White Chocolate Pecan Cookies

White Chocolate Pecan CookiesSince we last spoke, things have only gotten weirder. What is happening? I mean, I know what’s happening, but…what. is. happening?

Well, a lot. And also very little. Like everything outside and on TV is bananas, but everything inside and away from the news is super chill. I’ve never been much for FaceTime or putting my face on video, but I’m doing more of both of those things because social distancing. I am doing less and less going outside—my kitchen is stocked and I have all my essential medications. I hope you do, too.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesOne thing that hasn’t changed at all? I’m still baking. Sure, there’s a part of me that just wants to quit everything and pout, but I think that would get boring quickly. Also, I’d run out of cookies.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesAnd speaking of cookies, I am in love with these White Chocolate Pecan beauties. They’re thick and chewy and stay that way for a whole week! Yes, a whole week! That simply doesn’t happen with most cookies.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesThis is not a flavor combination I would have thought of myself. I was clued in when a friend’s fiancé mentioned that they loved their grocery store’s white chocolate pecan cookies but didn’t love the ingredient list, and could I make them with less-questionable ingredients, please???

Yes. Yes, I could. And I did. And now, you can too.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesToasty pecans and sweet, creamy white chocolate chips are a match made in heaven, especially when folded into a buttery sugar cookie base. These cookies are rich, but not heavy, and I know from a lot of personal experience that it’s difficult to only eat one.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesI recognize that not everyone has white chocolate chips and/or pecans at home right now (this recipe is not a reason for “essential travel” to the grocery store!), so feel free to put whatever mix-ins you like in the sugar cookie base, up to 2 cups. When things get to some point of normalcy though, get yourself some bags of both and prepare to meet (and eat) the cookie combo you didn’t know you needed!

Also, if you don’t have both granulated and brown sugars, you can use all of one or the other. Oh, and should you not have baking powder, swap all the leaveners for 3/4 teaspoon baking soda. Your cookies will likely be a little darker and flatter, but they will still be cookies.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesStay safe, y’all! I’ll be back Friday with a list of things to make while you’re cooped up ❤ White Chocolate Pecan Cookies

White Chocolate Pecan Cookies
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

1 cup pecan halves
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips + more for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Scatter pecan halves on a dry rimmed baking sheet and roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn. Let cool completely and chop finely.

In a 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 cream butter until fluffy and lighter in color. Beat in granulated and light brown sugars. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in white chocolate chips, followed by pecans. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Scoop chilled dough in 2 tablespoon increments, and roll into balls. Place dough balls at least two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes, until puffy. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat process with any remaining dough, letting the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Cookies will keep extremely well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.White Chocolate Pecan CookiesWhite Chocolate Pecan CookiesWhite Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Pecan Pie Kolaches

Pecan Pie KolachesHello! Everything is upside down here in New York, but I’m trying to make the best of it and blog anyway (because I love it). I know that baking is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind these days, but it’s a great way to relax and put your focus elsewhere for a little while. And it just so happens that tomorrow is one of my favorite food holidays: Pi Day!Pecan Pie KolachesIf you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s the calendar date 3/14, which corresponds to Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, enumerated as 3.14159265359 aka “π.” Whew MATH.Pecan Pie KolachesIt’s not technically a food holiday (National Pie Day was January 23), but it’s the unofficial day to celebrate math by making pie. And why not? Pie is circular, requires math (fractions/ratios) to make, and has the perfect name. Also, it’s delicious.Pecan Pie KolachesPecan Pie Kolaches Pecan Pie KolachesAll that said, I did not make a pie for Pi Day this year. I did, however, mix up a batch of the filling from my Pecan Pie Brownies and put it in a bunch of kolaches. In case you haven’t noticed, they are also circular(-ish), require math to make, and have “pi(e)” in the name. Also, they are reeeeeally delicious.Pecan Pie KolachesThey’re super soft, buttery, filled with sticky nutmeg-scented pecan filling, and topped off with a big pinch of posypka (crumble). Oh my lord.Pecan Pie KolachesPecan Pie Kolaches, y’all. They’re something to celebrate.Pecan Pie Kolaches

Pecan Pie Kolaches
makes about 1.5 dozen kolaches

Kolache Dough:
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
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature

Pecan Pie Filling:
1 1/3 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup maple syrup or light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Posypka (Crumble):
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
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, nutmeg 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 filling. Scatter pecans on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool completely and then chop finely.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together maple syrup (or corn syrup), brown sugar, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat, just until bubbles are beginning to form at the edges. Mixture will barely thicken.

Set a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Pour filling mixture through to remove any bits of cooked egg. Fold pecans into filling. Let cool 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 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of pecan 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 light-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.Pecan Pie KolachesPecan Pie KolachesPecan Pie KolachesPecan Pie Kolaches

Brown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins

Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsUntil a few weeks ago, I hadn’t put a muffin recipe on here in about 2.5 years—it’s been even longer for cupcakes. If you had asked why, I would have said it’s because I hate cleaning muffin pans, which is the absolute truth. Too many corners for stuff to get stuck.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsAnd while muffin/cupcake liners are the obvious solution to that problem, there was another to contend with: I was not terribly confident in my base muffin recipe. But then I went and tested the crap out of my Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins and found a formula that works every time and can be adjusted easily without disaster and, well, I made you some Brown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins. You’re welcome.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsYou read that right: Brown Butter. Nutella Swirl. Muffins. Basically every good thing in the world in a handheld treat that is somehow suitable for consumption at breakfast.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsThe recipe for these muffins has a few adjustments from the Lemon Poppy Seed version, but not many. Besides the obvious flavor difference, there’s a little more flour and I swapped some of the milk for sour cream, making the batter a little thicker so the Nutella swirls don’t sink.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsAnd speaking of Nutella swirls, they are applied in two phases. Basically, you add half the batter to the muffin cups, then swirl in some Nutella, then top with the remaining batter and swirl in remaining Nutella.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsY’all, these are so good. The interiors are feather soft and the Nutella swirls make every bite extra decadent, as all things with Nutella should be. Also, there’s a little variance in each bite—you could have a little Nutella or you could have a lot! The brown butter is subtle, as it is in my Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes and Chocolate Chip Scones, but brings a little nuance that you wouldn’t get with regular melted butter. Not that making these will regular melted butter would ever be a bad idea.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins

Brown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a small bowl.

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

In a small-medium mixing bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk together brown butter, eggs, milk, sour cream, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon just until combined—no more than 15-20 strokes.

Add 2 tablespoons batter to each muffin cup. Drop 1 teaspoon Nutella into each muffin cup and use a toothpick (or thin knife) to swirl it around. Divide remaining batter among muffin cups (about 1 1/2-2 more tablespoons each). Top each with another teaspoon of Nutella and swirl again. Muffin cups will be very full.

Carefully tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350F and bake for an additional 14-15 minutes.

Remove muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least five minutes before removing to prepared rack to cool completely. Serve. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for a couple of days, but may be refrigerated for up to 5.Brown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsBrown Butter Nutella Swirl MuffinsBrown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake BarsAfter declaring that I was going to tackle my fear of cheesecakes (more accurately, the water bath/bain marie) last summer…well, I didn’t do that. I made you a bunch of other stuff though, so I’m not that sorry about it.

Perhaps this will be the year I make a real, mile-high, baked in a water bath, dreamy, creamy, wonderful cheesecake. But perhaps not. I’m going get my cheesecake fix either way though with these Oreo Cheesecake Bars.Oreo Cheesecake BarsNot only are they freaking delicious—Oreos + cheesecake, duh—but they are waaaaay easier to make than a traditional cheesecake. They bake in just 30 minutes and cool in 3 hours (seems like nothing when you remember that most cheesecakes require 8-24!) and require exactly seven ingredients. That’s right, all you need to make a batch of these of these bars are Oreos, melted butter, cream cheese, sugar, an egg, sour cream, and vanilla. And time. And a functioning oven. And a refrigerator.

But like, ten things isn’t much to ask when cheesecake is involved.Oreo Cheesecake BarsThese are incredibly simple to make and they’re the perfect treat to have in the fridge all weekend. Crumbly Oreo crust and a thin layer of tangy cheesecake studded with more Oreos and you didn’t have to use a water bath? Is this real life?!

Yes. Yes, it is. And it is delicious.Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake Bars
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 bars

Crust:
24 whole Oreos
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 whole Oreos, cut/broken into shards

This recipe requires a 3 hour chill after baking. Plan accordingly.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil. Grease well. Set aside.

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into in even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes to set. Let cool a few minutes while you prepare the cheesecake.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg, sour cream, and vanilla, until mixture is smooth. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in Oreo pieces, holding back a few for the top, if desired.

Spoon cheesecake mixture over the crust and carefully spread to the edges of the pan. Dot the top with reserved Oreo pieces, if desired. Tap full pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the center just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool to room temperature on a rack. Chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. For cleanest slices, wipe your knife’s blade clean between cuts.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. For best storage, layer bars with sheets of wax paper. They may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Oreo Cheesecake BarsOreo Cheesecake Bars

Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts

Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsOne of the great things about yeast doughs—aside from the fact that they’re way easier than they’re made out to be—is that they all seem to have multiple uses. My Kolache dough makes kickass Cinnamon Rolls, my Babka dough is really just a filled brioche, and my quickest sweet roll dough can be used for King Cake, Monkey Bread and these Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts!Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsLove a multitasker ❤ ❤ ❤ Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsIf you’ve never heard of pull-aparts, they’re basically a loaf of bread made of individual pieces layered with a filling (sweet or savory) and baked so that the whole can be pulled apart with your fingers instead of sliced with a knife.Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsAchieving this is really simple. The process begins like you’re going to make cinnamon rolls. Make a dough, make a cinnamon-brown sugar filling. Roll that dough out and top it with the filling. Nothing you haven’t (probably) done before.Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsThen, though, things get a little wacky. Instead of rolling the filled dough into a cylinder, it’s sliced into 36 squares, which are then piled into six stacks of six and arranged in a line(-ish thing) down the center of a loaf pan. The assembled loaf is allowed to rise for about an hour and then baked for 40 minutes, until deeply browned on top and cooked through in the center.Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsLet your pull-aparts cool for 20 minutes or so before removing them from the pan. Put the loaf on a serving platter and then blow it a kiss goodbye because it’s going to be quite literally pulled apart in front of your eyes. And it will be glooooorious.Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsI mean, it’s basically the center of a cinnamon roll’s swirl cut into squares and baked into a loaf shape so that it’s soft and gooey on the inside and crisp and brown on the outside and how could that be anything but glooooorious?Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts

Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts
makes one 9×5” loaf

Dough:
2 2/3-3 cups all-purpose 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
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten, room temperature

Filling:
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Grease again. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat whole milk and butter until hot to the touch, about 110F.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold milk mixture into dry ingredients , followed by beaten eggs. 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. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes (you may do this in a bowl, but I just do this on my surface).

Prepare the filling. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14×14-inch square. Drop filling over the dough by the spoonful. Brush exposed dough with melted butter, leaving a 1/4-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll floured rolling pin lightly over filling to adhere.

Use a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife to cut square in 6 strips. Then slice it in 6 strips in the opposite direction, resulting in 36 squares. Pile squares, filling-side-up, in stacks of 6 (you’ll have six stacks of six).

To assemble, take one stack and place in the pan with the plain side (the bottom of the stack) against one of the small ends of the pan. Place 4 more of the stacks in the same position against each other. Turn the remaining stack in the opposite direction so that its plain side (bottom of the stack) is against the remaining small end of the pan.

Cover pan with a clean, dry tea towel (not terrycloth) and let rise in a warm, draft-free environment for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in bulk. You know it’s ready when you poke it with your finger and it doesn’t “bounce back.”

Preheat oven to 350F. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until well-browned. If you are concerned about it being done in the center, a thermometer should register at 190F.

Let cool 15-20 minutes. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan to release, then use the parchment to lift the loaf onto a surface. Peel off parchment, set on a serving platter and enjoy.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts are best served warm or room temperature on the day they are made. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to 48 hours.Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-ApartsCinnamon-Sugar Pull-Aparts