covered with sesame seeds. Challah doesn’t require any special baking equipment, I usually bake mine on two cookie sheets in my oven. Its crust doesn’t need any additional steam and you can use whatever toppings you have on hand. When making challah, I try to have all the ingredients at room temperature. Any dough needs to reach a certain internal temperature before it will start the process of rising and fermenting. However, the internal temperature is especially important for enriched dough because the fats weigh down the dough making a big rise harder to achieve. I also use lukewarm water, around 90F, when making the dough to help with the internal temperature. Looking from the outside, the braiding of challah bread looks incredibly complicated but I’ve found the braiding process soothing and easier than expected. A three or four strand braid is pretty common for challah bread and I usually go with a three or a nine strand braid. For braiding, I handle the dough just like my hair. Actually, for dads trying to learn how to braid, challah dough might provide a good place to practice the more complicated plaits before trying it on your daughter’s head. King Arthur Flour has some great youtube videos on the most basic braids and like any part of baking, your braids will improve with practice. Let me know if you enjoyed this more technical type of post in the comments below. I can’t wait to share my final challah recipe with everyone and until then, Happy Baking!

Bulla Cookies

I love the holidays, covid or not, because of all the baking! I absolutely adore having a seasonal reason to bake and there’s nothing that cheers me up more than some lovely Christmas cookies. I always make a ton of cookies from different recipes around the holidays and these are the results of my latest experiment! I’m so lucky that this recipe worked out, it’s from the Wall Street Journal and I have NOT had good luck with some of their recipes. This past year, I’ve had a hard time with snicker-doodles and these were a perfect recipe for someone who regularly messes up the more delicate snickerdoodle. I love the spices mixed into the dough for snicker-doodles and this recipe provides the same spices with a bit more of a punch. The article that I got the recipe from described them as Jamaican snicker-doodles but I would describe them more like gingerbread snicker-doodles. They’re hardier cookies and the article recommended shipping these out to relatives as they would hold up better in the shipping process. I would have shipped some out had any made it out of my kitchen! They were so delicious that my family and I ate them all up within the week. I’m excited to make this recipe for many years to come, it’s amazing!

This recipe makes about twenty four cookies and the original recipe recommended doing 3 ounce dough balls for the cookies. I halved that amount to about 1.5 ounces per cookie and found that the smaller size works better for me. 3 ounce cookies would have been too big for my family and I but it may be just the right size for some! The true star of the recipe is the spices but we cannot neglect the hidden hero, cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is a byproduct from wine-making and it’s a chalky powder that winemakers will scrape from their barrels after they’ve removed the wine. Cream of tartar acts as an acid, balancing out the spreading tendency of the sugar and butter, and keeps the cookie together in the baking process. If a recipe calls for cream of tartar, if you don’t have any, go get some. It’s not worth it to try and substitute another acid like lemon juice, it just doesn’t work right. I am speaking from personal experience because I attempted to substitute lemon juice in several batches of snicker-doodles and they spread horrifically. I had to scrape the cookies off the baking tray and was very distraught. But we all fail during baking and I’m taking advantage of this never ending year to try and branch out in my baking despite the potential for failure. So I hope that you have some cream of tartar at home and can make these cookies for yourself and your family this holiday season! Happy baking!

Bulla Cookie Recipe

For the Dough

  • 330 grams (2 3/4 cup) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 297 grams (1 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 54 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar (if using cups, pack the sugar down)
  • 2 large eggs

For the Sugar Topping

  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove

To make the dough, first combine the dry ingredients (from flour down to ground pepper). Mix well with a fork.

  1. Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes in a mixer and longer by hand. Scrape the bowl and mix again for less than a minute. Beat in eggs one at a time until mixed completely. 
  2. Add in dry ingredients in one or two additions to the butter/sugar mix. Mix on low until just incorporated, try not to over mix. 
  3. Scoop out dough, about 1.5 oz each, and roll into a ball. Grease several containers and place the dough inside. Cover and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours, ideally chilling overnight. The dough can also be frozen at this stage as well and it keeps for 3 months in the freezer.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 and make the sugar topping by combining all the ingredients. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  5. Roll cookies in sugar topping and make sure they are completely coated. Place on sheets with at least 2 or 3 inches in between cookies and bake 10-14 minutes. (If your oven runs cold, bake 14 minutes) If baking from frozen, bake an additional 2-3 minutes but be sure to watch the cookies to prevent them burning.
  6. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack and enjoy! They stay good for 5 days in a airtight container. 

Mini-Pecan Pies

These are so good that one did not even make it to the plate for a photo. The day after I baked these, they were GONE! They are so good and I cannot wait to share the recipe! I found these after searching around for fall desserts on the New York Times Cooking App and came across these darlings! On their app, they’re called Pecan Tassies and are meant to be similar to a bite-size cookie. I ended up modifying the recipe slightly and making them much larger for a more satisfying bite and now I’m calling them mini-pecan pies! I love pecan pie and it’s one of my favorite foods that we have around the holidays. It’s also the favorite pie of my father whose birthday falls around Thanksgiving time. This year, I wanted to make these for our scaled down gathering and they have already been a big hit with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to make these for my whole family over the holidays!

I made a couple of modifications to the original recipe that really make all the difference. My recipe makes about ten cupcake sized pecan pies which I baked in a single muffin tin using reusable muffin liners. You can also make these in a mini-muffin pan that produces quite a few more so it’s your choice. The baking time doesn’t vary so you can’t go wrong either way. The dough that holds the pecan pie goo is quite soft and should be handled as quickly as possible so it doesn’t get tough or melt all over your hands. I added a tablespoon of maple sugar to my recipe which more than the two teaspoons of sugar from the original recipe but the addition makes the mini pies truly delectable. If you don’t have maple sugar, you can use regular granulated sugar or look for some maple sugar in stores. In my post “Maple Shortbread Cookies” I also include instructions for how to make maple sugar from maple syrup which you can always do as long as you have Grade A maple syrup around. The pecan pie goo is delicious but make sure your butter is truly melted before you mix it. When I was making my mini pies, I didn’t melt it as well as I should have and ended up with butter chunks that I slowly had to melt while trying not to cook the egg that I had already beaten in! As long as your butter and cream cheese are close to room temperature, it’s a super easy and quick recipe to whip together. Happy baking!

Mini-Pecan Pie Recipe

For the Crust

  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 123 grams (4 oz) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar (or granulated sugar if that’s all you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 128 grams (1 full cup) All Purpose flour

For the Filling

  • 1 large egg
  • 78 grams (1/4 cup) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 66 grams (2/3 cup) pecan halves, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a dozen non stick muffin cups.
  2. Make the dough. Beat together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and salt until creamy. Beat in the flour until the dough just comes together. Portion out the dough and press into a cup shape in the muffin tin.
  3. Make the filling by whisking together all the ingredients except the pecans.
  4. Sprinkle the pecans inside the crust in each of the cups before you add in the filling to evenly distribute the pecans. You’ll use 2 or more tablespoons per crust.
  5. Bake until the filling is set and the crust is brown 20-27 minutes (the original recipe went to 25 but I needed two extra minutes so go to 27 if your oven takes its time when baking stuff)
  6. Remove the tin from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the pies from the muffin tin and let cool on the wire rack. Once cooled, eat with a little whipped cream on top for a truly decadent mouthful!