Category Archives: Entertaining

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​

If you’ve ever seen fancy-looking Bostock in a bakery, you may be surprised to learn that it’s a snap to make as far as French pastry goes. The origin of the name is up for debate, but it’s sometimes also referred to as Brioche aux Amandes or “almond brioche.” All that is fine and good—almonds and brioche are enough of a selling point—but I was drawn to Bostock when I learned it’s not actually a pastry on its own, but instead a way to repurpose day-old bread. Yep, it’s the pastry equivalent of French toast! Bostock is nothing more than thick, day-old slices of brioche painted with simple syrup, topped with frangipane and sliced almonds (and sometimes seasonal fruit), and baked until golden.

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​

Permitting you are using store bought brioche, this recipe comes together very quickly. Simple syrup is made from equal volumes of sugar and water, and takes only five minutes to simmer. Frangipane, a sweet almond pastry cream made primarily of almond flour, sugar, butter and an egg, just needs two minutes in the blender. See? Quick and easy! Also, if you are more organized than I am, both elements can be made up to a week ahead—just make sure to let your frangipane come to room temperature before you try to spread it on the delicate brioche.

Assembly is easy as can be. Cut the stale brioche into 8 thick slices, then give each one a heavy brush of simple syrup and a luxurious smear of frangipane. Add some fresh fruit if you like, or don’t; I sliced up a nectarine for half my pastries. Sprinkle on some sliced almonds and bake your Bostock for 25-30 minutes, or until it’s puffed and browned a bit.

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​

One more wonderful thing about Bostock? You don’t have to let it cool completely! Definitely don’t eat it straight out of the oven, but go right ahead and enjoy it warm with a (admittedly heavy) dusting of confectioner’s sugar. It’s crispy and toasty at the edges, and the frangipane squidges against your teeth in the most satisfying way. Bostock is softer at room temperature, but still pretty dang stellar. I haven’t seen many people tell you to eat it cold, but I’ll admit that I like the leftovers straight from the fridge, too.

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​

Like its spiritual cousin French toast, Bostock is a genius way to repurpose leftovers into something much greater than the sum of its parts. While the classic recipe is made with brioche, you could give the Bostock treatment to a number of leftover carbs. Challah, stale croissants, and day-old waffles come to mind. You could also swap out the simple syrup for warmed jam—I’m absolutely going to try matching the flavor with my seasonal fruit topping next time! Saturday morning double cherry Bostock, anyone?!

Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​
Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}
makes 8 servings

Simple Syrup:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

Frangipane:
1 cup blanched almond flour or 4 ounces blanched almonds
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold-ish room temperature, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

For Assembly:
8 thick slices brioche, preferably a bit stale (mine were from 1 14oz loaf)
2 medium sliced nectarines or other seasonal fruit (optional)
2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Make the simple syrup. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Make the frangipane. In a food processor (or very good blender), pulse almond flour, all-purpose flour, salt and sugar together. Pulse in butter. Pour in egg and almond extract, and process until frangipane is a homogenous paste.

Place brioche slices in a single layer on the prepared pan. Brush each slice with simple syrup, making sure to use up all the syrup. Spread about 2 heaping tablespoons of frangipane over each slice of brioche, covering the entire top. Press in fruit, if using, then sprinkle on the sliced almonds.

Bake Bostock for 25-30 minutes, until the frangipane as begun to brown in places. Let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before dusting with confectioner’s sugar and serving slightly warm or at room temperature.

Bostock is best the day it’s made, but may be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​
Bostock {Toasted Brioche with Almonds}​

Tie-Dye Cupcakes

Tie-Dye Cupcakes

While all of us were inside last year, tie-dye made a huge comeback. It’s a fun and easy way to augment clothes, towels, bedsheets or anything else that will absorb color. Why not take that same bright & twisty aesthetic and apply it to dessert?! We’re talking colorful little cups of cake and clouds of vanilla buttercream with technicolor details. They’re fun and funky, and summery as all get-out!

You’ve seen these cupcakes on here before, but never like this. The base is my favorite vanilla sour cream cupcake batter which has been everything from yellow with Nutella Buttercream to spiked with honey and finished with candy corn to marbled with a streak of red velvet to dolled up for the Easter bunny. Today’s version might be my favorite variation of all. Tie-Dye Cupcakes are beautiful to look at and incredibly fun to make.

Start by mixing together the batter and dividing it into four bowls. Grab a few of your favorite shades of food coloring and dye each bowl of batter a different color. A word to the wise that gel food coloring makes for richer colors and doesn’t threaten to add too much liquid to your batter. That said, if liquid is what you have on hand, use it!

Once your batter is dyed, spoon the colors into your cupcake pans. There are no hard and fast rules on how to do this, except to get all the colors in each cup and only up to 2/3-3/4 full. I like to give mine a little swirl with a skewer before baking, but this is strictly optional. After you’ve got all your batters in your pans, bake your cupcakes and let them cool.

Tie-Dye Cupcakes

Next up: frosting! These swirly-twirly colorful plumes of buttercream may look intimidating, but they are just regular old vanilla buttercream with a little food coloring. Where most colorful frosting recipes ask you to whip the dye directly into the mix, I take a different approach here.

Before the buttercream is loaded into the piping bag, it’s rolled up in a piece of plastic wrap that has been painted with lines of gel food coloring, then formed into a log. I found it easiest to divide the frosting in half for this step. Once rolled, one end of the log is trimmed off before the whole kit and caboodle is placed in the piping bag and then…well, it’s piping business as usual. You know, except for the part where each cupcake looks different and the edges of the frosting are bright and beautiful!

Tie-Dye Cupcakes

It goes without saying that Tie-Dye Cupcakes are delicious, but let’s be real: these are all about aesthetics. They’re so fun—perfect for summer get-togethers, birthdays, or any occasion that could use a pop (or four) of color and a really spectacular bit of vanilla cake.

Tie-Dye Cupcakes
Tie-Dye Cupcakes
makes 12-14 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 food colorings of choice (I used gel)

Frosting:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 food colorings of choice (I used the same gels from the cake)

Special Equipment:
plastic wrap
food-safe paintbrushes
piping bag with a tip and coupler

Make the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Combine milk and sour cream a liquid measuring cup, then use a fork to whisk them together. Set aside.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, combining completely after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Mix in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the milk/sour cream. Add the remaining dry ingredients followed by the remaining milk/sour cream.

Divide batter into four small bowls (about 2/3-3/4 cup batter in each). Add a different food coloring to each one and stir with forks to distribute the color (I used 5 drops each pink, blue, green and yellow gel).

To achieve the tie-dye effect, spoon a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of each color into each liner, adjusting as needed, until each one is 2/3-3/4 full. Tap full pan on the counter five times before baking cupcakes for 18-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar and salt in two installments, combining completely after each addition. Beat in vanilla & heavy cream until combined. Set aside.

Lay 2 14-16-inch long pieces of plastic wrap on a surface. On each one, use paintbrushes to paint parallel 6-inch stripes of each color of food coloring about 1/2-inch apart. The food coloring may bead on the surface of the plastic wrap—this is okay.

Top each set of stripes with half the frosting. Working with one assemblage of frosting/food coloring/ plastic wrap at a time, use the plastic wrap to roll and manipulate the frosting into a log shape with food coloring stripes going down all sides. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap so that the log looks like a piece of old-fashioned candy. Repeat this process with the other assemblage.

Working with one log of frosting at a time, trim one end and place the wrapped log trimmed-end-down in a piping bag fitted with a tip. Twist the piping bag closed and pipe frosting onto the cupcakes. Repeat trimming process with the second log of frosting when needed.

Serve cupcakes. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4.
Tie-Dye Cupcakes
Tie-Dye Cupcakes

Snickerdoodle Squares

Snickerdoodle Squares

I try very hard to keep a baking schedule that allows me a full day off every week, but as with everything, there are exceptions. For example, a friend of mine had a fully-vaxxed get-together last weekend. You know I couldn’t show up empty-handed!

Snickerdoodle Squares

Enter these Snickerdoodle Squares, the perfect low-maintenance party treat. They have all the flavor and texture of classic, cinnamon-crusted Snickerdoodle cookies, but bake up in a square pan with limited fuss!

Snickerdoodle Squares

These soft, chewy squares are easy as can be, with slightly tangy sugar cookie centers and crisp cinnamon-sugar edges. The base is very similar to my favorite blondie recipe, with the biggest deviation being the additions of baking powder and cream of tartar for a more cookie-like texture. It’s an easy, no-mixer batter that requires few ingredients and almost no time to whip together.

Heads up: there is no substitute for cream of tartar—it is a classic snickerdoodle ingredient that gives these squares that signature tang. If you don’t have any on hand, you can leave it out without any major consequences, but the flavor will be a bit less snickerdoodly. Snickerdoodlesque?

Now onto the main event: the cinnamon sugar! You simply can’t have a snickerdoodle without cinnamon sugar—it’s basically the whole point. Here, it’s scattered in the bottom of the buttered pan before being topped with the batter and more cinnamon sugar. As the squares bake, the top layer expands and cracks with the batter, while the bottom layer melts and caramelizes. After the squares cool completely in their pan, that bottom layer will be extra-crispy, like a thin layer of cinnamon sugar glass against all that cookie square goodness! Textural diversity for the win.

Snickerdoodle Squares

Y’all, these Snickerdoodle Squares are as satisfying as they are simple. All the flavor and texture of a perfect, soft snickerdoodle and half the work! The combination of the crunchy, crystalline cinnamon sugar on the top, the crackling-crisp layer on the bottom, and the thick, chewy centers is irresistible. I, for one, will be hauling these to every picnic, party and anything else I’m invited to this summer, and I have an inkling you will be, too.

Snickerdoodle Squares
Snickerdoodle Squares
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan, about 16 squares

Cinnamon Sugar:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square pan well with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for removal. Grease again.

Make cinnamon sugar. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together sugar and cinnamon.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar in the bottom of the prepared pan. Tilt the pan around to coat the bottom. Set aside both the pan and the remaining cinnamon sugar.

Make the batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Mix in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt, and whisk just until combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently spread it to the edges, covering the layer of cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over the top, taking care to get all the way to the edges. Tap full pan on the counter a couple of times to knock out any large air bubbles.

Bake squares for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs (not wet batter). Let squares cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Once cooled, use the parchment overhang to lift the bars onto a cutting board. Discard parchment. Slice into 16 squares with a large, sharp chef’s knife. Serve.

Leftovers will keep well covered at room temperature for up to four days.
Snickerdoodle Squares
Snickerdoodle Squares

Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}

Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Everyday Cakes are probably my favorite desserts to make and eat. I’m sure I’ve said that about at least one other category of dessert, but I promise it’s true.

Like their name implies, these are cakes that can be made any ol’ day with limited fuss. Theyre single layer, have short ingredient lists and can almost always be adapted to work with whatever you have on hand. They’re the sort of thing you can bake on the fly when you need to let out some stress after work, or want to make a cake on a Saturday afternoon but don’t want to deal with frosting and layering. Even better, they’re the kind of super-classy-but-still-low-maintenance dinner party dessert that will make you look like Ina Garten (hydrangeas optional, but recommended). Their versatility simply cannot be matched.

It will come as no surprise that I have tons of Everyday Cakes in my archives—too many for one post—so this is my spring Everyday Cake round-up. Five cakes that are far more than the sum of their parts. Try out one or two before summer’s here and it’s too hot to bake!Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

My friend, David, introduced me to this Dutch dessert a few years ago and it’s quickly become one of my favorite cakes of all time. With plenty of butter, bits of ginger strewn throughout and a signature golden lid, it might just become your favorite too!

Ginger not your thing? Feel free to leave it out, or make my almond variation.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Flourless Almond Cake

The nectarines in this picture won’t be in season for a few more months, but don’t let that stop you from making this dreamy Flourless Almond Cake! It’s perfect for eating with your fingers as a mid-afternoon snack, but it can also be dressed up with berries or chocolate or whatever for post-vaccine get-togethers.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Blueberry Torte

A torte is just a low maintenance cake by another name. This one is super easy to make, tender and buttery and chockablock with fresh blueberries.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Mango Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple is the reigning queen of upside-down cakes, but I’d like to make a petition for this mango number to be a princess or a duchess or something. The combination of brown sugar cake and fresh mango baked in caramel is absolutely divine.Friday Favorites: Everyday Cakes {Spring Edition}Winning Hearts & Minds Cake

Everyone needs a good flourless chocolate cake recipe in their back pocket. This one is the slightest take on Molly Wizenberg-Choi’s gem of a recipe. I’ve made it approximately a thousand times—I’ve got the recipe memorized—and am still not over the crackly top and dense chocolaty middle. Consider my heart and mind won.

Have you made these or any of my other everyday cakes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeIf you love a real mouth-puckering punch of lemon, this Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake is for you. We’re talking buttery lemon cake topped with a sticky mosaic of sliced lemons—all the lemon flavor you could ever want. It’s sunny and happy-looking enough to drive any late-winter blues away, at least for the two minutes it takes to eat a slice!Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeUpside-down cakes are very simple to make and this one is no different, although it does take some time. The lemons have to be sliced, seeded and trimmed of excess rind, lest your cake become incredibly bitter. If you happen to find thin-skinned lemons (Meyer lemons!), you can skip trimming off that outer layer, but I wouldn’t chance it otherwise. Heads up that while I find this process enjoyable, it almost always takes a half hour from beginning to end. Plan ahead.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeAll my previous upside-down cakes have been made by tiling the fruit over a pool of butter and brown sugar that have been melted together, but that combination doesn’t work terribly well here if you’re hoping for your lemon slices to be tender and defined. I tried all sorts of adjustments to my usual topping before following the advice of Broma Bakery—arguably the queen of citrus upside-down cakes—and adding some water to form a syrup. This makes all the difference, keeping the lemon slices pretty, plump and tender, even after baking.

This syrup is made of sugar, honey, butter, salt and water that have been microwaved together. It’s divided so that there is a layer both under and over the lemons. The lemons themselves are tiled in whole at first, before being cut into tiny wedges to fill in gaps. The lemons will shrink while baking, so the only way to guarantee a beautiful upside-down cake is to leave as little space between pieces as possible.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeOnce your lemon mosaic is assembled, bury it in thick lemon cake batter; this recipe is my go-to vanilla cake with some lemony flair. The cake will need nearly an hour to bake. Don’t be alarmed when when you pull it from the oven and it looks like a nightmare—there’s a reason this cake is served upside down!Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeAnother way this cake is different from my other upside-down cakes? It needs to cool for a long time in the pan. Between the juicy lemons and the syrupy topping, this cake needs to fully settle or it will look like a hot mess. For the best results, wait until the cake has cooled completely before inverting onto a plate. Your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful golden lemon top. All the peculiarities of assembly will have been worth it, I promise.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeOnce your cake is on a plate, all that’s left to do is slice through the top with a serrated knife, grab a fork and enjoy this dessert which, like it’s name suggests, both looks and tastes like a ray of sunshine. I, for one, can’t see or taste it without smiling.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake

Sunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake
makes 1 9-inch round cake

Topping:
5-6 small/medium lemons
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey or maple syrup
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup water

Cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from ~1/2 lemon)
~1 cup milk (not skim or fat free), room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For serving (optional):
vanilla ice cream
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the topping. Wash and dry lemons. Zest 1 lemon, then set zest aside.

Slice lemons (including zested one) in 1/4-inch slices. Use a sharp knife to trim rind to no more than 1/4-inch. Remove seeds (they will become more pronounced during baking).

Combine sugar, honey, salt, butter and water in a microwave-safe bowl or liquid measuring cup. Stir together, then microwave 45 seconds. Stir again, just until sugar granules are dissolved. Pop back in the microwave for 15 seconds if necessary. This step may also be done in a small pot on the stove.

Pour half the liquid (~1/3 cup) in the prepared pan and swirl to coat. Arrange whole lemon slices tightly over the top. Cut some whole lemon slices into small wedges, then use them to fill in any gaps. There shouldn’t be much, if any, open space. Pour over the remainder of the liquid. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and use your fingertips to rub them together.

Pour lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup, then add milk up to the 1 cup mark. Stir together and set aside for at least 5 minutes, or until curdled.

In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in lemony sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Add vanilla. With the mixer on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and the milk mixture in two installments. Mix just until combined.

Pour batter over the arranged lemon slices, and spread with a silicone spatula to even out the top. Tap pan on the counter two or three times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan a couple of times before inverting onto a cake stand or large serving plate. Peel off and discard parchment.

Serve cake with ice cream of whipped cream, if desired. Cake is best the day it’s baked, but wrapped leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Sunny Lemon Upside-Down CakeSunny Lemon Upside-Down Cake