Top 5 strawberry recipes for summer

Top 5 Strawberry Recipes

We eat strawberries nearly every day of the year in our house because Beany and I can’t get enough of them, but summer strawberries are by far the best of the bunch. They are amazingly juicy, amazingly sweet and amazingly not $5 a quart right now. So strike while those fields are hot!

In honor of this grand strawberry season, here are five of my favorite strawberry-filled desserts, perfect for your Fourth of July cookout.

Strawberry Tartlettes5

Strawberry tarts with lemon zest

Strawberry Sorbet

Three-ingredient strawberry sorbet

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Strawberry banana muffins

Strawberry Jam6

10-minute strawberry jam

Angel Food Cake 2

Angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream

Happy Fourth of July, pals!

XO,
Katrina

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Sundays and sunshine: Lemon donut muffins

Lemon Donut Muffins

I always forget how much I love spring until it comes back again. The weather here has been amazing lately, and we’ve been soaking up some serious outside time (hence my frequent sneezes and ridiculously itchy eyes. Oh, allergies, you rascals!). I’m convinced that few things are better for a kid — particularly a high-energy toddler — than time spent outdoors, where they can jump, climb and run around as fast as their little legs can carry them. Beany could run laps around the apartment all day and still not end up with the same kind of happy exhaustion she gets from an hour or two outside. It must be the fresh air. Or the sunshine. Whatever it is, you can’t bottle it. But it’s there for the taking.

Lemon Donut Muffins3

Lemon Donut Muffins7

Early Sunday morning, we packed up the kids and walked to one of our favorite bakeries nearby for something delicious to ring in the day. This place has the best lattes in town, which is a happy thing for the coffee drinkers in our bunch, and Beany gets a kick out of picking something yummy from behind the glass counter. I do, too. After all, what’s a latte without something sweet to go with it, right?

Lemon Donut Muffins6

So lattes and lemon donut muffins in hand, we headed back home, where we opened all the windows and let the springtime breeze roll in. I don’t know if it was the walk, the fresh air, the sunshine or the muffins, but it was a really great morning.

Lemon Donut Muffins4

Lemon Donut Muffins8

If one could, in fact, bottle sunshine and fresh air and general outside loveliness, it would come in the form of a lemon donut muffin. So although the rest of the week is never as easy breezy as our weekends, I thought I’d try my hand at recreating a piece of our magical morning to last us until Saturday comes around again. Oh, happy day, it was a success! Bright, rich and the perfect blend of sweet and zing, these lemon donut muffins will erase the Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) woes and remind you that blue skies are ahead. The calendar might say Monday, but we’re still feeling very Sunday here.

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Lemon Donut Muffins9

Lemon Donut Muffins

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ cup milk
• ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
• 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a muffin pan with butter (you’ll need 9 spots buttered and ready to go). In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the unsalted butter and ½ cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and lemon zest, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and cream. Slowly add the flour and milk/cream mixtures to the standing mixer, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Fill the greased muffin tins about 2/3 full, and bake until the donut muffins are barely golden around the edges, about 20 to 22 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove the muffins from the tins right away using a butter knife to loosen the edges.

Working as quickly as you can, dip the tops and sides of each muffin into the melted salted butter, and then roll them in sugar.

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XO,
Katrina

 

The world according to Beany: Chocolate banana muffins

Banana Chocolate Muffins3

Anyone who lives with a 2-year-old knows that they are incredibly adept at rattling off every last detail they know about any little thing at any given moment of the day. This makes for wonderful bedtime distractions:

“Goodnight, Beany.”
“Mama, wait! Water! Bunny! Books! My wall! An elephant! It’s dark! More water! Please, Mama! Dada? Dada!”

Lunchtime works this way, too:

Upon seeing her sandwich cut in a snazzy new fashion:
“Yay! Triangles! I like my triangles! Apples? Yay, apples! Oh no! A napkin! Red, blue, orange, yellow, whiiiiiite!”

And then, there’s the grocery store. Oh, the grocery store:

“Mama! Dada, look! Apples! Orange! Eggs? Eggs! Cheese! Yo[gurt]! Nana? Nana! Nana! Nanaaaaaa!”

That’s how we end up leaving with bananas every time. It’s not that we make it a habit of giving into every toddler whim (there are plenty of sugar-filled grocery store requests that go unanswered), but when she’s excited about the produce aisle, we generally try to encourage it. Of course, 2-year-olds are also notoriously picky eaters, so no matter how enthusiastic she is about those bananas at the store, it’s anyone’s guess whether that elation translates to home. Half the time, she devours them faster than we can keep up. The other half of the time, she eats one the first day and then leaves the rest to freckle and brown. That means that half the time, asking for bananas at the store means banana baked goods at home. Wait a minute! Maybe she does know what she’s doing!

Banana Chocolate Muffins2

I typically make banana tea muffins with overripe bananas because they aren’t super sweet, but these chocolate banana muffins were a fun and delicious replacement. I don’t know why I don’t combine chocolate and bananas more often. It’s amazing! You don’t have to sprinkle the flakey sea salt on top if it’s not your thing, but that salty sweet top is probably my favorite part of the whole dessert. Beany was a fan, too:

“Cocoa nana? Yay! Mmm! I like cocoa nana! Nana! Nana! Good girl, Ella.” (Toddler thought streams are not always linear.)

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Banana Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Adapted from Fork, Knife, Swoon

• 3 ripe bananas, mashed
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 1/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)
• 1 tablespoon flakey sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Maldon.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together the mashed bananas, vanilla and egg until the mixture is completely combined. Add the oil and milk, and whisk to combine. Add the sugars, and whisk again.

Then use a spatula to stir in the cocoa powder, and mix until the cocoa is completely incorporated. Stir in the salt and baking soda, and then gently fold in the flour. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffins cups (cups will be about ¾ full). Sprinkle the tops with the chocolate chips, and then sprinkle on the flakey sea salt.

Bake the muffins for 14 to 17 minutes, until the muffin tops look set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan as soon as you’re able, and let them cool on a baking rack.

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Does anyone else have any good uses for all of those overripe bananas? Or stories of toddler shenanigans? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Happy Easter! Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 2

Happy Easter! This post is popping up a little later than planned, but I suppose that’s life with a newborn and a toddler in the house. And a puppy. Yep, that puppy is wild, too.

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 4

In case any of you are still on the lookout for an Easter-ready dessert (or a feels-like-spring dessert for that matter), look no further. This lemon ginger bundt cake comes together in a snap and tastes as happy as it sounds. I love that it uses crystallized ginger instead of ground. Have you cooked or baked much with it? It’s pretty fun, delicious stuff. Zingy and bright and just what spring is supposed to taste like. I’m currently in search of new gingery recipes so I can use up the rest of it.

Easter 4

In other news, Beany went to her very first Easter egg hunt yesterday and had a pretty great time. Fortunately, she didn’t realize all the sugar that came hidden inside those eggs until the very end of the hunt, so we managed to escape without her getting too incredibly sugar filled. Of course, now in her zeal for jellybeans and chocolate, she’s requesting eggs by the dozen.

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Easter

Easter 3

Easter 5

Easter 2

Hope your Easter is a good one, too!

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Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 3

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 6 large eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• powered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Blend in the lemon juice and vanilla.

With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Blend until just incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake

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XO,
Katrina

Sweets in the snow: Cocoa brownies with sea salt

Cocoa Brownies2

We’re knee-deep in snow here in Boston today (or full-body deep as far as our chilly little poodle is concerned), and I’m happy to report that we’re finally getting a taste of the East Coast winters we’ve heard so much about since moving here last summer. Woo hoo! There are few things I love more than a seriously snowy morning. Well, that and baked goods. Today, pals, we have both. Did I already say woo hoo?

Cocoa Brownies4

I’ve become a big fan of brownies in recent years, largely because, though there’s plenty of debate over corners vs. middles, fudgy vs. cakey, etc., most everyone seems to appreciate a good brownie in one form or another. I definitely lean more toward the super chewy and arguably overcooked variety, and Jared leans more soft and fudgy, so we waver back and forth between which recipe is our favorite at any given time. It’s nice when we find a happy medium, though, and this brownie, with its fudgy flavor (ironically from using cocoa instead of melted baker’s chocolate) and chewy bite, is pretty fair middle ground.

Cocoa Brownies3

I like cutting these guys into tiny, nearly bite-sized pieces because that’s really all you need. Oh, and don’t forget to top them with the flakey sea salt! It’s so simple but so necessary. Jared and I both agree that it’s a must for any brownie-baking we do from here on out.

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Cocoa Brownies

Cocoa Brownies with Sea Salt
Adapted just slightly from Genius Recipes, Food52.com

• 10
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 ¼ cup sugar
• ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 
cold eggs
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• flakey sea salt (Maldon is my favorite)

Place your oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on the sides.

Place the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl or medium saucepan, and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined and hot to the touch. Remove the bowl from the skillet, and set it aside until the mixture is warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour, and stir until you can’t see it any longer. Then beat the batter vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick in the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely.

Lift up the ends of the parchment, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut them into 25 squares. (I popped my brownies into the refrigerator for a few minutes before cutting them, which helps of you’re hoping for cleaner lines.)

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Happy snow day!

XO,
Katrina

Beany vs. the Boxed Cookie: A Quest for Homemade Fig Newtons

Fig Newtons2

Anyone who’s a parent will probably tell you that, despite all of the times and all of the ways that they feel they’re falling a bit shy of the mark, there are at least a few parenting-related things that they feel pretty good about. It’s been true for us. Yes, we cave to demands for extra bedtime snuggles, use disposable diapers and Beany watches more Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than a doctor might recommend, but when it comes to her diet and nutrition, we’ve tried to stay pretty up and up with good-for-you eats and made-from-scratch desserts. Not always, but most of the time. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.

After two years of eating this way, not only does Beany seem to have pretty good taste for a toddler, but she’s also developed a rather discerning palate when it comes to baked goods. This has translated into outright refusal of nearly any prepackaged or non-homemade sweet. We’re talking birthday cake at parties, snacks at the grocery store, even Oreos. She’d happily eat ginger spice cookies, banana muffins or brownies as the day is long, but hand her something that you didn’t bake yourself, and somehow her toddler super senses kick in, and she instinctively turns up her nose. This was true for a long, long time. But then, we went to Grammy’s house.

Fig Newtons8

One day after lunch, Grammy pulled out a “special cookie” from deep inside the pantry. It was a Fig Newton. “I doubt she’ll eat it,” I told my mom when she asked if Beany could have one. “But she can try it. We’ll see what she does.”

Fig Newtons5

Beany looked at the cookie skeptically, took a teeny tiny nibble from the top and then proceeded to eat the entire thing. In three bites! Mouthful of cookie and face covered in crumbs, she smiled the smile of a kid who finally understood the joys of processed sweets. If 2-year-olds have vices, Beany had found hers, wrapped in a square of fig and pastry.

Fig Newtons6

It’s hard to deny your child something that you know brings them so much joy, and I dare say that our girl looked nearly euphoric every time she had a Fig Newton during that three-week vacation. Upon returning home, however, before I let myself succumb to the call of the prepackaged grocery store cookies, I vowed to give the homemade version a try, just to see if I could win back Beany’s sensibilities. If you have a Fig Newton-lover in your house, and you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort that the homemade route demands, this recipe is spot on. Steaming the cookies as soon as they’re done baking gives them that unmistakable Fig Newton texture, and the flavor is just like the original but amplified a bit with extra orange zest and vanilla.

Thankfully, after a sideways glance or two, Beany was willing to try them last night, and though her response wasn’t overwhelmingly this-is-so-amazing the first day, by day two she heartily approved. Of course, I haven’t offered her the packaged vs. homemade challenge, with the two options side by side. Honestly, I’m too scared of the results.

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Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons
Recipe from petitbleu, Food52.com

For the pastry:
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 
teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 10
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 2/3 
cups brown sugar
• 1
 large egg
• 2
 teaspoons vanilla extract
• zest of one orange

For the filling:
• 1
 pound dried figs, cut into small pieces
• ½ cup water

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside. Then beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest, and beat until well combined.

Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. (The dough will be super soft.) Spoon the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, and refrigerate it overnight.

In the meantime, make the fig filling by combining the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, put on the lid, and allow the water to boil until the figs have absorbed it. (If the figs are still not soft, add a bit more water and allow it to simmer a bit longer.)

Transfer the figs to a food processor, and pulse them until the mixture is completely smooth. Allow the filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place a large piece of parchment on your work surface, and flour it liberally. Divide the chilled dough into four pieces. Place one piece of dough on the parchment, and return the others to the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Shape the piece of dough into a rectangle by squaring it on the work surface, and then roll the dough, into a long rectangle, about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long. Make sure you keep lifting the dough and flouring the parchment. The super soft dough will stick easily if you don’t keep checking it.

Place the fig filling into a pastry bag or a large Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the filling in a 1-inch strip down the center of the dough rectangle. (To help flatten out the filling a bit, dip your fingertips in water and gently press down on the filling.) Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other. Press down on the seam to close it. Then flip the cookie roll over, seam-side down. Transfer it carefully to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while you repeat this step with the other three pieces of dough. (Per Jared’s super smart suggestion, I used the metal ruler I already had out to measure my dough rectangle as a base to transfer the cookie rolls. It’s 12 inches long, so it worked like a charm.)

Once all four cookie rolls are assembled and on the parchment-lined baking sheet, bake them for 16 to 22 minutes, or until the dough is no longer tacky and begins to brown around the edges.

While the cookie rolls are still warm, cut them into 2-inch cookies. (If necessary, wipe your knife off every so often between cuts; the figgy mixture is pretty sticky.) Immediately place the cookies in a single layer inside a large Ziploc bag or airtight container with the lid on or bag sealed. It sounds weird, but steaming the cookies is what gives them that soft Fig Newton texture. Cool the cookies completely, and then eat and be merry!

Makes about 30 cookies

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Have you ever tried homemade versions of your favorite boxed treats? Cookies? Cakes? How about Pop-Tarts? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Salad for lunch, cookies for dinner: Peanut butter chocolate chip biscuits

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits3

Well, we’ve made it through the season of sweets, and now my blog reader and Pinterest feed are filled with fancy salads, whole grains and about seven gazillion paleo recipes. I suppose January is the time for all of that. It’s out with the, “Eat what you want because it’s Christmastime, y’all!” and in with the “No really, honey, I think you’ll like quinoa.”

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits4

We’re doing our own version of the get-back-on-track bandwagon, but then again, I’ve always been an advocate of making healthy choices for meals if it means I can reward myself with a healthy dose of dessert. I say a salad for lunch is a pretty fair tradeoff for a stack of cookies come evening.

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So today, it’s a cookie recipe for you: peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits. Consider it your reward for two good weeks of healthy eats. You can always have oatmeal tomorrow morning.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Adapted just slightly from Winter on the Farm (Matthew Evans, p. 209) 

• ¾ cup light brown sugar
• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 300 grams creamy peanut butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Beat in the peanut butter, salt and baking soda until well combined.

Slowly add the flour to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and place about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the balls down with the tines of a fork until they’re about ½ inch thick, then bake for 10-14 minutes, until the cookies are tan but not dark.

Makes about 40 cookies

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XO,
Katrina

Salty, sweet, gone: Chocolate-pistachio sables

Chocolate Pistachio Sables2

If the recipe list on my blog is any indication, I’m a pretty big fan of cookies. They’re my favorite dessert (aside from ice cream) and my go-to baked good for pretty much any occasion. Dinner with friends? Cookies. Housewarming party? Cookies. Something to take to work? Cookies. I’m staying home the entire day with absolutely nothing on the agenda? Cookies. And cookies.

Chocolate Pistachio Sables6

Chocolate Pistachio Sables

With Thanksgiving coming up, there are certain dishes that are givens (I’m talking to you, pie), but I always like to have a little something nibbly around, too, just in case the meal takes longer to cook than we expected or there are wild and crazy non-pie-eaters in our midst. Plus, Beany loves cookies, and though I wouldn’t call them bribes, we’ve been known to use them as “incentives” for good behavior. Everyone knows that in order to be a cookie eater, one must be among the nicest, most polite and patient members of society, so it’s only good parenting to let our 2-year-old know that, too, right?

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These chocolate-pistachio sables are our latest craze, adapted ever so slightly from the latest issue of Bon Appétit. If you’re in search of the perfect salty, sweet cookie combo, this is it. The cookies themselves have a great buttery texture like shortbread, and the chocolate-pistachio combo gives them a little holiday pizazz. Oh, and the flaky sea salt on top! Goooood stuff. The Maldon salt is a little pricey, but it’s worth it I think.

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Chocolate-Pistachio Sables
Adapted just slightly from Bon Appétit (December 2013) 

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 ¼ cups lightly packed brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 egg white
• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
• flaky sea salt (I used Maldon, available at Whole Foods)

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the egg white, and mix until combined. Then fold in the chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into four equal pieces, and roll each piece into a log about 8 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Push the dough together firmly so it doesn’t crumble apart, and then wrap each log tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. [At this point, if you’d rather bake the cookies days or weeks later, stick the parchment-wrapped logs in airtight plastic and freeze them until ready to bake, up to 1 month. You don’t even need to defrost them before slicing and baking!]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a serrated knife to cut logs (one at a time) into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about ½ inch apart. Sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt, and bake for about 10-14 minutes (rotating the pan hallway through), until the edges are set and the center looks dry. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

Chocolate Pistachio Sables4

Chocolate Pistachio Sables7

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There’s definitely tons of butter in this recipe, but it makes a gazillion cookies (i.e. eight dozen), so that’s really not so bad. I actually only baked one roll of them the other day and stuck the three others in my freezer for the day before Thanksgiving. So now my freezer is aptly packed with cookies, scones, pie crusts and more cookies. Can you tell the holidays are coming? Are you ready?!?

XO,
Katrina

Eat like a monkey: Ginger(monkey)bread

Monkey Gingerbread

The first time I ate monkey bread was for breakfast at a school friend’s sleepover when I was 12 years old. I remember watching, fascinated, as her mom cut Pillsbury Grands biscuits into six pieces each, rolled the dough into balls and then dunked them into a bath of butter and cinnamon sugar before layering them freely in a bundt pan. Forget the fact that it was premade dough, or that the bath of butter was actually a bath of margarine, or that I was much more of a pancakes-with-syrup-on-the-side kind of girl than a connoisseur of overly sweet morning concoctions; I convinced myself, while watching the magic unfold, that this would indeed be the greatest breakfast of my young life.

Monkey Gingerbread3

Many moons later, and I honestly can’t remember how that monkey bread tasted. What I do remember, however, is crowding around a small kitchen island, a half dozen sleepy-eyed girls in mismatched pajamas and socks, happily pulling off balls of bread, one by one, until our tummies were content and our sugar spots filled. As much as I love baking for flavor, the recipes I savor the most, especially as our Beany grows older and more interested in the happenings of the kitchen, are the ones that bring with them an experience. Monkey bread, when eaten correctly, is an experience in itself. And if it tastes great, too? Well, then you really can’t go wrong.

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Ginger(monkey)bread

Adapted slightly from arielleclementine, Food52.com

1
 packet active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/3 
cup warm water (110 degrees)
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1
 cup whole milk
• ¼ cup molasses
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus ¼ cup, if needed
• 2
 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2
 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ rounded
 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1
 stick salted butter, melted
• 1
 cup packed light brown sugar

Quickly stir together yeast, the teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes nice and foamy. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons butter, milk and molasses in a small saucepan, just until the butter is melted. Set it aside for a minute or two to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on low. Slowly add the molasses mixture, followed by the yeast mixture. Keep mixing until the dough comes together, about 7 minutes or until smooth. (This is pretty sticky dough compared to other breads — it will stick to the bottom of the bowl — but add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too wet.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Butter the bundt pan generously with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl and the brown sugar in another.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Cut the dough into 64 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. One by one, dip the balls in butter, roll in brown sugar and place them in the bundt pan (distributing them as evenly as possible).

Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for another hour. (Although I didn’t try it, reviews of this recipe suggest that you can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point — overnight if you wish — and bake it later. Just make sure to allow an hour for the dough to come to room temperature and finish rising before you bake it.) Once the balls have risen, they should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.

Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350-degree F oven, until the top is golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for just 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then gather the family, and enjoy! This monkey bread really does taste best when it’s warm from the oven, so don’t wait!

Monkey Gingerbread8

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I love how this recipe turned out, and though the process can be a bit time-consuming with all of the hands-on rolling and individual dipping, the bread itself actually comes together fairly easily. It tastes wonderfully gingerbready, and the gooey, carmely outer layer really takes it over the top. And just think how great it would be to stand around the kitchen counter with your nearest and dearest while you pull the bread apart and enjoy that surge of sugary goodness! I already have plans to bring it back for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Get ready, little sister! You’re helping me with all the rolling and dipping!

XO,
Katrina

Taste of sunshine: Lemon sandwich cookies

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When I’m in the thick of summer, smack in the middle of the steamy heat and mosquito-ridden evenings, I have a hard time appreciating the season for what it is. I love cold weather, and my grumpiness level automatically shifts up a few notches when the temperature reaches 80. I know, I would have had a hard time in the pre-air-conditioning pioneer days. But then, there’s a reason I always ignored the townsfolk and set out in the dead of winter for all of my Oregon Trail journeys. No one wants to travel with me across rugged terrain in a covered wagon in mid-July. I’d be even worse than that grump pot Sally. And she always got cholera.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 4

So yes, my yoke and I much prefer the chill to the heat. But this summer has been a particularly good (albeit busy) one, and as the season officially starts to wind down for us, I’m finding myself surprised by how much I’m going to miss it. We’ve had lots of time with Jared home, lots of time with family and a whole lot of those eat-lunch-at-3-then-have-popcorn-for-dinner kinds of days. That total lack of schedule just doesn’t seem to fly for us any other time to year, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can say we milked it for all it was worth.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 2

As summer starts to fizzle (not that you’d know by the temperature — 88 in Boston today! Eep!), we’re reminiscing on the good ol’ just-a-few-weeks-ago days while they’re still fresh in our memory. And we’re doing so with lemon because, well, lemon tastes like sunshine, and sunshine is good any time of year. These lemon sandwich cookies were a big hit in our house, especially with Beany. She’s never had an Oreo before, but this foray into sandwich cookies has revealed that’s she’s a twister and a licker. Every dot of frosting must be gone before she makes her move on the wafers. Then every dot of wafer is consumed with gusto.

You could certainly try these cookies with another citrus, but I do hope you’ll try the lemon version first. There’s just something so happy about a lemon cookie. And a lemon cookie with lemon frosting? Well, that’s about as much happy as a taste bud can stand.

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Lemon Sandwich Cookies 9

Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• zest from 1 large lemon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (for sprinkling on cookies)

For the icing:

• 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• zest from 1 large lemon
• 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the cookies, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt with an electric mixer on high speed until well combined. Add the vanilla, and blend to combine. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a disk about ½ inch thick, wrap it and chill for about an hour, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 1 ½-inch rounds from the dough, and place them 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle the tops with the granulated sugar, and bake until they’re just beginning to brown, about 13 to 17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and lemon zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, and mix until smooth. (The icing should be firm but spreadable; add a bit more sugar if needed.)

To make the sandwiches, place about 1 teaspoon of icing between two cookies, sugared sides out, and squeeze together gently.

Lemon Sandwich Cookies 7

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How is your summer winding down? Will you miss the carefree schedule, or are you antsy to get back into a routine? Any end-of-summer recipes you’re wild about these days? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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