How I Bandana!

I'm pretty crazy-excited for my book release (Coming October 24th!!), and was PUMPED to see a package filled with bandanas when it arrived at my door. Anyone who knows me can attest: I seriously love me a bandana. I've always had short hair, and I used to use bandanas to keep my hair off my face in my first kitchen jobs. Now, they're just my go-to! These particular babies say Bake Fearlessly - and they're awesome for any of your typical bandana needs - but especially ones that involve throwing flour around + drizzling things in chocolate.

Just for fun - here's how I like to tie my bandanas!

Happy Baking!

(Thanks for helping me with this little GIF, Caroline Lange!)

Keeping Dough Even in Thickness + Shape!

Keeping dough even (both in thickness and shape) can be tricky. Here are some of my best tips to keep you rolling smoothly and evenly

-Start with the dough in the shape you'd like it to end up in. It seems obvious, but starting with your pie dough in a circle or your cinnamon roll dough in a rough rectangle will help you maintain that shape better while you roll. You don't need to put too much emphasis here, just use your hands to form the dough into the approximate shape you're aiming for before you get started.

-Start in the center, and apply even pressure while moving forward and back. There's no one "right" way to roll dough, but if you struggle with keeping your dough an even thickness, this is a good place to start! Start with your rolling pin in the middle of the dough. Apply gentle, even pressure as you push the pin away from you, then return it to the center without applying more pressure. Then apply gentle, even pressure as you pull the pin toward you, then return it to the center. Continue until your dough is the desired thickness. Note: French pins are also easier for rolling large pieces of dough because they are longer, allowing you to successfully roll out more of the dough in one swipe of the pin then if you have to roll multiple times across.

-Use your hands or a bench knife to keep the edges squared off, when applicable. When I'm rolling out dough into a square or rectangle, I like to use my hands or (preferably) a bench knife/bench scraper to straighten the edges and sharpen the corners. This is useful for a variety of reasons. When you're making a complex method, such as puff pastry, keeping squared off edges will lead to greater success in the recipe - matched up edges mean better lamination. But it's also important for simpler recipes, like cinnamon rolls. Keeping your dough squared off on all sides means when you roll it up into a log, you won't have smaller/thinner pieces at the end - the whole log will be one thickness, meaning every cinnamon roll will be the same when you slice them!

-When in doubt, make the dough work for you. Remember, the dough is a flexible, moveable thing - if you want some of that excess in the middle to go toward the top, gently lift your dough off the surface in the thick area and stretch it towards the thinner area. Use your hands to make the dough move where you want it to go. Trust me, the dough will listen!

Watch these tips in action:

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Rhubarb Snack Cakes

As I finish up the process of editing my cookbook, a handful of recipes had to hit the cutting room floor (my book was too long!). One was a real favorite of mine, but when my editor suggested the cut, I realized it meant I could share the recipe while this favorite fruit/veg of mine was in season.

I call any small cake a "snack cake" because Little Debbie shouldn't get all the fun...and cakes shouldn't only be for parties. These little wonders are easy enough to be made on a weekday, and can be served for breakfast as easily as for an afternoon snack. They're covered with rhubarb and the center is tender, moist, and crumby. They're a perfect spring cake!

Rhubarb Snack Cakes

Makes about 6 mini loaves, depending on the size of your mini pans (mine are 5 x 2 1/2 inches) 

 

about 255 g / 3 large stalks rhubarb

113 g / ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

198 g / 1 cup granulated sugar

106 g / ½ cup light brown sugar

171 g / 3 large eggs

10 g / 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

211 g / 1 ¾ cup all purpose flour

2 g / ½ teaspoon baking soda

2 g / ½ teaspoon salt

152 g / 2/3 cup sour cream

granulated sugar, as needed for finishing

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 6 mini loaf pans with butter or nonstick spray.

2. Cut the rhubarb to fit snugly inside the loaf pan, going across the shorter side. I cut mine 2 ½ inches wide, and I needed 6 pieces per pan – you want to cover the pan nearly all the way across, if possible.  

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.

4. Add the eggs gradually, scraping well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the mixer and mix to combine.

6. Add the sour cream to the mixer and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Top each with rhubarb strips – place snugly in the pan all the way across and press lightly into the batter.

8. Sprinkle the top of the rhubarb with a little bit of granulated sugar and bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. If the pans are ceramic or metal, let the cakes cool for 10-15 minutes inside the pans, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. If the pans are disposable, cool the cakes completely in the pans.

Why it Works:

The rhubarb strips help weigh the batter down – it still rises, but it does so evenly and makes a gorgeous, all-rhubarb layer on the surface. The rhubarb gets super tender and so it’s easy to bite or get a fork through when it’s time to eat!

Pro Tip:

I freeze rhubarb in the spring so I can bake with it through the fall and winter. I usually just slice it so I can add it to all kinds of desserts. That still works in this cake – just toss it into the batter instead of arranging it on the surface, and you’ll have sweet/sour flecks throughout the cakes.

Pro Tips: Perfect Bundts

I love making bundt cakes, because they're rocking a beautiful look straight out of the pan - even without any finishing touches! Recently, I've received a lot of questions about how to get your bundt cakes to unmold cleanly - here's what I do:

1. Use a well made bundt pan. I'm a huge fan of Nordicware bundt pans (they have no involvement in this post, and all of the pans I own I have purchased myself!) - their pans are well made with excellent inner coatings which bake evenly and release cleanly. Starting with a good bundt pan is an easy first step! Remember once you have your pan to avoid scrubbing the interior finish too much, which can mar the protective coating and cause subsequent cakes to release less cleanly! I usually let my bundt pans soak with warm, soapy water for awhile, then clean with a soft sponge. My favorite bundt shape is Nordicware's "party bundt".

2. Use a cake batter with a tight crumb structure. To get the best, most detailed results from a bundt pan, you need to use a cake batter that will produce the best results. The ideal cake is anything with a tight crumb structure, like pound cake. Look at your mixing method for clues: cakes that use the creaming or blending methods will usually produce relatively tight crumb structures. Cakes that use the foaming method (sponge cake), will produce light, airy batters full of air pockets - these air pockets can show all over the exterior of your bundt after baking. This is not to say that you can't bake these kinds of cakes in bundts, but they will not have the smooth appearance of a cake with a tighter structure.

3. Grease, but don't flour your pan. I've found the best results come from just greasing the pan, without the addition of flour. I use nonstick spray to generously coat the pan all over. Be sure to move the pan to slightly different angles to ensure it's evenly coated. Generally speaking, I do not use butter or oil to grease bundt pans - I've found butter actually promotes uneven/excessive browning on the surface, and oil doesn't evenly coat the surface as well as nonstick spray. Don't forget to crease the center part of the pan well, too - that's where a lot of sticking tends to take place!

4. Heavily tap the pan. Once you've added your cake batter to your greased pan, lift the pan off of your work surface, then heavily tap the pan back down. I'm not talking a light little tap here - really bang the pan down. This motion evens out the cake batter and helps remove air pockets. Tap the pan several times, say 6-8, before putting it in the oven.

5. Release while warm. Once your cake is fully baked, let it cool for about 15 minutes inside the pan. Unmolding the cake while it's too hot can cause it to break apart, even if it removes cleanly from the pan. Allowing it to cool for a few minutes lets the cake's structure set. However, it's important to remove the cake from the pan while still warm, as this produces the cleanest release. Don't hesitate, just turn your pan over in one smooth motion onto a wire rack. The faster your movement, the more clean the release!

Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Cookies

 

Dark Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 18 large cookies

 

170 g / 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

319 g / 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

99 g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar

269 g / 1 cup smooth peanut butter (not pullin' any punches...you wanna use JIF)

113 g / 2 large eggs, at room temperature

10 g / 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

181 g / 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 g / 1 teaspoon baking powder

3 g / 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (plus more for finishing - optional)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.

3. Add the peanut butter and mix until smooth. 1 minute more. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined - scrape well after each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine. Scoop using a #16 / 1/4 cup scoop(these are best as BIG chewy cookies!) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave at least 1 1/2 inches all the way around each cookie, and stagger on the baking sheet.

5. Optional extra step - cover the dough and refrigerated for 1 hour. This makes extra chewy cookies.

6. Bake until the edges are lightly golden and appear firm, 10-13 minutes. Rotate baking sheets halfway through baking time. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

All Buttah Pie Dough + Video How To!

My first real memories of loving pie are with my mom, but my first real memories of making pie are with my grandma. She experimented with different fats to make her crusts, but I only have one true love: all buttah, all da time.

 

When I asked Instagram followers for requests for How-To videos, mixing pie dough was at the top of the list. So, in honor of #piday, I'm posting my favorite crust recipe, along with a link to a how-to video. I break down everything about the mixing process (seriously...everything...feel free to fast forward as needed).

 

Here's wishing you flaky edges, pretty crimps, and never-soggy bottoms!

 

All Buttah Pie Dough

Makes 1 single pie crust (doubles smashingly!)

 

151 g / 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

pinch salt

114 g / 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

45 g / 3 tablespoons cold water, or more as needed

 

1. To mix by hand: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter cubes, tossing them through the flour until each piece is well coated. Cut the butter into the flour by pressing the pieces through your palms or your fingers, flattening the cubes into big shards and continuing to toss them through the flour as you work, recoating the shingled pieces of butter as you mix.

For a flaky crust: Continue cutting the butter into the flour just until the pieces of butter are about the size of walnut halves.

For a mealy crust: Work the mixture together until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas.

2 . Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Start with 3 tablespoons ice water for a single crust or 6 tablespoons for a double crust. Add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing just until the dough comes together . As it begins to come together, you can knead it a few times to make sure it’s fully incorporated. It’s important not to over-hydrate the dough, which should never be sticky—it should hold together easily in a ball, but still feel almost dry to the touch.

3. Form the dough into an even disk (2 equal disks, if making a double crust).  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill well, for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Watch me mix pie crust and show it beside two common mistakes (too wet + too dry doughs!)

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

I made this frosting for a particularly epic birthday cake for a friend of mine, and it was so good, I had to share the recipe. It's so silky + smooth, with just a hint of saltiness. It's crazy amazing with chocolate cake and it was made for mini cakes of all sorts.

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Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

Makes about 4 cups

 

108 g / 4 large egg yolks

113 g / 2 large eggs

397 g / 2 cups granulated sugar

181 g / 3/4 cup water

680 g / 5 sticks unsalted butter

300 g / 1 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

7.5 g / 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 g / 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste

 

1.  Place the egg yolks and whole eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. In a medium pot, combine the sugar and water over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly to help the sugar dissolve. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring (if necessary, brush any sugar that’s washed up on the sides with a pastry brush dipped in cool water). Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot (or have a digital thermometer ready)!

2. Cook until the syrup reaches 235°F. When the syrup comes to temperature, begin whipping the egg mixture on medium high speed. The goal is to get this mixture pale yellow and thick by the time the sugar reaches 240°F.

3. When the egg mixture is pale and thick and the sugar has come to temp, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream into the whipping whites. Continue whipping on medium high speed until the egg mixture has reached full volume and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, 5-6 minutes.

4. When the mixture is cool, begin adding the butter gradually. Add 1-2 tablespoons at a time with the mixer running on medium speed, letting the butter incorporate before you add more. If the meringue is too warm, it will melt the butter! If the butter is too cold, it will stiffen the meringue!

5. Keep adding until all of the butter is incorporated. Add the peanut butter and salt and mix to combine. The frosting can be used immediately!

Happy Baking!

 

DIY Caramel Sprinkles

I'm a big fan of edible garnishes of all sorts. They make any food look better/fancier/prettier/more appetizing, and a lot of times they don't require a ton of extra work. In my upcoming book, I talk about making your own sprinkles, which is super fun AND lets you add your own flavors and colors which just makes it even more fun. But today I want to talk about an even easier DIY project that I discovered completely by accident. 

As you may know, I make a lot of pies (insert nonexistent pie emoji I really wish existed here). I always, always top my pies with a hefty sprinkling of turbinado sugar. Because I can be a bit of a kitchen hurricane (messes happen...right? ...right?!?), I always end up with a bunch of turbinado sugar on the parchment paper surrounding my pie. I noticed that those stray sugar pieces would caramelize during bake time, and re-harden to be the same texture that the turbinado was before baking. Sometimes I would lift them off the parchment and eat them as a snack to induce a much needed pre-pie sugar rush. They were delicious - so I wondered, why don't I do this all on it's own - THEY'RE CARAMEL "SPRINKLES"!

So I did - I sprinkled a layer of turbinado onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and baked it at 425 (F) for 4-5 minutes. Boom: caramel sprinkles that are perfect atop cupcakes, around the edges of cakes, sprinkled on top of ice cream - really anywhere you need a little texture and some caramel flavor. And so crazy easy. If you want to do this yourself, here's what you need to know:

-Keep the sugar in a shallow layer - you don't want the sugar granules touching lots of other sugar granules, or they're more likely to melt together. If this happens, it still works/tastes great - you just have bigger "sprinkles" that are more random in shape instead of neat + tidy little rounds, like nonpareils. 

-Don't use convection! It blows the sugar all around the baking sheet. 

-Keep a close eye on the sugar as it cooks - there's a fine line between caramelized sugar granules and a sheet tray full of caramel shards (or worse - burnt sugar!). I find it takes exactly 4 minutes, but some ovens may take a little more or less - so just turn the oven light on and watch the first time you try it out.

-Storage of these little guys is a lot like storing any sugar - keep it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If the sprinkles are exposed to moisture, heat, or humidity they will stick together. But in winter, I've been able to keep them pleasantly in a Mason jar for 2 weeks and they're still sprinkle-y.

Happy Baking! 

Baking in Gift Tins

I send a lot of care packages. After a few failed attempts to send cookies to my family back in college where everything arrived crushed, I was on the hunt for a new solution. That was when I decided to bake a birthday cookie for my niece directly IN the tin I would mail it in, instead of just tossing baked cookies inside of it. It worked great, and I've been mailing baked-goods-in-tins ever since. Last week, I baked up some brownie Valentines to mail out, and got lots of questions on Instagram about the tins I used. There's just a few rules to follow before you get baking:

-Use steel tins without any kind of coating (no paint, color, etc.) on the inside. Generally speaking, it's ok for the tins to have some sort of finish on the outside, as long as you're not exceeding temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you're unsure, place the tin in a preheated oven without anything inside it for 5 minutes before adding food to the mix.)

-It's always a good idea to make sure the tins are marked "food safe" - these tins are my go-to. 

-Thoroughly wash and dry the tins before baking. Grease the inside of the container generously (even for something you wouldn't normally grease, like chocolate chip cookies) to make sure they'll be easy to slice and get out. 

-Consider your baking temperature. Remember, you're making one big baked good instead of several little ones. I usually lower the temperature by at least 25 degrees from my original recipe to ensure more gradual, steady baking and no over-done edges. 

-Don't go crazy. This technique is really best for a handful of things - cookies and bars. I don't advise baking cakes or anything that rise a lot in these tins, you want to have as much control as possible! Things I've baked successfully: brownies, blondies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, etc.

Happy Baking!