Author Archives: Liz {E2 Bakes Brooklyn}

About Liz {E2 Bakes Brooklyn}

I'm a blogger, freelance baker, and recipe developer in South Brooklyn.

Lasagna a la Betsy

Lasagna a la Betsy​

Listen, I know that the internet is full of lasagna recipes. There’s everything from the jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese kind to some that take three days and are lovingly layered with from-scratch bolognese, béchamel, and pasta made by hand. If you’re looking for a lasagna to suit your tastes, there’s a decent chance it’s out there…unless, of course, you were hoping to find mine.

I have been making lasagnas for people for years. Truthfully, if you ask nicely and pay for my ingredients, transportation, labor and time, I’ll come right to your house, tie on an apron, and fill your freezer with tightly-wrapped aluminum pans of layered bolognese, cheese, and pasta with an index card with baking instructions scotch taped on top. If, however, I’m out of your budget and you don’t want to have to interpret my handwriting, it’s your lucky day—Lasagna a la Betsy is finally on the blog.

Lasagna a la Betsy​

Now, what makes it “a la Betsy”? Well, half of everyone I know started calling me Betsy seven years ago, and while I introduce myself as “Liz” everywhere but Starbucks, I like that nickname whenever it suits me, which includes but isn’t limited to when I make lasagna. Also, this recipe is authentic to nothing—I am not trying to make this as lovingly as anyone’s Italian grandmother, I’m just trying to get dinner on the table today (and maybe sometime in a few weeks). But mostly, it’s a la Betsy because it’s what I like in my lasagna, and it’s made the way I like to make it. Period, end of story.

The “bones” of Lasagna a la Betsy are similar to many classic recipes. It starts with making my tried and true bolognese sauce from scratch. I usually do this a day ahead to split up the work, but it can be made the same day the lasagnas are assembled. It takes about three hours of browning and simmering beef, sausage, mushrooms and aromatics, but the results are meaty and rich and worth it all, I promise. Frankly, the sauce is the most time consuming part of this whole process; the rest is just layering. And oh, they are good layers.

You know the stuff: shredded mozzarella, spoonfuls of parmesan-spiked ricotta, the bolognese, some no-boil noodles… Yeah, I use the no-boil noodles—they’re one of the only convenience ingredients that I will swear by. I’ve used the boil-yourself kind and they are delicious, but they can be finicky and take a while. I like saving myself a little stress. I mean, I already made the sauce from scratch. That said, use whichever noodles work for you.

Lasagna a la Betsy​

My personal favorite part of my lasagna recipe? It makes two! Unless you have a huge family or are having a party, you probably don’t need a 9×13” pan of lasagna, but two 8” square pans? One for now and one for the freezer? Yeah, that’ll work. Future you is going to be so happy you planned ahead. Current me is already pretty jazzed about it.

To that end, I’ve included instructions for baking lasagnas right away, as well and freezing and baking from frozen. Whichever path you choose, you’re in for a treat. Hot homemade lasagna (a la Betsy or otherwise) is always a treat.

Lasagna a la Betsy
makes two 8-inch square lasagnas (each 4-6 servings)

1 recipe Bolognese Sauce (about 9-10 cups)
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
pinch of ground nutmeg
a few grinds freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) shredded mozzarella (fresh, low-moisture whole milk, or a mix)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Make the bolognese sauce. Remove from heat and let cool for at least an hour before assembling lasagnas. Alternatively, make the sauce the day before and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. It can be used cold.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease 2 8-inch square baking dishes. If using aluminum pans or freezing the lasagnas, line them with parchment.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together ricotta, egg, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Stir in 1 cup grated parmesan. Set aside.

Assemble lasagnas. Spread 1/2 cup bolognese sauce in the bottom of one of the prepared pans. Top with 2 no-boil lasagna noodles (do not overlap them). Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top, then sprinkle on 1 cup of shredded mozzarella, and drop 1/4 of the ricotta mixture (about a heaping 1/3 cup) in spoonfuls over the top. Top with 2 more lasagna noodles, then another layer with 1 cup bolognese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, and 1/4 of the ricotta mixture. Top with 2 more noodles, then 1 cup sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella over the top, followed by 2 tablespoons grated parmesan. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Repeat layering process with remaining ingredients and prepare pan. Freeze any leftover bolognese (I usually have 1 1/2 cups leftover).

To bake lasagna immediately: cover with foil, making sure to tent it at the top so it doesn’t touch the cheese or sauce. Place the pan(s) on a sheet pan (to catch any mess). Bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, until browning in places and getting a little crispy at the edges. Let cool 15-30 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

To freeze unbaked lasagna: cut a 7-inch square of parchment and lay it on the top of the lasagna. Triple-wrap the pan with plastic wrap. Wrap with foil. Freeze for up to one month.

To bake a lasagna from frozen: Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove frozen lasagna from the freezer. Remove and discard foil, plastic wrap, and parchment. Cover the pan with fresh foil, making sure to tent it at the top so it doesn’t touch the cheese or sauce. Place the pan(s) on a sheet pan (to catch any mess). Bake 75 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, until browning in places and getting a little crispy at the edges. Let cool 15-30 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Leftover lasagna will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cornbread Crackers

If you’ve been around a while, you know I do a “savory January” full of weeknight meals to counterbalance all the sweets. I’m not sure how tightly I’ll keep that tradition this year, but I’m holding to it for now.

Cornbread Crackers​

You might be saying “But Liz, crackers aren’t a weeknight meal.” To that I say, “Anything can be a weeknight meal, Susan.” I eat crackers for dinner all the time. There is usually cheese and some form of fruit or vegetable involved, but the crackers are unquestionably the thing that holds everything together.

Usually, I’ll go for some sort of cracker from the grocery store, but occasionally I’ll DIY them (see exhibits A & B). Right now it’s these Cornbread Crackers, which were inspired by a bag of Cornbread Crisps I saw at Trader Joe’s. Instead of buying some like a normal person, I thought “I can make those,” and indeed I did. I regret nothing.

Cornbread Crackers​

Cornbread Crackers are just what they sound like: crackers with the flavors of cornbread. Made with equal parts yellow cornmeal and all-purpose flour, hints of sugar and salt, and bound with butter and water, these crunchy snacks are as welcome on a cheese plate as they are with a bowl of soup or chili.

Their texture is crisp and light, with a pleasing bit of grit from the cornmeal. The sugar in the dough is just enough to balance the salt and corn flavor, and the butter rounds them out and gives a little richness. On the grand spectrum of crackers (let’s pretend that’s a thing), they fall somewhere between water crackers and Wheat Thins, which basically means that I can’t keep myself from grabbing a little handful every time I pass by their container…or when I have some Trader Joe’s Mini Brie Bites on hand.

Don’t worry, I’ll leave the cheesemaking to the professionals.

Cornbread Crackers​
Cornbread Crackers
makes lots (150 small crackers)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons warm water

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt. Add melted butter and warm water and whisk just until combined. Dough may seem a little dry, but should hold together very well when pinched.

Gather dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 400F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.

Roll out the crackers. Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Divide dough in half, then move on half to the surface while covering the other back up with plastic wrap. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness.

Cut the crackers. Use a sharp chef’s knife, pizza cutter or bench scraper to cut dough into crackers. Mine are roughly 1-inch squares, but you may cut them as big or small as you like, keeping in mind that baking time may be affected. Use a thin offset icing spatula (or other implement) to remove each cracker from the surface. Place crackers close together (but not touching) on baking sheets. Prick each cracker with a toothpick or fork.

Repeat rolling/cutting/baking process with remaining dough. Re-roll scraps as needed.

Bake crackers for 15-17 minutes, or until just turning golden. Keep an eye on them after 15 minutes, as they can burn quickly.

Let crackers cool completely on their pans. Serve with soup, as part of a cheese plate, or on their own.

Crackers will keep in an airtight container for at least a week.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

It’s a little late for a Christmas recipe, but frankly I can do whatever I want on this website. And what I want is a pan of Peppermint Mocha Brownies.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

Made with my tried and true Cocoa Brownie base, these holiday treats come together super easily. Their already-deep chocolate flavor is punched up with semisweet chocolate chips, then accented with just enough peppermint extract and granulated espresso to evoke everyone’s holiday coffee shop fave.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

But flavor’s only half of the equation here—Peppermint Mocha Brownies have to look the part, too! These are drizzled with a melted mix of chocolate chips and butter, and sprinkled with as much crushed candy cane as your heart desires. (My heart desires a lot.)

Peppermint Mocha Brownies

Peppermint Mocha Brownies are rich and satisfying; a little square goes a long way. I, however, have no self control and cut these on the larger side. I regret nothing.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Whatever and wherever you’re celebrating, I hope you’re safe, warm, and with people you love.

Peppermint Mocha Brownies
Peppermint Mocha Brownies
adapted from Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (not mint extract)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated espresso or coffee
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For Garnish:
3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
crushed candy canes or starlight peppermints

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt butter, granulated and brown sugars, and cocoa powder together, stirring frequently, until a thick, grainy mixture forms. Remove from heat and let mixture cool 5-7 minutes.

Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and eggs to the pot, and stir/whisk to combine. Add flour, granulated espresso, and salt, and stir/whisk to combine. Fold in semisweet chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread to the edges. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Top with pecans, if desired.

Bake brownies 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs (not wet batter). Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Garnish the brownies. Combine chocolate chips and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Use a fork to drizzle over brownies. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Refrigerate brownies for 15-20 minutes, until chocolate sets.

Slide a knife around the edges of the pan before using parchment overhang to lift brownies onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice brownies into 16 or 25 pieces. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

Between the burnout and a holiday case of COVID that set me way behind, this year has not had my best Christmas content. Not every December can be a winner, you know? But I’m back this week with a couple more recipes before the real festivities begin. I’m doing my best in this moment, and my best is this Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

It’s flaky. It’s tasty. It’s CUTE.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

It can be served in place of cinnamon rolls at your Christmas breakfast, or it can be a part of a tea or dessert spread.

It can be made savory by swapping the pfilling with pesto or pimento cheese.

It can be made even easier with ready-made puff pastry instead of homemade rough puff.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

Basically it can do it all, even when I can’t. That’s the kind of Christmas treat (tree-t?) I can get behind.

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree
Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Christmas Tree
makes one tree

Rough Puff Pastry (makes 2 sheets):
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
10 ounces (20 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup water or milk, very cold

Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Garnish (optional):
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use two sheets of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions. Begin the recipe at “Make the cinnamon sugar filling.”

Make the rough puff pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Use your hands to give the dough a couple of kneads in the bowl, then divide it in half. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Place one half on the floured surface. Place the other in the bowl in the refrigerator.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8x10" rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8x10" rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours. Repeat the mixing, rolling, folding and chilling process with remaining half of the dough.

Make the cinnamon sugar filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and salt. Mix in melted butter until a paste forms. Set aside.

Make the tree. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold one sheet of dough. Roll out to 12x15-inch rectangle, or a bit larger. Transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet.

Use a knife or straight edge to score a large tree shape in the dough. Spread the cinnamon-sugar filling into the tree shape, leaving 1/2-inch border on all sides. Brush a tiny amount of water on the exposed border.

Retrieve the other sheet of dough and repeat the rolling and transfer process. Press down the dough so that you have “sealed” the filled tree shape. Use a large sharp chef’s knife or a straight edge to trim off all the excess dough, leaving behind the tree shape. If desired, return dough scraps to the floured surface and cut out stars or other shapes for decoration. Otherwise refrigerate dough and save for another purpose.

Use a straight edge to score a 1-1 1/2-inch length vertically down the center of your tree. Starting at the base of the tree, use a sharp knife to cut 1-inch strips all the way up on both sides, leaving them connected in the center.

Taking one strip of dough at a time, gently twist it a few times. Repeat with all strips up to the top; as they get shorter, they will accept fewer twists.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash over the entire tree. If you cut stars from the excess, add them to the pan and paint with egg wash.

Bake tree for 28-30 minutes, until completely golden. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing to a serving plate. I found this easiest to do by lifting it on the parchment, placing it on the serving dish, then sliding out the parchment from underneath. Arrange stars, if using.

Sift confectioners sugar over all or part of the tree (I did the stars and then placed them). Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

Hi there! I am sorry I left you hanging for a few weeks there—COVID finally got me—but I am very happy to be back with a new recipe in time for the Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange. This event, which I am participating in for the fifth year, is a food blogger-lead fundraiser and awareness campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This organization is a 501(c)3 non-profit with the express mission to raise funds for innovative pediatric cancer treatments and research through bake sales and cookie swaps. Supporters (“Good Cookies”) can do this throughout the year, but I am delighted to lend support as part of my holiday giving especially right now when OXO is matching donations up to $100,000! If you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here. For White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges, keep scrolling!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

I would like to give a high five to whichever person decided white chocolate, dried cranberries, and pistachios is a Christmas combination. I don’t believe it was a part of any holiday parties or cookie exchanges I took part in while growing up, but I am all for it now. Aside from just being festive—love that red, green and white—it’s delicious, and a welcome departure from the chocolate, peppermint, and spice-heavy fare that seems to be available 24/7 in December. Not that I’m complaining.

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

Today’s White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges are the perfect vehicle for showcasing this new holiday classic combination. They’re simple to make, require just a few ingredients, and are incredibly cute—things cut in wedges automatically have Christmas tree vibes, you know?

These buttery shortbread treats come together just as simply as the classic cookies. The dough is mixed in one bowl in just a few minutes. It’s got all the usual shortbread suspects (granulated sugar, softened butter, all-purpose flour), plus confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and salt for smooth texture, flavor and balance. Oh, and white chocolate chips, chopped dried cranberries and pistachios for pizzazz!

Once mixed, the dough is spread into a cake pan lined with an extra-large piece of parchment. It’s docked (vented) with a fork all over before baking for about 40 minutes, until just turning golden at the edges. Fifteen minutes later, that extra-large parchment is used to lift the whole disk of shortbread onto a cutting board and slice it into wedges while it’s still warm. I love those clean edges.

These shortbread wedges are thick and substantial, with a slight softness to their crunch, and plenty of color and flavor from the mix-ins. My favorite bites are the ones with white chocolate—it caramelizes in the oven and is outrageously good. I like to dot a few extra white chocolate chips on top after baking for diversity of flavor (and obvious cuteness). And the chewy cranberries and crunchy pistachios? So good!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges are perfect for any upcoming party or cookie giving (eating?) occasion. They’re as satisfying to make as they are to eat, and the dough is a perfect blank slate for any festive mix-in your holiday heart desires. What would you put in shortbread wedges? Let me know in the comments!

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges​
White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Wedges
makes 12-16 wedges

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachio meats, finely chopped
1/3 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut a large (12-14 inch) circle of parchment paper. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment circle, leaving the overhang for ease of removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Place softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated and confectioners sugars and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Beat in half of flour and salt, followed by remaining flour. Add chopped dried cranberries, pistachio meats, and white chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to prepared pan and press into an even layer. Use the tines of a fork to dock the entire surface of the dough. If you hit a big piece of pistachio (or whatever), simply pull it off the fork and press it back into place.

Bake shortbread 38-40 minutes, until golden at the edges and set on top. Dot with additional white chocolate chips, if desired.

Let shortbread cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Then use the overhang to remove the still-warm shortbread to a cutting board. Use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut into 12 large or 16 smaller wedges. Gently transfer wedges back to the rack and let cool completely. Serve.

Leftover shortbread will keep covered at room temperature for a few days.