Strawberry Season

Strawberry season might be one of my favorite times of the year.

Growing up, this time of year always meant driving back to New Orleans to visit family and, most importantly, heading back to Texas with at least a few flats of fresh, sweet Ponchatoula strawberries.

In case you’re saying to yourself, “Ponch-a-what?”, let me explain: Ponchatoula, Lousiana is famous for its strawberries. It’s a small town north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge which truly has some of the best strawberries.

Because of this tradition, I’m a bit strawberry spoiled: I find myself often disappointed with watery, flavorless varieties in the off-season (not to mention how expensive they can be in NYC off-season!). So when strawberry season comes around and I do find flavorful, sweet, juicy berries, it makes me incredibly happy. And reminds me of those trips we made growing up, eating countless berries in the car ride home and over the next couple weeks. 🙂

Chocolate strawberry fudge

In honor of the season, I’ve been happily baking quite a few berry recipes!

To name a few which I’ve made so far/on my to-make list…

(Hover over for recipe links to all the above!)

Who else is loving strawberry season, and what are you baking??

Strawberry basil scones – yum!
Irresistible fudgy squares…

Donuts donuts donuts

Ever since I bought my new donut pan from Sur La Table, I’ve been on a donut kick.

Blackberry donuts

The first donuts I made were these blackberry donuts by Preppy Kitchen, a few weeks ago when we were hosting my boyfriend’s cousin + her boyfriend at our place. They were super moist, so easy to make, and our guests loved them!

The recipe only calls for blackberry juice in the dough, but I decided to add some leftover juice and additional bits from straining to the frosting for extra blackberry flavor. If you’re looking for a smooth, glossy finish to the donuts, probably best to leave out the blackberry pieces from the frosting, as it made it a little inconsistent in texture; otherwise, why waste perfectly good blackberry bits (and it gives such a nice pink color)!

Blood orange donuts

Next, I decided to go for blood orange donuts! I’d been seeing lots of these pink beauties on my Insta feed, so I joined in the trend 🙂 Conveniently enough, the donut pan came with a recipe for just that: Sur La Table’s own take on blood orange donuts.

Comparing the two recipes, I’d say the dough for the blackberry donuts was moister, but I slightly preferred the sugar glaze of the second batch over the cream cheese frosting. Might have to try a mash-up recipe of my own for batch number three… 😉

YUM!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Fun fact: the first time I ever used yeast (several years ago now) was to make homemade cinnamon rolls.

Prior to that, I had thought of yeast as something complicated to work with that would require hours of waiting for it to rise and all the effort of kneading. And while some breads might require a bit more time and effort, these cinnamon rolls are extremely easy and ready in just 90 minutes.

For anyone else who’s never worked with yeast before: that’s not too daunting, right?

Honestly, the trickiest part of these rolls is the actual rolling of the dough without losing any of the filling. But I’ve learned a tip to make even that part easier!

Rolling pins are always fun to use, don’t you think?

After mixing the ingredients for the dough, resting it, and then rolling it out to the right size/thickness, I recommend placing it on a sheet of wax paper/parchment paper before beginning to add the fillings. That way, you can use the paper to help evenly guide the rolling process (something I learned watching The Great British Baking Show episode for Swiss rolls!).

After that, it’s just a matter of slicing your roll and letting them proof to double the size:

A tray full of golden brown cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven and just waiting to be iced… can you think of anything better on a Sunday morning? 🙂

Check out my go-to cinnamon roll recipe by The Baker Chick here!

Easy 5-Ingredient Nutella Cookies

Who here loves Nutella?

Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who’s not a fan of Nutella.

An old friend of mine didn’t like chocolate, but he liked Nutella.

When I was living with my Austrian host family, the little boy – Lukas – would eat Nutella on toast almost every day for breakfast, occasionally for lunch, and I imagine dinner as well had he been allowed.

My boyfriend looooves Nutella.

So now that we’ve established Nutella is pretty much universally loved, let’s get to these cookies. Incredibly quick, simple, and with only 5 ingredients (one of which is, you guessed it, Nutella), they’re perfect for whipping up a quick treat, or just finding a new way to enjoy your favorite hazelnut spread 😉

Enjoy!

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or alternatively roll batter into 1-inch balls with hands (it will be sticky – I recommend wetting your fingertips with water to help) and place on parchment paper lined tray.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake + Decadent Chocolate Ganache…

As someone who loves to bake, I tend to find myself making my own birthday cakes. Which is totally fine by me 😛

This year for my birthday, my bf and I hosted a party at our place with about 20 friends, and I decided to go all out with two different kinds of cake for my party guests: blackberry upside down cake and a chocolate ganache cake. Yummm!

~Related exciting news~

Since starting this blog + instagram account, I’ve been working to improve my food styling and photography skills. To do so, I realized I needed to invest in a tripod in order to achieve a better degree of clarity and definition in my photos. Well, my wonderful boyfriend surprised me the morning of the party with a new tripod, just in time for taking photos of my beautiful cakes! So, the photos in this post are the first taken with my new toy (which I absolutely love)!

New tripod! (Set up to take a perfectly stable overhead shot)

But back to the cakes.

I decided to choose two contrasting cakes, to give people the option between fruity and chocolate, lighter and more decadent.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

I found this cake perusing what has become one of my favorite baking books – Bake from Scratch (Vol 2) – which I received as a gift a year back.

This cake turned out beautifully, both in taste and visually! By the end of the night, it was completely devoured by our guests.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Just look at that glossy chocolate ganache…

Rosana from Yoga of Cooking calls this “the best chocolate cake ever.” I tend to agree. I spotted this cake on my feed last week on National Chocolate Cake Day and instantly knew I had to make it for the party. Rich chocolate cake topped with decadent chocolate ganache, this cake is not for the chocolate shy.

Now chocolate ganache might sound intimidating, but it was so easy to make! This was actually my first go at ganache, and it was surprisingly simple. All in all, this whole cake comes together in just two bowls, one for the cake and one for the ganache. Delicious cake, minimal mess: would 100% recommend!

All in all, the cakes + our DIY paloma bar (recipe idea by Bon Appetit) + an amazing cheesy artichoke kale chorizo dip were all a great success… happy birthday to me! 🙂

My Favorite Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies

Dark chocolate. Sea salt. Fudginess. (Are you drooling yet?)

Super Bowl Sunday is soon upon us, so it’s time to break out the go-to, tried-and-true party favorites. And these brownies are it.

I’ve tried lots of different brownie recipes over the years: there are tons out there! Classic, blondie, with peanut butter, with nuts, with caramel… the list goes on and on. Some of my favorites have been Half Baked Harvest’s Crinkle Top Brownies, the zucchini brownies I alluded to in my previous post, and of course, my mom’s old recipe. But my absolute favorite recipe is these Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies by The Baker Chick (sorry, mom…).

Sometimes you just need that perfect center-of-the-brownie piece…

I’ve probably made these brownies at least 20 times (which is quite a few repeats on a single recipe given the multitude of amazing new recipes I’m constantly bookmarking to try!). And let me say, they never disappoint: always a crowd-pleaser at parties, potlucks, or any other occasion. They even won me a departmental baking competition at work one time!

These brownies are DECADENT. Incredibly rich, fudgy, and with a topping of sea salt that pairs perfectly with the dark chocolate. So even if you have a favorite recipe of your own, I recommend you try these out; you surely won’t be disappointed.

What are you making this Super Bowl Sunday??

Apricot Cake (Marillenkuchen)

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about my time in Austria and discovery of the myriad of apricot dishes, especially in late summer. And while it’s not currently stone fruit season in NYC, it is a 3-day weekend and we’re expecting a snowstorm later this afternoon, so I decided to to dig out the recipe my host mom gave me for her amazing Marillenkuchen (apricot cake)!

I’ve kept her original recipe intact except for the addition of a bit of lemon zest, just to give the cake a bit of that zesty flavor to really complement the apricots.

If fresh apricots are hard to come by, a great thing about this recipe is that you can also make it with peaches, raspberries, or most other fruits that might be in season/locally available.

And in case you haven’t figured by now, Marille means apricot in German. 🙂

Recipe:

Note: Since this recipe is straight from Austria, the ingredients below are measured in grams. If you have a kitchen scale, no problem! If not, I’ve also included approximations of measurements in standard American conventions.

Ingredients

  • 200g butter, softened at room temp (~1 1/2 stick)
  • 200g powdered sugar (~1 5/8 cup)
  • 5 eggs
  • 200g flour (~1 3/8 cup)
  • 8g vanilla sugar (1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4g baking powder (1 tsp)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 5-6 apricots

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Rinse and quarter apricots.
  3. Beat together butter, half the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and egg yolks. Then add in flour and baking powder.
  4. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy, then add in second half of sugar until mixture is peaked and stiff.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into first mixture.
  6. Grease 9″ round baking pan/pie dish and sprinkle with flour. Pour mixture evenly into pan.
  7. Bake for 25 min or until cake is starting to firm. Line the top of the cake with apricot pieces in whatever pattern you like. (If you put the apricots on the cake from the beginning, they will likely sink to the bottom! This happened to me once…)
  8. Bake for additional 15 minutes, or until cake turns golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool a few minutes and dust with powdered sugar if desired.