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June 10, 2019

Blueberry Cobbler Cookies

Blueberry season is upon us! Well, almost, but given the insane number of buckets my family always lugs home after berry picking each summer I have to start planning early. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits to bake with because they're so versatile. They work for pies, frozen treats, smoothies, all sorts of breakfasts, and pretty much anything else you can dream up. I rarely see them in cookies, though, so I made it my personal mission this summer to do some sort of blueberry cookie. Well, mission accomplished. I cook those tasty berries down to a jammy consistency, pile them on top of buttery vanilla cookie dough, top it all with crumbly streusel, and bake them into the perfect treat: the irresistible taste of a fresh cobbler with the convenience of a cookie.


The jam is extremely simple, just blueberries, sugar, and a squeeze of lemon juice. That all cooks down for about a half hour until the berries burst and turn nice and thick. This will make more than you need for these cookies, but it won't keep as long as a jar of store-bought jam, especially if you don't can it properly, so use any extra within a few days. It would be great on top of ice cream, spread onto toast, or used to dip these cookies in for maximum blueberry flavor.


All good cobblers need good streusel, and these cookies are no exception. This one consists of sugar, brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon, flour, and lots of butter. It comes together in seconds and should be perfectly crumbly. If it's a little dry, add more butter, and if it's a little wet, add more flour. You can add more cinnamon to taste, too.


The cookies are also easy to make since a simple sugar cookie is all you need to highlight the tart berries and sweet streusel. It starts by creaming softened butter and sugar together until fluffy, adding an egg and plenty of vanilla, then stirring in the dry ingredients. I scoop them into small balls and roll them in more sugar for a little extra texture and pop of sweetness. You can use your thumb or a small measuring spoon to press an indent into the center of each cookie, then fill each pocket with that tasty blueberry jam. The streusel goes on top, then the cookies go in the oven. When they're just golden on the bottom, it's time to eat. They're fantastic hot and fresh, or you can top them with a scoop of ice cream for a delectable summer treat.


Filling:
1 1/2 Cups Blueberries
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Juice

Streusel:
3 T Sugar
3 T Brown Sugar
Pinch Cinnamon
Pinch Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
2/3 Cup Flour

Cookies:
1 3/4 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
2/3 Cup + 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla

For the filling, combine the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small pot. Simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

For the streusel, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the butter, then add in the flour.

Heat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

For the cookies, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the butter and 2/3 cup sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in the flour mixture.

Scoop the dough into 1" balls and roll in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Transfer to the prepared trays and press an indent in the center of each. Fill with the blueberry jam and top with the streusel. Bake for 12 minutes or until just golden.

Makes 20
Recipe Adapted from Joy the Baker

May 8, 2019

Pecan Praline French Toast Casserole

Brunch is a brilliant meal. Since it can be sweet or savory, it's really the best excuse to eat literally whatever you want. I went out to brunch at a local spot last weekend, and I decided on a waffle with cheesy hash browns. It's ok because the waffle used to be served with ice cream so really I'm being healthy. I also loved this particular brunch because there wasn't a wait (and also the great company). The main reason I would shy away from brunch is the fact that literally everyone else in the city has the same idea, and I'd rather not wait 2 hours for some pancakes when I could make decent ones at home. Brunch spots are going to be extra crowded this weekend for Mother's Day, so in my opinion it's worth trying to cook something yourself. I'm 100% sure your mom would love a homemade breakfast ready when she wakes up, especially if it borders on dessert and you don't forget to clean up after yourself. This pecan praline French toast casserole is basically breakfast bread pudding, and you can prep it the night before so all you have to do is pop it in the oven and wait for Mom to get up.


Like all good French toast recipes, this one starts with challah. It's a sweet bread made with eggs and fat, kind of like a sturdy brioche. French toast is actually best when the bread is a bit stale, so don't worry about picking up a fresh loaf. If the bread is stale, it's a little drier, meaning that it has more potential to soak up all that custard.


The custard consists of eggs, half and half, an extra splash of milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. If it sounds like what you would normally make for French toast, you'd be correct, though this may be a little more than you're used to making. You also have to let the bread sit overnight to soak it all up. When making normal French toast, the bread only cooks on the griddle for a couple minutes until golden and crisp, so it doesn't have much of a chance to dry out. If you poured the custard on the challah cubes and stuck it right in the oven to bake, you'd end up with dry bits of bread floating in a weirdly sweet, gelatinous pudding. Letting the bread sit overnight allows it to sop up all the liquid so that it stays moist (yes, I said moist) as it cooks through.


What makes this casserole extra special is the addition of pecans. I throw some chopped toasted pecans directly in with the bread so they're evenly distributed. I also make a 30-second homemade praline caramel concoction with even more pecans to go on top. That extra sugar seeps down into the bread pudding and also gets nice and crisp and caramelized for some nice textural variety. You can get more creative than just pecans, too. To make it more healthy/permissible for breakfast, you can add a handful of berries to the casserole before leaving it overnight. If your mom really wants a treat, though, you can take a hint from my local brunch spot and just throw some ice cream on top. My almost-stepmom would serve this with a big dish of grits casserole and a pile of bacon for a more well-rounded meal. The possibilities for this dish are pretty much endless, as long as you don't forget the card (and your mom gets to forget about the mess in the kitchen).


1 Large Loaf Challah or Brioche
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, Toasted
4 Eggs
3/4 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
4 T Butter, Softened
1 T Corn Syrup

Cut the loaf of bread into 1" cubes and transfer to a greased 7x11" baking dish. Toss with 1/2 cup pecans.

Whisk the eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour over the bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350F.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, remaining pecans, corn syrup, and remaining pinch of salt. Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and set.

Serves 6

April 30, 2019

Banana Upside Down Cake

I'm finally back home by myself after 10 days of hosting, traveling, and socializing. Also, it's basically May which means it's basically summer (despite that bout of snow we got over the weekend), so there's lots to celebrate. And the best thing to celebrate with? A cake, of course. This recipe is a great casual baking cake, since it doesn't require any fancy layering or frosting or decorating. The bananas speak for themselves, and the caramel seeps into every nook and cranny of the light and airy cake. A scoop of ice cream on top really makes it fantastic, especially when you're looking forward to summer.


Let's start from the bottom, although the cake is flipped over so I guess we're starting from the top. The caramel. Or carmel. However you want to say it, you'll be surprised just how easy it is to make from scratch. I'll admit it's not a true caramel, but heating butter and brown sugar together until thick and bubbly makes a pretty good sauce. A pinch of salt and a splash of rum round out the flavors for the perfect base for this cake (and also a sauce to drizzle on top of the cake and/or more ice cream).


The cake is a pretty standard vanilla cake, though it mixes up more like a Devil's food cake. There's no butter to soften or cream together, just oil and sugar whisked with eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. The dry ingredients are pretty basic too: flour, baking powder, and salt. It mixes up in a matter of minutes for a truly speed cake with all the flavor and fluff of a classic yellow cake.


Assembly is way easier than a fancy layer cake. I spread most of the caramel on the bottom of a deep round cake pan. It should have cooled down from when it was cooked, but if it's too thick to spread just heat it up on the stove for a minute or two until it thins out again. I slice about four very ripe bananas long-ways and fan them out in a single layer on the caramel, flat-side down. You'll probably need to break a couple into pieces for maximum coverage, or you can cut them the other way into coins. The cake batter goes on last, and I tap it on the counter a few times to get out any big air bubbles.


The cake bakes until a toothpick comes out clean, then I invert it onto a fancy plate so you can see all the caramelized bananas and the extra caramel drips down into the cake. It is especially delicious when served warm (even better with some ice cream on top), so no need to wait until it cools down completely. It will cut better if you can stand to wait a few minutes, but it's still better than waiting to cool completely and spreading on layers of frosting. I can't stress this enough: if you want a quick, summery cake to snack on instead of working on your summer bod, this is the way to go.

4 Bananas
1/2 Stick Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
1 T Rum
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Oil
2 tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1 Cup Buttermilk

Heat the butter and brown sugar together in a medium skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add a pinch of salt and the rum. Set aside to cool.

Heat oven to 350F and grease a deep 9-10" round cake pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt together. Combine the oil, sugar, vanilla, egg, egg yolk, and buttermilk. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Cut the bananas in half lengthwise. Pour the caramel into the cake pan, then add the bananas cut-side down. Top with the cake batter.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert.

Makes 1 9-10" Cake
Adapted from Food52