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.

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.

Baklava

A little bit fussy

This is a family recipe – some of the fuss is taken out of it because you pour the melted butter over the top of the constructed baklava instead of brushing all those layers. Bonus is that it uses an entire package of phyllo – just be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator the day before.

  • Syrup:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 14 whole cloves
  • Peel from one lemon (not zest, peel)
  • Nuts:
  • 1 lb. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 TBS toasted sesame seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 lb. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. phyllo

Make the syrup: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 20 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the nut filling ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Skim off foam. Pour almost all the butter into a liquid measuring cup, but leave the milk solids behind.

Place 6 layers of phyllo in the bottom of an ungreased 9×13″ pan. Reserve 6 layers phyllo for the top. Sprinkle 1/4 cup nut mixture over phyllo. Place 2 layers phyllo over nuts, top with another 1/4 cup nuts. Repeat until all the phyllo and nuts are used (except the reserved 6 for the top). Top the last layer of nuts with the reserved 6 layers of phyllo.

Cut the baklava into diamonds with a sharp knife – cut parallel lines horizontally spaced about 2″ apart. Cut diagonal lines from the top of the pan to the bottom.

Pour melted, clarified butter all over the baklava.

Bake 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Increase oven to 350 degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes, until dark golden brown.

Remove from oven and immediately pour cooled syrup all over the baklava. Let cool completely (at least 4 hours) and cut through again to separate pieces.

This is best made ahead and keeps for many days at room temperature.

Cherry Poptarts

A little bit fussy, Breakfast, Food Hoarding Confessions

Guys guys guys- after years of trying I finally nailed homemade pop tarts. Happy little accident involving self-rising flour I bought for no reason other than I heard a story about Loretta Lynn using it for biscuits. It makes the perfectly delicious cardboard-y tasting pastry I’ve been hunting for. The filling ended up being a great use of the half jar of morello cherries that was taking up fridge space.

  • Cherry Filling:
  • 1 1/2 cup jarred morello cherries, drained (reserve 3 TBSP liquid for optional glaze)
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 4 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Crust:
  • 2 cups self-rising flour, if you have it
  • (or 2 cups AP flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup milk

In food processor, process cherries and dates until crushed. Combine sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Whisk in cherries and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add almond extract and set aside to cool. This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated.

Combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter in and work until it’s the size of peas, or a bit smaller (by hand or food processor). Stir in milk until combined and dough holds together. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each half between long sheets of wax paper until very thin – 1/8″ or so and the shape of a long rectangle. Dust with flour as needed to keep from sticking. Using a ruler or straight edge, trim the edges of the dough. Cut the dough in half, the long way, then cut every 3″ or so to make 3″x5″ rectangles. You should get 16 total from all the dough. Spread about 2 TBSP filling in half the rectangles, but leave about 1/2″ from the sides free of filling. You will have extra filling, which you can freeze for another poptarting. Brush the edges with egg wash. Poke the other dough rectangles with a fork 3 or 4 times, then sandwich the pop tarts. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush tarts with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. Dust with powdered sugar, leave unfrosted, or glaze.

  • Cherry Glaze:
  • 3 TBSP reserved cherry liquid
  • enough powdered sugar to thicken

Snow Day Monkey Bread

A little bit fussy

Remember Monkey Bread? This is a good project if you happen to have a house full of monkeys home for a snow day (just me?). There is more dough here than you need – if you don’t have eager helpers who like to play “bake-off” with extra dough (just me again?), you can half the recipe and it will be A-OK (use 2 tsp yeast). The bread is my favorite Japanese Milk Bread from New York Times – it is so good.

  • Tangzhong starter:
  • 45g bread flour
  • 120 ml whole milk
  • Dough:
  • 650g bread flour
  • 120g sugar
  • 3 1/4 tsp quick-rise yeast
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 8 TBSP softened butter, cut into tablespoons
  • Butter and Cinnamon Sugar mix:
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon

Make Tangzhong – In a small saucepan, combine flour and milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until very thick. Set aside to cool.

In stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, and yeast. Whisk eggs, milk and salt together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture and stir. Add tangzhong starter and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough comes together.

Add the softened butter and knead for another 10 minutes – it will take awhile for the butter to incorporate.

Grease a large bowl, place dough in the bowl and cover to let rise for 1 hour.

Melt the additional stick of butter. In another small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan.

Turn dough out onto work surface. With a bench scraper, cut dough into quarters. Give a quarter of the dough to the dirty little hands that are milling around your work surface. Cut the remaining quarters up into small pieces – about 8-10 per quarter. Roll the pieces into a rough ball, pinch it, dip it in butter, roll it in cinnamon sugar, then toss it in the bundt pan. Repeat until the bundt pan is 2/3 full. Cover with plastic wrap or towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Let rest 5 minutes before turning out onto a platter. Invite the monkeys to tear and share.

Spanakopita

A little bit fussy

These can be made into individual triangles, or layered family-style in a 9×12″ pan. I usually have phyllo tucked away in the freezer to make these.

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 16 oz. chopped frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g good Feta (greek or bulgarian are my favs)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley (if you have it)
  • 8oz phyllo (half a package)
  • 1 stick salted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in butter and olive oil until onion is translucent. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze the spinach to get as much water out as possible, then add to the onions and cook to dry it further, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, parmesan, panko and herbs. Add spinach. Crumble feta into bowl and stir to combine thoroughly, but do not overmix.

Melt the stick of butter in a small skillet or microwave safe bowl.

To make triangle-shaped spanakopita: Using a pastry brush, butter one sheet of phyllo lightly, top with a second sheet, butter lightly, then a third. Cut the phyllo stack down the middle, so you have two long strips. Scoop about 3 tablespoons filling on the bottom of each strip, then fold the bottom corner up to the opposite side, then flip over, continuing like you would folding a flag. You should fold/flip 5 times to reach the top. Butter where it looks like things are getting dry. Repeat until all the filling is used. You should have an extra sheet of phyllo or two. Butter the tops.

Your phyllo will crack, rip, tear and generally work against you. Just deal with it.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

To make family-style spanakopita: Butter each sheet of phyllo and lay in a greased 9×13″ pan until you’ve used half the roll of phyllo. Then spread the spinach mixture and top with remaining buttered phyllo. Butter the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Real-Deal Apple Pie

A little bit fussy, Pie

I feel like posting this recipe is giving away a family secret and I feel guilty about it.

  • Crust:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 100g cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 100g cold or frozen lard -(real lard, from a butcher)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • Apple pie filling:
  • 6+ cups peeled and diced apples, (Jonathan is best)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 rounded TBS flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TBS butter
  • Cinnamon sugar for top

Pulse flour, salt, butter, and lard in food processor until butter and lard are the size of peas. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Add ice water and stir with a fork until incorporated.
Divide dough in half. One half at a time, roll out between sheets of wax paper. Fold the outsides of the dough in, to incorporate the dry edges and to help make a circle. Flip over and peel wax off several times during the rolling. Refrigerate until ready to use, stored in between the wax paper.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with one half of the dough. Reserve second half for the lid.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Mix all filling ingredients except butter together. Pour into pie shell. Cut butter into small chunks and dot all over top.

Place second pie crust on top. Seal and flute edges. Make your signature pie cuts on top, prick with fork all over, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes at 475 degrees. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45-55 minutes, or until you see bubbles popping in the MIDDLE of the pie, through the slits. It may take longer.

Apple Layer Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

A little bit fussy, Cakes

I just found this recipe in my recipe box. I made it for my grandmother about 15 years ago and she claimed it “a keeper”. It was an excellent use of the saddest apples you’ve ever seen – from one of the apple trees on my parent’s farm that I stuck in the fridge and forgot about for a little too long. The frosting is a classic American buttercream, but with the addition of a butterscotch you whip up ahead of time, which deepens the flavor. Pay no attention to the brittle on the top – that was just leftover in my freezer and needed a home.

  • For the cake:
  • 1 pound peeled and diced apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 TBSP brandy
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 large eggs

Combine apples and water in a saucepan, simmer until tender – about 20 minutes. Process until smooth. Measure 1 1/4 cup apple puree. Reserve any extra for another use. Cool.

Butter and flour three 8″ cake pans.

Sift together flour, soda, and spices.

Beat sugar, butter, brandy, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the apple puree, then remaining flour mixture.

Divide among pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Cool.

  • Brown Sugar Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 TBSP water
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter

Combine brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat to dissolve sugar. Increase heat, boil until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream. Cool.

Beat butter and powdered sugar together until well-blended. Beat in cooled brown sugar mixture, adding more powdered sugar or more cream to reach desired consistency.

Fill and frost cake. Dust with cinnamon sugar.

Marshmallows

A little bit fussy

I’ve been making these marshmallows forever. People have been looking at me like I’m crazy because I make marshmallows forever. But, homemade marshmallows are one of those things that are so superior to store-bought that it’s worth the fuss. And the crazy looks. And since this is a safe space, I’m sharing the recipe with you. It is s’more season afterall.

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3/4oz total)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 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.
Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of stand-mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water 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. DON’T FORGET THE VANILLA. Otherwise you will have beautiful sweet marshmallows that have that lovely hint of horse hooves. Ask me how I know.
Spread the marshmallow into the greased pan and smooth the top as best you can. Let stand for at least 4 hours before cutting. Overnight is even better.
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.

Variations:

  • Add 1 tsp instant coffee to gelatin
  • Add 1 tsp cinnamon to gelatin
  • Substitute almond, mint, rum or any extract for vanilla
  • Sprinkle with toasted nuts after spreading in pan
  • Dip in chocolate after cutting in shapes
  • Add food coloring
  • Fill a pastry bag with the warm mixture, pipe into Peeps-like shapes, roll in colored sugar, and dot with little chocolate eyes for Easter (I did that once – again, safe space)
  • Sky’s the limit, really