Do Or Pie

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Bananas Foster Bread Pudding



I don’t own a kitchen blow torch but I’m super impressed with anyone who does. To be honest I don’t really trust myself to set anything aflame in a controlled manner. Reference Thanksgiving Pie Explosion of 2013 for further evidence. But I really do love bananas foster. This recipe was safe enough for a kitchen spaz (me) and also incredibly delicious. Well, it was eventually delicious. When the bread pudding came out of the oven we were all incredibly eager to give it a try only to discover that it tasted a little…. weird? Something was off and I was disappointed. But after about a day in the refrigerator the flavors really came together and the consistency improved. So here’s my pitch: make this and put it in the refrigerator, forget that it even happened, return to the fridge the next day pleasantly surprised by the masterful bananas/pudding/caramel sauce combination someone stashed away for you. I think it’s called selective memory but that might not be a real thing.

Recipe adapted from the New York Times

Bread pudding:
4 eggs
 cups skim milk
 cup brown sugar
 tsp vanilla extract
 tablespoon dark rum
1 tsp kosher salt
 cups cubed challah bread (about half a regular loaf)
 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into coins
 tablespoon white sugar

 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup dark rum
½ tsp kosher salt
 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice bananas. Whatever thickness strikes your fancy is fine but mine were about ¼ inch thick. Cut bread into large cubes. In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, rum and salt. Soak bread in the egg mixture for at least 5 minutes.

Butter a 2 quart baking dish (I used a glass pyrex). Put a layer of sliced bananas on the bottom of the dish. Add half of the soaked bread. Add the rest of the bananas then the rest of the bread.

Bake for about 40 minutes on a baking sheet (just in case). Remove from oven and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. The pudding will be browned on top and puffy. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Before serving, make sauce:
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is melted add brown sugar, heavy cream, rum, and salt. Whisk until the sauce becomes a bit thicker. You may notice that there’s rummy steam as the alcohol cooks off. It kind of made me cough so I guess I recommend keeping your face away unless you’re feeling like some weird experimentation with rum vapor. Not recommended.
The sauce took me about 10 minutes to thicken.

Serve squares of the bread pudding with warm sauce. Vanilla ice cream encouraged.



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Healthy-ish Chocolate Pudding Pie


Let’s not be shy about this fact: delicious dessert is often delicious because of unhealthy ingredients. I feel a bit conflicted even mentioning healthfulness; we’re not exactly here to discuss salads. But I suppose if it is possible to create a dessert that tastes really great without a dozen eggs and a pound of butter I feel obligated to point that out. So here goes: a pudding that uses no eggs, no butter, non-fat milk, and not a lot of sugar. The crust is a different story, but puhlease this is still pudding not your pre-marathon snack.

The crust I used was leftover from making the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie (again… it’s so good). I’ve listed a single-crust recipe below but you may still have scraps. Extra flakey and a bit tangy from the vinegar, this is definitely my new go-to pie shell. The filling is a riff on a Smitten Kitchen pudding I’ve made many times but this version uses more chocolate and skim instead of whole milk. I also cut back the sugar. Creating this pie was truly unstructured madness, and it’s a seriously happy accident that the pudding came out as delicious as it did.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water mixed with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Pudding filling
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
3 rounded tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups skim milk
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make crust:

In a Cuisinart, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to blend. Add the pieces of cold butter. Pulse until you see pea-sized chunks of butter. Don’t over mix! You want to keep chunks of butter because those little guys will melt and become the crusty flakes. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, pulse in 4 to 5 tablespoons of the ice water/vinegar mixture. Dough should just come together.* Remove from the Cuisinart and flatten with the heel of your hand on a cutting board (you should have a fat disk). Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

*You can do all of this by hand or with a pastry cutter

Bake crust:

Once the crust has chilled, roll out the dough until it’s very thin. Place in a pie dish with dough hanging over the edges. (Crust will shrink and recede into the plate and look normal.) Poke holes with a fork in the bottom and sides of the crust to allow air to escape. Weigh down the pie using tin foil and pie weights (aka black beans if you’re me). Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove foil/weights and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. Crust should be golden. Cool on a rack while you make the pudding.

Make pudding:

In a medium saucepan , whisk together cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Add milk one cup at a time and whisk over medium heat. Whisk constantly until mixture starts to boil (about 10 minutes). Once it starts to boil, whisk for 2 more minutes. Pudding will be thick. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and chocolate chips until combined.

Pour pudding into pie shell. Place a piece of parchment paper on top to keep from getting a pudding skin (I hate those). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream if you’re feeling like this recipe was too healthy.


Chocolate Matzah Toffee Crunch


This evening is officially the end of Passover. Today’s your last chance to make odd flourless concoctions!* Smother matzah in chocolate! Fry it with eggs! I made this matzah toffee recipe for the first night’s seder and have been secretly munching on the leftovers since. Basically if you’ve ever wondered how to mystically transform matzah into a giant pan-sized candy bar this is your answer. It’s sort of mind-blowing.

*How is it possible that a dozen eggs can replace flour and make cake? As a wise friend once said, baking is basically magic.

Recipe from David Lebovitz

4 sheets of regular matzah
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (not typically Kosher for Passover; exclude if you need to)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted chopped almonds or other nut (walnuts, hazelnuts, really anything would be good)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cover a baking sheet entirely with aluminum foil. You’re not going to want to scrape toffee off your baking pan so be thorough. Spread a piece of parchment paper on top of the foil.

3. Break 4 pieces of matzah and arrange on the baking sheet so that the entire pan is covered. You may need to do some puzzle-like arranging.

4. Melt butter in a pan with brown sugar over medium heat stirring constantly. When it starts to boil, set a timer for 3 minutes. Stir while the mixture boils. After 3 minutes remove from heat. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.

5. Spread the butter/sugar mixture over the matzah to cover it completely.

6. Turn down oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Toffee will be bubbly.

7. Sprinkle 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips over the entire pan and let them hang out for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, spread the chips around with a spatula to cover the entire pan. Sprinkle on toasted nuts if you are using them.

8. Let the pan sit and cool for a few hours. Chocolate will solidify and you can now break the matzah into pieces. Magical matzah consumption ensues. Have floss handy… just taking care of you all.

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I’ll skip the part where I make excuses for not posting recently because the Passover baking that’s about to happen here is DEFINITELY going to make up for my absence. First order of business: macaroons. I keep mentioning these to various friends/acquaintances and have realized that many people just think I’m pronouncing French (macaron) incorrectly. I’m not the kind of person to walk into a bakery and order a croissant with appropriate pronunciation (couldn’t do it if I tried) so it’s not a big deal. But these are two very different cookies. Well, maybe. What actually is the difference? [5 minute break to google the answer to this question. Ok, we’re good now.] Apparently, the recipes for each derives from the same kind of cookie: an almond-based cookie with egg whites and sugar. Both macaro(o)ns have an egg white base, just one uses coconut instead of almond paste and the other uses almond flour. So they’re cousins. You can read more here. But the Jewish one is the kind we care about for the foreseeable future. These are really easy and taste approximately 1000 times tastier than the ones from the grocery store.

12 oz sweetened shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract*
2 large egg whites
Semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

*If you are keeping Kosher for Passover be careful about this ingredient. You probably know this already.

Whisk egg whites until soft, foamy peaks form.

In a separate bowl, combine coconut and sweetened condensed milk. Add salt and vanilla. Fold in egg whites.

Using a spoon place batter on a parchment lined baking sheet. These won’t spread much at all so don’t worry about crowding the pan. I like mine small (about 2 tsps of batter per cookie). But if you like bigger cookies I’m sure no one will protest. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes depending on size. Macaroons are done when bottoms and edges are golden.

Remove from parchment immediately to cooling rack. These little guys get sticky. The macaroons will solidify as they cool. Once completely cool, melt chocolate and dip/drizzle onto macaroons. They’re great without chocolate too.

Consume while watching the Rugrats Passover episode. No, but really it’s so good.


Cranberry Muffins


I know everyone likes to complain about Valentine’s Day but it’s actually an excellent food holiday. Thanksgiving, Passover, and any holiday involving bagels and lox are clearly my preferences, but I’ll support a day that encourages chocolate consumption. My office is having a Valentine’s breakfast and I volunteered to bring muffins. Not many people at work know the extent of my baking obsession so this feels like kind of a big deal. I got a little over-excited and made the muffins last night. The freezer is now full of fat little muffins which no one will eat until Friday morning and I’ll spend the rest of the week praying the muffins are still delicious and not freezer-y. Since I know my powers of restraint are limited I made a few mini muffins that I wouldn’t feel badly about snacking on. I mean, it was mini muffins or what? Eat the office’s breakfast? Really I’ve done everyone a favor.

Each mini muffin has exactly one cranberry and one or two walnut pieces. The proportions could not be any more adorable.

mini muffin

Adapted from the New York Times

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tsps orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries (but any berries work well in these muffins)
Chopped walnuts (optional)

In a standing mixer cream together butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture until combined. With a spatula fold in the berries.

Add batter to prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with a few walnuts.  I used 18 regular and 10 mini muffin cups. You would probably get about 24 regular muffins if you’re conservative with the batter. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way to the top. But really, are you actually going to skip the chance to make squee-worthy mini muffins? Nope.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Tops will be golden brown and springy when you poke them.




Lemon Tart with Almond and Olive Oil


I’m actually not sure if this is normal but I bake with my friends constantly. Jackie, one of my college baking buddies and music-playing friend* recommended this recipe the other night over dinner and clearly I made it as soon as possible. I’m suffering fruit withdrawal. Ugh, winter.

When Jackie first told me that this tart had olive oil in it I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. Full disclosure: I was almost to the bottom of a (large) glass of red wine at a bar so it’s possible this was an overreaction but I mean, come on, olive oil? The olive oil flavor is subtle and I probably didn’t need to be nervous about adding the amount indicated in the recipe. Nonetheless, I’m a chicken, so the recipe below reflects what I actually did (less than I was supposed to). The combination of lemon and olive oil is clearly an excellent choice.

*[below] Jackie plays piccolo while I photograph our shadows at marching band practice before a Columbia football game in 2010. I have no idea which team we were playing but I’m certain we lost. Well, the band always wins. But the team definitely lost.

zoe and jackie CUMB 2010

The entire tart came together quickly; while the oven was pre-heating I pressed the tart crust into the tart pan (this took about 5 minutes) and was a bit tricky. My hands may be permanently butter-coated but I think the crust was well worth the effort: flakey and light, and just a bit almond-y. The sweet almond crust balanced the tart lemon curd.


Adapted from Gourmet 2008

Tart shell
2 tablespoons roasted almonds with skins
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 1/2 tablespoons fruity olive oil (I used what we had lying around from Fairway. Worked great.)

Lemon curd
3 large or 4 small lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 whole large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons fruity olive oil

In a Cuisinart, combine almonds, flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt. Mixture should be finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until you get a coarse mixture with pea sized bits of butter. Add the egg yolk and oil. Pulse until the dough comes together.

While you preheat the oven to 425 degrees, press the dough into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake the shell for about 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Set tart shell aside to cool.

Grate enough lemon zest for 1 tablespoon. Juice the lemons until you have 3/4 cup lemon juice (strain out pits/pulp).

Over medium heat in a medium sauce pan, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolks. Continue to whisk the mixture while it heats. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk quickly for another 2 minutes and remove from heat. Whisk in olive oil. (I only used 1 1/2 tablespoons but go for the full 2 tablespoons if you’re feeling adventurous.)

Add the lemon curd to the shell. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 hours. Slice, serve. Lips will pucker, yums will ensue.

crooked teeth


Spicy Cheddar Cheese Sticks


It is requiring every ounce of my will power not to eat all of these off the counter right now. They are intended for a birthday* tonight and now that I’ve published them on the internet I officially can’t devour the cheesy magical sticks myself. But goodness me, these are excellent. If you like crunchy snacks, cheese, and fun-shaped food this recipe is perfect. I’d like to try these again with another kind of cheese and maybe other spices. Gorgonzola? Maybe for tomorrow’s evening-of-snacking otherwise known as the Puppy Bowl. Or that football game is happening too.

*Happy birthday, Lisa!

Spicy Cheddar Cheese Sticks
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

6 ounces grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (yummy cheese is essential here)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, still a bit cold
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk (I used skim)

In a Cuisinart, add grated cheese, butter, flour, salt, and pepper flakes. Pulse to combine. The mixture should have small crumbles. Add milk and pulse until the dough forms a ball.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) create long strips. I made mine about 1/2 inch wide and 10 inches long.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. The ends and bottoms of the sticks should be golden brown. Delicately remove them from the pan once they’ve cooled a bit. Munch away.



Salted Caramel Apple Pie


Traveling to Brooklyn just for a slice of pie is kind of a big deal. Actually leaving the borough is always a bit disorienting. Firstly, the train goes UNDERWATER to leave the island (!!!). Secondly, it always seems to take a long time to travel out of Manhattan but this is actually just an illusion. It’s all so close we’re just spoiled. With a trusty smartphone to guide us through the frozen streets of Park Slope/Gowanus my sister and I successfully journeyed into Brooklyn to stuff our faces. Next door to an industrial-looking shop that brews craft beer (welcome to Brooklyn) is the much-celebrated pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Those ladies make some fantastic pies. Rachael and I shared a slice of Chocolate Pecan (pretty sure it was the last slice… win!) and brought home some Caramel Apple pie. The crust was perfectly flaky, and the filling was a serious upgrade from the traditional version. We chose pretty conservative flavors but next time I’ll get more adventurous. Salty Honey? Grapefruit Custard? Yes and yes.

We had a few technical difficulties replicating the Four and Twenty Blackbirds recipe but who cares it was insanely delicious. The recipe here is in their new cookbook.

The problems:

Well, just the one problem. I’ve never made caramel before and it’s possible that about one hundred things went wrong. We didn’t use a thermometer (the recipe didn’t call for one); the sugar may not have dissolved enough before we added butter; the butter might have been too cold; the list could go on but I’ll spare you. I’m clearly a noob at caramel. Regardless, we ended up with a browned-butter syrup rather than browned caramel. It tasted excellent. The pie was a bit liquidy so next time I will try to perfect this. Don’t let this step scare you away! As long as you don’t burn your sugar/butter substance I am convinced it will enhance the flavor of your pie.

The successes:

Everything else. This crust recipe is perfection and I will certainly be using it for future pies. There was a great balance of apple to lemon and not too much spice. The caramel flavor made the pie much more special than your average apple pie. It’s definitely worth leaving the island for a slice.

Recipe Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 to 10 tablespoons ice water mixed with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch chunks

Salted Caramel
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Apple Filling
2 pounds of apples (I used Granny Smith)
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons flour

Make the dough:
In a Cuisinart, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to blend. Add the pieces of cold butter. Pulse until you see pea-sized chunks of butter. Don’t over mix! You want to keep chunks of butter because those little guys will melt and become the crusty flakes. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, pulse in 8 to 10 tablespoons of the ice water/vinegar mixture. Dough should just come together.* Remove from the Cuisinart and divide the dough into two equal pieces. Flatten with the heel of your hand on a cutting board (you should have two fat disks). Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

*You can do all of this by hand with a pastry cutter, a fork, two knives, etc.

Make the caramel:
This takes kind of a long time so get it going as soon as you’re done with the crust. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the butter and stir while it melts. Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the mixture to brown. Don’t stir too often but keep the heat low to make sure it doesn’t burn. For me this step took about 45 minutes. Eventually you will get a golden mixture that smells of browned butter and is syrupy. Remove from heat as soon as it turns golden and quickly whisk in heavy cream and salt. Set aside.

Make the apple filling:
Slice 2 pounds of apples thinly. Toss with the juice of 2 lemons, then toss with sugar, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, and flour.

Roll out your dough:
Once the dough has chilled, roll out one of the balls on a floured surface. It should be very thin. To place the dough into the pie pan I lightly flour the top of the flattened dough, fold it in half, and then carefully lift it, place it on the pie dish, and unfold it. Press down the edges neatly. Pierce the bottom and sides with a fork to allow air to escape from under the crust.

Put it all together:
Add half the apple filling to the crust, then add half the caramel. Add the rest of the apples, then the rest of the caramel. Don’t add all the apple/lemon juice because it will make the pie too watery.
Save a little bit of caramel to brush on top of the crust!

Roll out the second ball of dough just as thin as the first. Slice into 1 inch strips. Weave the strips gently to form a lattice on top of the pie. I lay all the strips vertically, then weave in the horizontal strips. Personal preference.

Brush the top with leftover caramel.

Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Decrease temperature to 325 and bake for another 35 minutes.

Filling should be bubbling and crust should be browned. Allow pie to cool before serving. Serve warm.



Cranberry Oat Squares

There I was in the kitchen right after work, itching to bake, having done no prior shopping for specific ingredients. My go-to recipe and cure-all for unpreparedness has been raspberry squares for a few years. Well, since 2010 when my sister brought home the Mountain School Cookbook containing an arguably perfect recipe for this dessert. But this time would be different! I was armed with an abundance of frozen cranberries. I made my own cranberry filling which took a bit longer than using jam from the jar. And by “a bit longer” I mean 10 minutes longer which wasn’t a big deal but you know, more time than scooping jam someone else has made. By making my own filling I had more control over the sweetness. This could have gone disastrously wrong so I’m patting myself on the back for taking a risk with 2 cups of unsuspecting cranberries. The tart cranberries offset the sweet oat crust well. This version of an oat square requires an egg which makes the base just a bit cakey. Modifying the usual raspberry square recipe feels like kind of a big deal; it’s a grown-up version of a baked good I’ve been making for a long time. Since I’m just a few days away from my 25th birthday, at least a few life changes seem in order, right?


Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Cranberry Filling
2 cups frozen cranberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water

Oat-y Base
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oats (instant oats should work too)

On medium heat, combine cranberries, sugar, and water. Stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, your mixture will go through various stages of liquid/bubbly-ness. After about 10 minutes you should have a thick, jammy cranberry substance. Turn off the heat and let that filling hang out until you’re ready to use it later.

In a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture on low speed. When combined, add oats.

In a 9×9 buttered pan, pat down about 3/4 of the oat dough using your fingers (don’t pretend this isn’t fun). Spread cranberry filling all over. Sprinkle on the rest of the dough. It won’t really sprinkle so much as blob on. You get the idea.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Top should be slightly browned.


Thanks, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013, you were nice. 2014, I expect great things.

While the pictures below are evidence of 2013’s yummy crusts, hard work, and some memorable fruit fillings, it’s really the fun of baking with friends and family that make these pictures good memories. Thanks for putting up with/participating in my baking addiction.

In honor of fresh starts, do-overs, and a new year, here’s an improvement on a cinnamon bun recipe I posted in November. The last batch were a bit drier than I would have liked. Perhaps the single rising was too good to be true. This recipe allots more time (2 risings) and the buns were moister and more flavorful. I also much prefer this cream cheese frosting to the simple confectioner’s sugar/milk mixture. Since I already posted a recipe for this I’ll just give you the link here and you can go forth and follow Deb’s advice. All I changed was the quantity (I halved the recipe to get 8 buns) and used a little less butter for the filling than she suggests.