Strawberry Rhubarb Kolaches

Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesAnother kolache recipe? You better believe it.Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesIf you know the magic that is a warm, fresh kolache from the Czech Stop in West, Texas, (the town, not the region) you know why I keep making them in my own kitchen here in NYC.Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesStrawberry Rhubarb KolachesStrawberry Rhubarb KolachesThey’re super soft and tender and filled with anything from prunes to pecans and they’re just as Texan as they are Czech. Well, *almost* as Texan as they are Czech, kind of like me. I’m a Czech Texan…Czechxan?Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesStrawberry Rhubarb KolachesMaybe it’s because my birthday is next week or because I keep waking up in this alternate reality where I may not get to see my family for a while or because I haven’t driven the expanse of I-35 between Fort Worth and Austin in a few years, but these Strawberry Rhubarb Kolaches are filling a Texas-shaped hole in my soul.Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesNowadays you can get your kolache fix all over the state of Texas and in many other places including Brooklyn, New York, and yet here I am kneading up sour cream dough and simmering fillings late at night and cutting pastries in the morning. Why? Because nothing—nothing—beats the smell of fresh kolaches baking in your own kitchen.Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesOh, and the flavor! Soft, rich, buttery pastry with a warm puddle of filling right in the middle—they’re heaven. This Strawberry Rhubarb situation is particularly good. Tangy with hits of lime and ginger, it’s the perfect foil to the sweet pastry and posypka (crumble).

They won’t solve all your problems, but they may very well cure what ails you. You know, if what ails you is a a little homesickness for Texas or a late-spring kolache deficiency.Strawberry Rhubarb Kolaches

Strawberry Rhubarb Kolaches
makes about 16-18 pastries

1/2 cup (1 stick) + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lime zest (from 1 medium lime)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling:
1 cup 1/2-inch diced fresh strawberries (about 8 ounces)
1 cup 1/2-inch diced rhubarb (about 1 1/2-2 trimmed stalks)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Posypka (Crumble):
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

The night before you want to eat kolaches, make the dough. Cut 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter into 8 pieces.Combine butter, whole milk, and sour cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt together, stirring occasionally, until mixture is warm to the touch (about 115F). Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to prove for 5 minutes. Mixture will have just a few small bubbles.

Add 1 cup of the flour, the lime zest, and salt to the wet ingredients. Fold together. Fold in beaten eggs, followed by 2 1/4 more cups of flour. Dough will be very soft and a bit sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5 minutes before forming into a ball. Dough will be very soft and sticky—use a bench scraper for easiest kneading. Grease a mixing bowl with oil. Place dough ball in the bowl, being sure to grease it on all sides. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the dough. Refrigerate overnight, about 8-12 hours.

Make the strawberry rhubarb filling. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 12-15 minutes, or until rhubarb softens. Cool and transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Remove dough from refrigerator and discard plastic wrap. Into two pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until it’s 1/2-inch thick. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut kolaches, rerolling as necessary. Place 3 inches apart on prepared pans.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush on the tops of cut kolache dough. Flour the back of a tablespoon and press it into the center of one kolache to make a well. Immediately fill with 2 teaspoons of strawberry rhubarb filling. Flour the tablespoon again and repeat process with all remaining kolaches on the baking pan. Repeat process with remaining baking sheet.

Loosely cover with plastic wrap (or greased foil) and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes, or until puffy.

Make the posypka (crumble). Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until crumbly.

Position oven racks near the center. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Remove plastic wrap from one baking sheet of dough. Top each kolache with a big pinch of posypka. Bake kolaches uncovered for 18-20 minutes, rotating pans front to back at the 10 minute mark. They will be barely-golden when they are done. Brush baked kolaches with 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Let kolaches cool slightly on the pans. Serve warm.

Kolaches are best the day they are made, but may be refrigerated for a couple of days. Warm before serving.Strawberry Rhubarb KolachesStrawberry Rhubarb KolachesStrawberry Rhubarb Kolaches

Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter CarmelitasSometimes you—and by “you,” I mean “I”—want a dessert that is purely about peanut butter. No chocolate or candy or jelly or Oreos—just peanut butter in all its glory. You could, of course, remedy this by going directly to the pantry and dipping into the jar with a spoon, or you could make a batch of these Peanut Butter Carmelitas. Peanut Butter CarmelitasYou should make these, period. They’re a peanut butter lover’s paradise! Two layers of crispy peanut butter cookie are sandwiched together with a thick layer of peanut butter caramel and then sliced into crumbly, chewy bars. It’s like someone—and by “someone,” I mean “I”— took my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and turned it up to 11. Oh my word, these are good.Peanut Butter CarmelitasThey’re easy to make, too! Start by mixing up a crumbly peanut butter and oat dough, tossing in some chopped roasted peanuts for good measure. Pack half of it down, and then drizzle on a bunch of caramel candy that you’ve melted with peanut butter and heavy cream. Mmhmm.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasFinish it all off with the remaining dough and then bake until the edges are golden and the caramel bubbles up in a few spots and then—and this is very important—let them cool completely.Peanut Butter CarmelitasI’m serious! Don’t be tempted to slice these (or any carmelitas) while they’re still warm. I know gooey peanut butter caramel is extremely tempting, but the mess isn’t worth it. I promise you that the middles of these carmelitas are just as enticing at room temperature. We’re talking soft, stretchy peanut butter candy magic, y’all.Peanut Butter CarmelitasYes, the caramel is the star of this show, but don’t sleep on those cookie layers. Crispy, crunchy, buttery, salty-sweet, crumbly cookie held together by caramel? Sign me up! These bars will crumble at bit when you bite in, but it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing.

Very good.Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 squares

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), roughly chopped

Caramel Layer:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
1/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease heavily with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, light brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it into the dry ingredients—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in chopped peanuts. Set aside.

Combine caramels, peanut butter and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 2 1/2 cups of the dough into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.

Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack,

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter Carmelitas

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate SyrupMy dad is the kind of person who just *needs* something sweet at the end of each day, probably because he was raised by someone who always had a chocolate cake on her kitchen counter. Aside from brownies though, he’s not much of a baker and neither is my mother, so homemade desserts weren’t a huge part of my family life growing up. Still, we were a small-dessert-every-night sort of family. We always had something sweet in our weekly grocery haul–Oreos, pecan sandies, popsicles–but I think, if asked, we’d all agree that the best dessert was always vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. Homemade Chocolate SyrupFast forward fifteen-ish years to me living the professional home baker life in New York in the middle of a pandemic. I can pretty much make whatever dessert I want, and maybe it’s because the weather is warming up or I’m feeling nostalgic or a little homesick, but all I really want right now is vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.Homemade Chocolate SyrupNow, I do not have much desire to begin making my own vanilla ice cream, but Homemade Chocolate Syrup? That, I need. Like many of us, I grew up with Hershey’s Syrup in the fridge, but now that I’ve started making my own chocolate syrup, I’m ruined for storebought forever. Deeply chocolaty, a little tangy, just thick enough, pourable even when it’s fridge-cold—this is the stuff my ice cream dreams are made of.Homemade Chocolate SyrupHomemade Chocolate SyrupHomemade Chocolate SyrupHomemade Chocolate SyrupAlso, my chocolate milk dreams. I generally cannot abide liquid dairy, but put some chocolate syrup in a glass of whole milk and I. am. interested.Homemade Chocolate Syrup beats the pants off of every storebought version I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn up my nose if someone offered me a scoop of ice cream with a drizzle of Hershey’s Syrup on top—I’m not a monster!—but it simply can’t compete with this stuff. Where the syrups you’ll find on shelves are cloyingly sweet, lacking in chocolate flavor and full of ingredients none of us can pronounce, this one is super chocolaty from cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, has a little depth from brown sugar, and requires six ingredients that you very well may have in your pantry right now. Oh, and it’s vegan.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth the effort to make Homemade Chocolate Syrup, the answer is a resounding “yes.” This is essentially a souped-up simple syrup with a little chopped chocolate and vanilla extract stirred in at the end. We’re talking twelve minutes start-to-finish for a pint (that’s two cups!) of chocolate syrup. I haven’t done the math, but I’m fairly certain this is less expensive than storebought, too.Homemade Chocolate SyrupWith that, I rest my case…and also tiptoe into my kitchen at 2am for some ice cream and Homemade Chocolate Syrup. Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups water
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small pot or saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cocoa and salt to remove any large lumps. Add water and whisk to combine.

Place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until it comes to a simmer, then constantly for 5 minutes while it simmers. Mixture will expand dramatically. Remove from heat.

Whisk in chopped chocolate, followed by vanilla. Let cool a bit in the pot before transferring to a jar (or other container) for storage.

Chocolate syrup will keep covered in the refrigerator. Stir before using.Homemade Chocolate SyrupHomemade Chocolate SyrupHomemade Chocolate Syrup

S’mores Magic Bars

S’mores Magic BarsThis summer is going to be a little different, but one thing remains the same: its unofficial kick-off, Memorial Day, is coming up next week. While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find myself around a campfire or even on a rooftop anytime soon, I will not let this year go by without a s’mores-centric treat.S’mores Magic BarsIs there anything that says “summer” quite like a s’more? I mean, what’s not to love about crisp graham cracker, milk chocolate (or lemon curd!) and toasted marshmallow stacked together while everything’s still gooey?S’mores Magic BarsThese S’mores Magic Bars aren’t your traditional summertime fare, but they have plenty of graham crackers (in the form of crust and crispy shards), chopped milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows. It straight-up doesn’t count as a s’mores dessert if the marshmallows aren’t toasted, am I right?!S’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic BarsAs with all magic bars, these are held together with a can of sweetened condensed milk. It serves as the structural backbone of this whole operation (along with the graham crust), and caramelizes in the oven for a toffee undertone.

S’mores + toffee = basically everything I’ve ever wanted.S’mores Magic BarsThe sweetened condensed milk also gives these bars a slightly gooey finish, which is a good thing because while the marshmallows do get nice and golden brown, they also have to cool completely before you slice the bars. Like I said, we’re not going for tradition, we’re going for the most efficient way to get toasted marshmallow, graham cracker and milk chocolate into our faces in a less than ideal summer situation!S’mores Magic BarsAlso, unlike traditional s’mores, these sweet squares will stay good for days after baking. Days! That’s a very good thing, because I have a feeling I’m going to need a few batches between now and Labor Day.S’mores Magic Bars

S’mores Magic Bars
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan

Crust:
9 sheets graham crackers
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 cups mini marshmallows, divided
2 sheets graham crackers, broken into small pieces
4 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily grease a 9-inch square pan and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the crust. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add light brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to prepared pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup (or clean hands) to press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool it on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

Pour 1/2 cup of the sweetened condensed milk into a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside.

Drizzle remaining sweetened condensed milk onto crust. Top with 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows, followed by graham pieces and chopped milkchocolate.

Drizzle on reserved sweetened condensed milk and scatter on remaining mini marshmallows. Bake 30-32 minutes, until everything is golden brown and the center of the pan just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use parchment overhang to remove them to a cutting board before slicing with a large, sharp chef’s knife. For clean edges, carefully wipe the knife blade clean with a damp towel between cuts.

Layer leftovers with wax paper (or parchment) in an airtight container. Bars will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.S’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeI had the idea for this Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake after making Double Funfetti Crumb Cake last year and have just been waiting for the right occasion to make it. Why, you may wonder, is today the right day for this cake? Because May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day!Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeGenerally speaking, I’m not a big celebrator of food holidays, but I seem to always remember Pi Day, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day, and Chocolate Chip Day. While these are all silly occasions, I feel like this is *the* time for silly occasions. After all, it’s the 64th day of lockdown here in NYC—Chocolate Chip Day and especially this Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake have never been more necessary.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeI mean, look at that pillowy soft chocolate chip cake! It’s buttery, tight-crumbed, and super moist thanks to half a cup of sour cream. It’s almost enough to restore my hope for the future.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeOh, and speaking of restoring hope in things, let’s discuss the crispy chocolate chip cookie crumb topping! It’s the real star of this show. Think streusel, but instead of cinnamon there’s a bunch of brown sugar and chocolate chips in the mix—it’s actual perfection.

If you want to get fancy, you could brown the butter in the crumb topping. I’m gonna do that next time as part of that hope in the future thing.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeIf you want perfectly clean slices and have slightly more patience than I do, you can wait til the cake has cooled completely before divvying it up. I ceased having extra patience 42 days ago, so the pictured slice is a little scraggly…but as a perk, the chocolate chips are still soft. I will choose melty chocolate over aesthetics any day, anytime. But, like, especially today and right now. The future can wait while I finish my slice of cake.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeHappy Chocolate Chip Day, dear readers.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake, about 10-12 servings

Chocolate Chip Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons miniature chocolate chips

Cake Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a springform pan. Set aside.

Make the crumb topping. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in and melted butter and stir until dry ingredients are saturated and clumps form. Stir in miniature chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Mix in egg, sour cream and vanilla; mixture may be a bit lumpy. Mix in half the dry ingredients followed by half the milk. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining milk. Use a silicone spatula (or wooden spoon) to fold in miniature chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Use your fingers to evenly distribute crumb over the top. Tap full pan a few times on the countertop to release any large air bubbles. Bake cake for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan before releasing the springform. Cake may be served warm or room temperature. If you’d like, let the cake cool completely, invert it and remove the parchment before placing on a serving platter. Slice and serve.

Leftover cake will keep well at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeChocolate Chip Cookie Crumb CakeChocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Cake