Kolaches – Cherry or Black Sesame

A little bit fussy

My Grandma Jean used to make us cherry kolaches and they were my very favorite treat. Using all white flour weighed on her conscience, so they were always made with part whole wheat flour. I did the same, adjusting my favorite dough -Julia Moskin’s japanese milk bread- with half whole wheat flour. This recipe makes 18 kolaches, and if you make both cherry and black sesame you will have filling leftover. I’m thinking pop-tarts…

For the Dough:

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Cherry Filling:

  • 2 lbs. pie cherries, liquid drained and reserved
  • 1 cup reserved cherry liquid
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 almond extract, optional

Black Sesame Filling

  • 1/2 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Make the starter: Combine 1/3 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup milk in a small saucepan, whisk until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until thickened, whisking constantly. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool.

When starter has cooled, combine it with the remaining dough ingredients with the exception of the butter in a stand mixer with the hook attachment. Mix on low for 5 minutes. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time and mix until a smooth dough is formed – about 10 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Make Cherry filling: Whisk to combine sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup reserved cherry liquid and lemon juice. Add cherries and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula until very thick and translucent. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and almond extract, if using. Let sit a room temperature until ready to use.

Make Black Sesame filling: Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet. Let cool completely. In a food processor or blender, combine cooled seeds, butter and sugar. Process into a paste.

Grease or line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

When dough has risen, pinch off pieces of dough a little larger than the size of golf ball, or if using a scale, about 75g per piece. Shape into a ball by hand, then roll on the counter with your palm in a circular motion to even it out. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until you have 18 balls total – 9 on each sheet. Spray with cooking spray, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Assemble kolaches: Make a large indentation in the center of each dough ball, about 2″ in diameter. Fill with about 2 tablespoons of the cherry or black sesame filling. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the bottoms are just starting to brown. Eat while they are warm, or reheat slightly for best eating.

Hello Dolly Bars

Cookies, Food Hoarding Confessions, Unfussy

These are completely uncalled for. This is a variation of a hand-written recipe titled “Hello Dolly Cookies” that has been in my recipe box for years, but I have no idea who’s handwriting it is (please let me know if this sounds familiar). It was a very forgiving recipe – I used up a variety of cookie crumbs and flavored chips that I was food-hoarding in the pantry. You could do the same. These are sweet.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade speculoos cookie crumbs (or Biscoff or graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips (these can be hard to find, but they are not too sweet so I like them. I get them at the Amish grocery store in Iowa.)
  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs ( I used some of my chocolate shortbread cookie crumbs)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a 9″ square pan. Sprinkle speculoos/graham cracker cookie crumbs over butter and mix a little bit, then spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly over the top in this order: coconut, then chocolate chips, then cinnamon chips, then chocolate cookie crumbs. Pour condensed milk evenly over the top. Finally, sprinkle pecans.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until they are well-caramelized and not too gooey. They shouldn’t be wet when you press in the center.

Cool completely before cutting into small squares. Makes 16 diabetic sugar bombs.

Bran Muffins

Breakfast, Unfussy

These muffins are super moist, light, and delicious. Mix them by hand in a large bowl, bake what you want, then refrigerate the batter for up to 2 weeks and bake them as needed. This is my mom’s recipe.

  • 3 cups All Bran cereal
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (you can substitute up to 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease or line your muffin tin.

In a large bowl, mix bran with hot water until moistened. Stir in brown sugar. Add buttermilk, eggs and oil, stirring until well combined. Add flour and baking soda, then raisins, if desired.

Scoop batter into greased muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the tops spring back when touched. Serve hot with butter or jam or both or none.

Makes 24 muffins

Elvis Opera Cake

Cakes, Fussy

If anyone deserves an opera cake, it’s Elvis. It is one of the classiest desserts out there, for one heck of a class act. Taking Care of Business indeed.

Jaconde:

  • 32g flour
  • 50g almond flour
  • 140g egg yolks
  • 180g egg whites
  • 170g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Peanut Butter French Buttercream:

  • 100g sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 227g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 80g creamy salted peanut butter

Bananas Foster:

  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced
  • 42 g butter
  • 3 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP dark rum

Ganache:

  • 227g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 240 ml heavy cream
  • 57g unsalted butter, room temperature

Glaze:

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 25g unsalted butter

Make jaconde: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 12×17″ jelly roll pan. Line with wax paper and grease and flour the paper.

Whisk flour and almond flour together and set aside. In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, 1/4 cup whites and 100g sugar until thick and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Fold in flour gently. In a second mixing bowl, beat remaining egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold into batter gently. Smooth in prepared pan and bake 7-10 minutes, until light golden brown and springs back in the center. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then flip onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Make buttercream: Cut butter into tablespoons and let sit at room temperature. In stand mixer bowl over a pot of simmering water, combine yolks, sugar, rum, vanilla and salt. Stir constantly until 155 degrees on thermometer – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and beat with whisk attachment until fluffy and cooled completely to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time until all butter is incorporated and buttercream is thick and smooth. Add peanut butter, one tablespoon at a time and mix to incorporate.

Make bananas foster: Melt butter and brown sugar in large saucepan. Add sliced bananas. Add heavy cream and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until bananas are cooked through and start to caramelize. Remove from heat and stir in rum.

Make ganache: Place chopped chocolate in small bowl. Heat heavy cream in saucepan or microwave until warm. Pour over chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Add butter and stir to incorporate.

Assemble Opera Cake: Cut jaconde into 3 even pieces, trimming sides first if necessary. Layer 1/3 of peanut butter buttercream on first layer of cake. Refrigerate 10 minutes too firm. Top buttercream with sliced bananas and syrup. Top with 2nd layer of cake. layer 1/3 buttercream. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Pour ganache over buttercream and smooth. Refrigerate. Top ganache with bananas. Place last cake layer on top. Spread remaining buttercream on cake and smooth. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes.

Make chocolate glaze: melt 50g chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in 25g chocolate until smooth. Pour over chilled buttercream and smooth. Refrigerate until firm. Trim all sides.

Decorate as desired, preferably with TCB lightning bolts.

White Bread

Unfussy

This is as easy as bread gets and practically fool-proof. Makes 2 loaves so you can eat one right out of the oven and still have one left.

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup dried skim milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Put everything in a stand mixer with hook attachment – just make sure not to put the yeast and salt on top of each other. Mix at low speed for 3-5 minutes, until a rough dough is formed. Turn off mixer and let rest 15 minutes. Mix again at low for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and uniform.

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size – about 45-60 minutes. Grease 2 bread pans. Divide dough into two pieces. Flatten each piece into a rough rectangle and roll up into a cylinder. Place in prepared bread pans and punch down to flatten. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size. About 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes in pan, then turn out. Try to wait 30 minutes before slicing.

Granola

Breakfast, Unfussy

This is my favorite granola recipe – adapted from an Alton Brown recipe. This time I used cashews, Craisins AND raisins because I don’t want to get on Big Raisin’s bad side.

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3 cups whole or chopped nuts
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups dried fruit

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine oats, coconut, flaxseed, nuts and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, maple syrup and vegetable oil. Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine really well, about 5 minutes- making sure the oat mixture is well coated.

Divide between two rimmed baking sheets and spread evenly. Bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Rotate trays and bake for another 25 minutes. At this point I usually turn the oven off and let the granola cool down completely with the oven.

Toss dried fruit and granola together. This makes a large batch, but keeps in an airtight container for several weeks.

Cream Cheese Cookies

Cookies, Unfussy

This is a slightly adapted version of my Grandma Suzie’s favorite Christmas cookie. They are a not-too-sweet slice-and-bake cookie. The beauty (and problem) with them is that they can be eaten at any time of day or night, even if you are not hungry in the least.

  • 14 TBSP butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs green food coloring
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • red hots

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and several drops of green food coloring (the color will fade significantly after you add the flour, so make it a little brighter than you’d like). Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder and mix well until a uniform dough is formed.

Shape into 2 rolls, each about 12 inches long. Wrap in wax paper and freeze until firm.

When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If desired, roll outside of dough in colored sugar. Slice about 1/4 inch thick and place on lined baking sheets, about an inch apart. Press red hots into center. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Snowballs

Cookies, Unfussy

Man oh man are these good. My grandmother made these with all oatmeal and called them a humbler version of Mexican wedding cakes. I like to split the difference and do half oats and half pecans. I don’t think it’s possible to mess these up.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast pecans on a baking sheet in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer with paddle attachment. Add vanilla and mix. Add flour, salt, oats and cooled pecans and mix until combined thoroughly.

Scoop or shape into balls and place on a lined baking sheet – only about an inch apart as these do not spread. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Coat in powdered sugar and let cool completely on cooling rack before storing.

Passion Fruit & Vanilla Marshmallows

A little bit fussy

Along with toffee, I make marshmallows to give away around the holidays. This year they were jazzed up with some passion fruit. Passion fruit is so hot right now.

  • 1/2 cup frozen passion fruit puree, thawed
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit juice 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3/4oz total)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Special equipment: candy thermometer stand mixer with whisk attachment

Line a 13×9-inch pan with foil, letting some overhang to make lifting the marshmallow out easier. Coat lightly with non-stick spray or butter.

Combine the passion fruit puree and juice well. Pour 1/2 cup into bowl of stand-mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup passion fruit mixture in heavy medium saucepan (with a handle preferably). Over medium heat, stir super-gently with a heatproof spatula, or swirl the pan every so slightly, just for the first couple minutes to dissolve the sugar, being careful not to let any sugar granules stick to the sides of the pan (if they do, wash them down with a wet pastry brush).

Once sugar had dissolved, attach a candy thermometer and never stir it again until it reaches 240º, about 8 minutes. It will boil up the pan quite a bit as it gets going- just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, adjusting the heat accordingly.

With the mixer running on low speed with the whisk attachment, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream, running down the side of the bowl so the whisk doesn’t splash it all over. Don’t worry about the syrup that sticks to the bowl.

Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until very stiff and cooled to lukewarm – it should take 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds.

Spread the marshmallow into the greased pan and smooth the top as best you can. You can spray a piece of wax paper with non-stick spray and pat it over the top to smooth it out better. Let stand for at least 4 hours before cutting. Overnight is even better. Pictured above is one recipe of passion fruit marshmallow, topped with one recipe of vanilla marshmallow (https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/bakersanonymous.org/175) – after the passion fruit mallow is smoothed in the pan, leave it uncovered while you make the vanilla marshmallow and spread that on top. Then smooth with greased parchment. Sift starch and powdered sugar together and dust your work surface. Lift marshmallow out and cut into squares using a rotary pizza cutter dusted with sugar/starch. Or a large knife also coated. Roll in sugar/starch until all sides are coated before stacking or packing. ​

Toffee

A little bit fussy

During the month of December my house becomes a toffee factory. This is my mom’s recipe – she started this tradition. Some have said that toffee is “finicky” but I prefer to think of it as superstitious. I always use the same pot, same spatula, same brand of butter, etc. Just keep trying until you find the magic and don’t mess around.

  • 1 lb. salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • about 2 cups chocolate chips
  • about 2 cups chopped walnuts

Very lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet. Place a candy thermometer at the ready, or if you don’t have one, get a small glass of ice water and put it within reach.

In a medium dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed saucepan) combine butter, sugar and sliced almonds over medium-low heat. With a heat-resistant spatula, stir gently – making sure not to have rogue grains of sugar working up the side of the pan or spatula itself. Wipe them down or rinse off the spatula if it looks dicey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly in a figure eight motion – pretty much leave the sides of the pan alone.

After the butter and sugar melt together, you may attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Keep stirring constantly until the toffee reaches 285 degrees – it can go to 300 without burning, so don’t pull it off too soon. If you don’t have a thermometer, when the toffee looks dark golden brown (it may take 30 minutes, depending on the size of your pot), drop a little tiny bit into the glass of ice water, let it cool for a minute, then fish it out and test it between your front teeth. If it breaks cleanly, it is good to go. If it is still a little sticky/tacky, let it cook longer and try again.

Carefully and quickly, pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet. Smooth with an offset spatula (or just lift up the pan and rotate it around until the toffee fills in everywhere). Let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with chocolate chips. Let sit 5 more minutes to let the chocolate melt. Smooth the chocolate over the toffee with an offset spatula and immediately sprinkle generously with chopped walnuts.

Let cool completely. Turn toffee over onto a flat surface and remove it from the pan by pressing down on the overturned baking sheet. Smack it with a metal spoon or spatula or something to break it into irregular pieces. Try not to eat an entire pound while you are packaging it up for others.