Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade BarsI have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. Yes, it’s fun to see old pictures and moments from my college days, but there’s a dark side to it all. That terrible haircut I’ve blocked from memory? Here it is! Every bad fashion choice I’ve ever made? Displayed prominently on my iPhone screen! What appears to be a solid year of angsty statuses? Just…what?!

Pink Lemonade BarsLast week, I had daily reminders of last year’s vacation to Swans Island, Maine. I am currently sixteen days away from heading up there again and I am so. freaking. ready. Swiping through photos of my friends and me hiking, puzzling, and sunbathing has me going crazy waiting to get out of NYC. Don’t get me wrong—I love living here. I just need a break every once in a while.

The vast majority of our trip pictures from last summer are of the four of us collecting wildflowers and climbing over rocks and floating on inner tubes in the ocean, but there are also a few of my friend Liz and me baking in “our” rustic kitchen. We had a ball working together, and I’m so glad I documented it all on here. Our first effort was a Blue-Razz Pie made with foraged berries, but it’s the Lemon Bars that really have me feeling nostalgic for my favorite island off the coast of Maine. There’s just something about the combination of soft lemon filling and buttery shortbread crust that screams summer, am I right?!

Pink Lemonade BarsToday, I’m taking that classic recipe and combining it with another favorite–Pink Lemonade! These Pink Lemonade Bars are super lemony and delicious, and insanely easy 😊 The whole recipe requires just ten ingredients, and while the filling is just as soft and delicious as a classic lemon bar, it’s much less complicated. Sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks are the heavy lifters here, keeping everything sweet and giving the filling its structure.

Pink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade Bars get their color in two ways. The first is seedless raspberry purée, made from blitzing fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor and then pushing it through a sieve. I know that sounds tedious, but it takes all of five minutes. This will produce about 1/3 cup of purée, although you’ll only need to mix 1/4 cup into the filling.

Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée only.
Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée and Food Coloring.
You could certainly use only the raspberry purée to color the filling, but the pink may not be very vibrant. I wanted my bars to be a brighter pink, but no amount of raspberry purée by itself seemed to do the trick. Here, I’ve added a tiny amount of pink gel food coloring to achieve a berry color.

Bottom line: whether or not you choose to use food coloring, your bars will still be pink and lemony 😊

Pink Lemonade BarsThese bars bake up quickly, but must cool completely and be chilled before slicing—Pink Lemonade Bars are an excellent make-ahead dessert option. When you’re ready to serve, all you’ll need to do is slice them up and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. Your friends and family will love this twist on an old favorite.Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, 9-16 bars

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Filling:
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 large lemons)
red or pink food coloring, as desired (optional)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes, until it begins to set.

Make the filling. Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Process until puréed. Push raspberry purée through a sieve to remove seeds. This should produce about 1/3 cup raspberry purée. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until homogeneous. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk, followed by lemon juice and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of raspberry purée. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake 18-22 minutes, until the center of the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars.

Immediately before serving, place a cooling rack over wax paper. Place cut bars on rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.

Leftover bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Add more confectioner’s sugar as necessary.

Funfetti Layer Cake

Funfetti Layer CakeI didn’t have any real reason to make a Funfetti Layer Cake this week. There were no special occasions. Nobody asked for a cake. Today is my dad’s birthday and Sunday is my pal, David’s, but neither of them would have Funfetti as their first choice. Nope.

Funfetti Layer CakeI just made this cake because I felt like it. In the last few weeks, I have stocked up on sprinkles at Sahadi’s and finally made a white cake recipe that I love, and if those two things aren’t enough reason to slap together a layer cake this cheerful…well, I don’t know what is.

Funfetti Layer CakeI mean, really. This has got to be the happiest cake on earth. Or at the very least, the happiest cake in Brooklyn 😍

Funfetti Layer CakeFunfetti Layer CakeFunfetti Layer CakeNow, you may be wondering what sets Funfetti Layer Cake apart from a plain white cake with some sprinkles. The answer is…well, not much. In fact the only differences between my regular white cake recipe and this cake are 1/4 teaspoon of imitation butter extract (for that box mix flavor without the box mix) and a veritable ton of rainbow sprinkles. There’s no big secret or anything—Funfetti is just white cake with pizzazz. Because sometimes you just need cake with pizzazz, am I right?!

Funfetti Layer CakeI frosted this cake with vanilla buttercream and coated the sides with as many nonpareils as the frosting would hold! This was done mostly because, as I have previously mentioned, the kitchen is the warmest room in my apartment right now—not ideal for beautiful frosting! This coating of sprinkles covers all manner of sad-looking frosting, and it’s super cute 💗

Funfetti Layer CakeFunfetti Layer CakeLook how adorable that is! I love how the bright white cake really makes the sprinkles pop. I’m just crazy about all that color 💕💕💕And as if aesthetics alone aren’t a good enough reason to make Funfetti Layer Cake from scratch, know that my version beats the pants off anything you can find in a box. The cake is light and buttery, and the frosting is super fluffy and delicious, and…oh, who am I kidding? This one’s all about the sprinkles.Funfetti Layer Cake

Funfetti Layer Cake
makes 1 three-layer frosted cake

To Grease the Pans:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cake:
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon imitation butter extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups milk (not skim or fat-free)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
4 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (jimmies, not nonpareils)*

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
5-8 tablespoons heavy cream
rainbow sprinkles (jimmies or nonpareils), for decoration

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer to the entire insides of three 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Sift together four times. Do not skip this step. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, vanilla and almond extracts, sour cream, and milk. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean, dry medium-large mixing bowl. Use the whisk attachment on an electric mixer to beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Do not over mix. Set aside.

Fold dry ingredients into wet in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Carefully fold half the whipped egg whites into the batter, followed by the other half. Fold in sprinkles.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Lightly tap each pan on the counter a couple of times just to help any large air bubbles dissipate. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge of the pans and inverting the layers onto a rack. Allow to cool completely.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached. Frost and layer cooled cakes. Decorate with sprinkles immediately after frosting.

Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

For information on the difference between jimmies and nonpareils, click here.

Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsI wait all year long for sour cherries. I love their tart flavor and tiny size, and just look at the color! Does a more beautiful food exist?!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsGetting your hands on sour cherries isn’t easy. Their season is only a few weeks long—blink and you’ll miss them! And you can’t find them just anywhere. I’ve seen them in a grocery store exactly once in the last five years and it was a super pricey specialty foods store. These are basically a farmers market-only find.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour cherries are ideal for pie—I’m not sure I’ve seen them in any other application. Pie requires temperature control though, and the kitchen is the only room of my apartment that can’t be air conditioned 😢 Futzing with sticky pie dough while sweating and cursing whoever decided to put bars on a courtyard-facing second-story window is not my idea of a good time. Instead, I’m looking at the bright side and making something that needs a warm environment to work properly—Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls, y’all!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsThese rolls are made with my favorite sweet yeast dough, and positively loaded with sour cherries! In fact, the filling is literally just sour cherries, sugar, butter, and a pinch of salt. I considered adding some spices to pep things up, but this perfect seasonal fruit simply doesn’t need any adornment.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsThese rolls are delicious, but they can be a little tough to handle. Once the dough is rolled out and the filling is piled on, it’s time to roll everything up. This can be near impossible to do evenly, so please don’t stress yourself out about it.

Slicing requires a little more patience than most sweet roll recipes. Instead of slicing all the rolls at once, I recommend slicing them individually, using your free hand to keep them intact as you transfer each one to the pan. This may not go perfectly either, but just know that a rise will make any cosmetic issues disappear. If you have any cherries fall out, just nudge them back in the best you can—again, don’t let this stress you out. Everything is going to be fine. You can’t see it in these photos, but just know that these rolls were truly hideous after slicing. Post-rise and bake though, you’d never know it…

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet Rolls…and even if you did, icing would fix it anyway. This quick, five-ingredient icing is the perfect accompaniment to the sour cherry filling. It’s flavored with vanilla and almond extracts, and formulated to be extra thick. Once it’s spread over the top, it melts down and mingles with the filling and it’s just…divine.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsThese Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls are the best kind of mid-summer breakfast treat. Soft pastry, buttery, sweet-tart cherry filling, and delectable vanilla-almond icing—is there a better way to start the day?!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsNow, run to the farmers market before the season is over! You don’t want to have to wait a year to make these.Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls

Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls
makes 12 rolls

Dough:
1 3/4-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, beaten, room temperature

Filling:
2 1/2 cups sour cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Icing:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream

Grease a 9×13-inch rimmed baking pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat whole milk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in milk mixture, followed by egg and yolk. Add more all-purpose flour until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead 5-6 minutes before forming into a ball and placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make the filling. In a small bowl, fold together sour cherries, sugar, and salt.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 8×14-inch rectangle. Use an offset icing knife to spread softened butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch perimeter on all sides. Scatter cherry mixture over the top, leaving and excess liquid behind in the bowl. Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. Carefully slice dough into 12 rolls—this may be very messy. Place rolls close together in prepared pan. Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place covered pan in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes, until rolls have doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375F. Uncover rolls. Bake 25-30 minutes, recovering the rolls with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack while you make the icing.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar and salt. Whisk in extracts and 6 tablespoons of heavy cream. Mix until smooth, adding more heavy cream by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.

Drop spoonfuls of icing over the warm rolls and spread around with the back of a spoon. Slice and serve.

Rolls are best the day they are made, but will keep covered at room temperature for a day or so.

Everyday Chocolate Cake

Everyday Chocolate CakeDo you ever have Chocolate Cake Emergencies? Times when you’ve just had a string of bad days or worked too much, or are in an otherwise foul mood that can only be solved with a bit of chocolate cake?

Everyday Chocolate CakeThis week has just been one big Chocolate Cake Emergency for me. I’m making a couple of big changes and I am a walking, talking ball of stress. Logically, I know that sweets cannot (and will not) fix any of my problems, but on a week like this, they sure can’t hurt.

Everyday Chocolate CakeEveryday Chocolate CakeEnter this Everyday Chocolate Cake: a nine-ingredient one-bowl wonder with no need for layering, frosting, or anything else. There are no difficult-to-find ingredients, unusual methods, or long processes—this is an easy, straightforward recipe with spectacular results. Really, this soft, fluffy, deeply chocolaty dessert is just what I want when a Chocolate Cake Emergency arises.

Everyday Chocolate CakeAs I said before, this cake doesn’t need any sort of adornment; I prefer to eat it by its lonesome or with a light dusting of confectioners sugar. If you want to get a little fancy, I recommend topping a slice with a scoop of ice cream (current favorite: Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato) or drizzling the whole cake with ganache.

I’ll be real with you though—this cake really doesn’t need a thing. In fact, I think its less-is-more approach is what makes it so damn great.Everyday Chocolate Cake

Everyday Chocolate Cake
makes 1 9×5-inch loaf cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Droste)
1 1/2 baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup milk (not skim or nonfat)
confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

Sift in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Mix just until combined. Add milk and mix on low until combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake 38-42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Run a small, thin knife around the edge before inverting. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired. Slice and serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsI’m such an optimist when it comes to meal planning. I start every week with the best of intentions, picking up a ton of fresh produce. Tomatoes and avocados go quickly around here, being tossed with pesto or mashed into guacamole or served on toast. Greens go with fried eggs or are made into a huge salad with any odds and ends I have in the fridge. But no matter what I do, something gets forgotten.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsLast week, it was nearly a pound of carrots and a few zucchini. I made some into hash browns (recipe coming soon!), but I can only eat so many of those in a week. Instead of letting good produce sit in the fridge for another day or two, I turned to my go-to Zucchini Bread recipe.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIn addition to being delicious, these Carrot-Zucchini Muffins are a little more nutritious than your average breakfast pastry. For one, they’re made with shredded carrots and zucchini—there’s a full 1/4 cup of vegetables in every serving!

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsThe batter can certainly be made with only all-purpose flour, but I like to use half whole wheat flour here. Where using all whole wheat flour has the potential to make things dry and crumbly if not handled properly, using it in a 50/50 ratio with all-purpose keeps everything nice and soft. The resulting muffins have a nutty whole grain flavor and fluffy interiors—the best of both worlds.  

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsCarrot-Zucchini Muffins are pretty low in sugar, coming in at less than a tablespoon per serving. While adding a few more tablespoons of sugar could certainly amp up the flavor, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg basically do the same thing without adding to the calorie count.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIf you’re looking to get some extra vegetables into your family this summer, this is one easy way to do it. These muffins have all that carrot and zucchini, a bit of whole grain, and with such minimal sugar, seconds are encouraged. Also, they freeze like a dream—just pop a frozen muffin in the microwave for 45 seconds or so. Served alongside a glass of Cold Brew, eating your vegetables has never been so delicious.Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini Muffins
makes 12 standard Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots, not packed (about 3 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, not packed (about 2 medium zucchini)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Fold in shredded carrots and zucchini. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles.

Bake 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 350F for another 12-14 minutes. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

To freeze, place cooled muffins on a baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Transfer to a labeled freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or microwave for 45 seconds-1 minute.