Baking Fail – Blueberry Hand Pies

These sad little blueberry hand pies were a bust, and borne out of my impatience 🙁

I generally have excellent results with King Arthur Flour recipes. This one would have been pretty fabulous had I worked the dough properly.

The recipe has multiple steps – make your pie dough, let it chill, make your filling, let it cool down, put your pies together, then bake. You’ll need a bit of patience!

Winging It Always Works…

I did everything right until rolling out the dough into squares. Instead of measuring correctly, I eyeballed it CUZ THAT’S HOW I ROLL. So I had some thick dough pieces, some thin, and some with no tops because I ran out of dough 🙁

At this point I had to roll and re-roll the dough to correct my sizing issue, but by then my dough was soft and half-melted while I rolled them back out.

I even thought to myself, ‘Maybe I should chill these first…the butter in the dough isn’t firm anymore,’ but ignored that sage advice because I was in a rush to get it done.

My result was a mass of too-quickly-browned blueberry hand pies that were raw in the middle.

Upside – they tasted pretty good! Which tells me it’s not King Arthur Flour’s fault – it’s most definitely my own. Note that the original recipe even TELLS YOU to refrigerate the dough if at any time it becomes too hard to work with. See how perceptive I am?? 😉

The moral of the story is once I start rushing through a step in my baking (which I truly love doing!), then maybe it’s time to take a break and call it a day 🙂

Original recipe here.


Fresh Fruit Tart

Last year my attempted fresh fruit tart was pretty good, but had to be chiseled out of my ceramic pan…not fun! That experience led me to the wonders of metal tart pans with removable bottoms – MIND BLOWN!

Bake challenge last week was fresh fruit. This recipe is one of the few of mine that calls for fresh fruit…maybe only the napoleon I made last year? Fresh fruit is so summer-y – nice and refreshing compared to hot fruit dishes.

The only baking here is the crust, which has browned butter in it. Have you ever used browned butter in a recipe? You are just lightly browning butter on the stove top. It really adds a different flavor – nutty? aromatic? My first batch burned beyond belief, as I walked away for just a minute to probably multitask. Watch that butter!

Original recipe called for lime juice and zest, and I only had lemons, so used those. Result was still fabulous! Next time I’ll test with limes instead.

The filling is marscapone cheese and melted white chocolate – YUM. I’m not a white-chocolate-by-itself fan, but dig it in combination with marscapone.

Feel free to try whatever tart pan you have for this bake. I particularly love and use this one!

This was better the next day, BTW. Perhaps not quite as pretty with a bit of fruit juice bleeding through the tart, but the flavors have a chance to meld together. Enjoy!


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Print Recipe
Fresh Fruit Tart
A versatile seasonal fruit tart with a light and tangy filling.
fresh fruit tart marscapone white chocolate
Course Desserts
Course Desserts
fresh fruit tart marscapone white chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Brown your butter in a saucepan - melt over medium high heat and swirl the saucepan. Foaming will subside. Cook while scraping bottom of saucepan until your butter is a golden brown and has a great nutty smell. This will take less than 5 minutes - keep watching, as it burns easily! Remove from heat and add water - this will bubble vigorously but then calm down.
  4. Add browned butter to flour mixture and stir well. Let sit until cooled down, about 10 minutes.
  5. Using your fingers, press dough on bottom and sides of a tart pan. Original recipe calls for 9 inch round, but I used my long and skinny tart pan with no problems. Bake on a rimmed cookie sheet until lightly browned for 25 minutes or so. Let crust cool completely.
Tart Filling
  1. Over a double boiler, carefully melt white chocolate, cream, lemon juice, zest, and salt.
  2. Whisk in a small amount of marscapone and stir. Add the rest and stir until nice and smooth.
  3. Pour filling into tart pan and smooth into a nice layer.
  4. Add whatever cut fruit you have to filling, setting gently on top.
  5. Gently warm up the preserves with 1 tsp of lemon juice until runny, either on stove or microwave. Strain the preserves to get a very thin, liquid mixture.
  6. Carefully dab the preserve mixture over the fruit only.
  7. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated fresh fruit tart recipe from the July/August 2017 issue.

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Apricot Baklava With Orange-Cardamom Syrup

This was my 2nd attempt at baklava and MUCH IMPROVED! Yay for progress 🙂

I have this hangup where I really like to bake a certain way, i.e. nothing premade in it at all. So last year when one of my Reddit bake challenges called for something Middle Eastern, I made chocolate cherry baklava.

Baklava itself isn’t so difficult – its really just layering things, baking, and pouring a syrup over top. Where I made my life much more difficult was attempting to make the phyllo dough myself. You have to get the dough this thin, like be able to read a newspaper through it kinda thin.

Needless to say, the phyllo was not nearly as thin or crisp as it was supposed to be. I found this out the hard way by hitting up a bakery shortly thereafter and trying their baklava…there was no comparison and it was obvious I had officially botched my own bake.

This time around was much better! I sucked it up and bought frozen phyllo sheets from my local grocery store. The result gave me crispy, flaky layers, filled with chopped apricots and 3 kinds of nuts. The original recipe called for pistachios, but I just used what I had on hand and it turned out great – almonds, walnuts, and roasted pecans.

Many baklava recipes incorporate honey into the syrup on top, which makes for a delicious but very sweet dessert. This batch has a sugar and orange juice syrup, along with some cardamom mixed in, so not quite as sweet.

All in all I would definitely make this again, and probably try some different chopped fruits.

BTW – I have found store-bought cardamom to be crazy expensive. I got a small little box that is affordable and has lasted me forever here. I keep it in a little baggie in my pantry.

Original baklava recipe here.


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Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies

These salted caramel apple hand pies were DELICIOUS! Consider them a bit more work than just dumping apples in a crust, but I think its worth it.

BTW, if you need a look-no-further salted caramel sauce recipe, here it is. I’ve never made another version of this caramel, cuz it’s perfect already. It’s sweet, salty, and drippy, perfect for filling cupcakes, putting on brownies, or eating it by the spoonful. Not that I have experience in that last one, ahem.

This recipe is part of my Reddit bake challenge, said challenge being caramel this time.



Print Recipe
Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies
salted caramel hand pies
Course Desserts
Pie dough
Caramel Apple Filling
Course Desserts
Pie dough
Caramel Apple Filling
salted caramel hand pies
Pie Dough
  1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, your cold fingers, or 2 forks, add cubed butter to flour and salt. Work it until it's crumbly, with some pea- and bean-sized pieces of butter left.
  3. Using a fork, add ice water 1 tbsp at a time until it forms a ball. You may need a little more or less than 6 or 7 depending on the humidity.
  4. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Apple Filling
  1. Combine apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan.
  2. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes; you want them a bit softened, but definitely not squishy. They will finish cooking in the oven.
  3. Mix cornstarch and water together in a small cup and drizzle into apple mixture. Cook and stir an additional 2 minutes or so. The cornstarch will thicken up the juices.
  4. Set aside to cool for a 10 minutes or so.
Putting Pies Together
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. On a lightly flour surface, roll out your dough to about 12 inches in diameter, give or take.
  3. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter or similar size, cut out circles and set on the parchment paper.
  4. You can re-roll out your dough as needed and cut more circles; I got 9 total from my ball of dough.
  5. Place roughly 1 tbsp apple mixture on one side of the circle and fold over. Drizzle about 1 tsp of salted caramel on top of apple mixture.
  6. Use a fork to press the edges together into half-moon shapes. They will pop open if you don't seal them well. Still yummy, but not quite as pretty 😉
  7. Poke a single hole with a skewer in each pie, to let some juices escape.
  8. Brush top of each pie with the beaten egg.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, starting with 15. Check every few minutes for a beautiful, golden brown color.
  10. Let cool and drizzle more salted caramel on top.
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Homemade Bear Claws

I really LOVE pastries. Given the choice between donuts or a chocolate-filled croissant, I will go croissant every time or in this case BEAR CLAWS!

If you haven’t had one of these before, think delicious yeast pastry with almond paste/cinnamon filling and almond slices for the “toes.” A honey glaze completes the package! Panera Bread sells these, BTW, if you want to try before you bake 😉

These were supposed to be 2-day process, but reality was more like this: make the dough on day 1, forget about it in the fridge for several more days, then fill and bake around day 4. It still turned out tasty!

My bake challenge this week was brunch, and shockingly enough, my mind immediately goes to sweets and pastries for brunch.

This recipe is a keeper and would really be perfect for brunch get-together. They are a bit time consuming, but not difficult. The recipe also made roughly a DOZEN bear claws….please come and help me eat them!!

Homemade almond paste recipe is here.

Original bear claw recipe is here.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Happy belated Memorial Day! My bake challenge was using royal icing, so I tried a flooding technique to make these patriotic chocolate sugar cookies.

I ALMOST put this into a baking fail category. What you don’t see in that fabulous picture above are the unattractive ones 🙁 But some turned out okay, so here we are!

the technique and what not to do

Flooding with royal icing involves getting just the right consistency to pipe an outline on a cookie, then making a runnier icing to “flood” the inside with. Being the reasonable person I am, I went and outlined them all at once, then flooded them all at once.

HOWEVER – royal icing dries very, very quickly. Like within minutes. I wanted a neat zig-zag look, but it started to dry so fast that I wasn’t able to decorate all 30 or so cookies quick enough before it started to harden.

Another FYI – royal icing is sickeningly sweet. I loved the cookie recipe here more than the icing; in the future I may add some almond extract to the icing for an almond/chocolate combo.

Do you like the American flag cookie? My fabulous 12-year-old daughter did that one 🙂

The recipe is from Joy of Baking and can be found here.

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate + bread = why didn’t I bake this before??

I’ve been looking forward to making this since I printed it out. Besides sounding delicious, the beautiful photos of swirly babka bread I found online are drool-worthy.

Side note – Can I just say how much fun baking bread is?? I keep renewing over and over again my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book from the library (review here!). Something about the fact that yeast is ALIVE and you add stuff to make it grow and then enjoy what you’ve made is so awesome to me.

back to babka

This recipe had been sitting for a while in my to-bake pile, but when the Reddit bake challenge of Poland came up, I decided babka it is…and it must be chocolate babka!

As I’m typing this, I realize I have no idea if chocolate babka is authentically Polish, but either way it was delish!

If you’ve tried your hand at homemade cinnamon rolls, you’ll find these start off similarly – make your dough, let is rise, punch it down, roll it out and spread stuff on it, then roll it into a log. Babka differs in that you aren’t cutting the log into small circles, but instead cutting along the length of it and braiding together.

This recipe make 2 loaves, and practice apparently makes *improved* because my second loaf definitely looked more attractive than the first. I must make 10 more loaves of this bread to nail an appropriate swirl 🙂

It is so hard to wait for warm bread to cool before eating! It really was tastier after cooling. If we had a lot left, I’m pretty sure I would’ve cut it into slices and made French toast out of it 😉

Thank you to the recipe developers at King Arthur Flour – this one is yet another winner! Recipe here.


Dulce de Leche Shortbread Cookies

I’m not typically a shortbread fan, BUT these were pretty good! Perhaps it was the Mexican style caramel filling called Dulce de Leche that won me over 🙂

Reddit bake challenge this week was Mexico – I would assume to commemorate Cinco de Mayo. I’ve done Mexican chocolate type recipes and flan, but dulce de leche was new to me, so went with it.

Dulce de leche literally means “candy of milk.” SIGN ME UP! It is the color and consistency of creamy caramel, but definitely not quite the same flavor. You can buy it in cans (if you can find it!), but I just made it myself using this recipe. Super easy, as it’s literally heating sweetened condensed milk until it’s lightly brown.

After whipping up a shortbread dough, I used a melon baller to place a little indent inside and piped in some dulce de leche. A salty/sweet combo always rocks, so I went ahead and sprinkled on some flaked sea salt.

Shortbread still isn’t my favorite, but the sweet gooey moisture from the caramel really balances out the dry crumbly texture. These are worth making!

Recipe for homemade dulce de leche is here.

Recipe for the cookies are here.


Baking Fail – Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

This was a frustrating one 🙁  How did I get these melted snowballs in the first place? Read on!

I had some tasty leftover lemon curd from this recipe and because food waste drives me nuts, lemon meringue cupcakes seemed a perfect way to use it up completely. The cake was a yummy vanilla batter and I piped the rest of my lemon curd into the finished cupcakes. No baking fail to be seen. So far so good.

The crowning achievement of this recipe was to be the beautiful, lightly toasted meringue swirled perfectly on top. Unfortunately, the stars were not aligned, because said achievement didn’t materialize.

What happened, tiff? I’m dying to know!

After 15 minutes of beating whites to death and still not getting stiff peaks, I realized I was wasting my time. I either had a bit of fat in the bowl or on my beaters or too much moisture in the air, but either way it wasn’t going to happen. So I did what I usually do in times like these – I improvised!

Surely adding some butter to my soupy meringue would fix this problem. It will be a buttercream/meringue hybrid that I invented and would get wealthy when I sold the recipe to the highest bidder.

It actually tasted fine, like a light buttercream, and piped sorta okay onto the cupcakes. Now to complete my work of art, I decided to put this BUTTERcream/meringue mixture under a very hot broiler!

I did have this internal conversation right beforehand:  ‘Maybe this won’t work, because there’s now plenty of butter in here, and butter melts,’ but I did it anyway, because why not?

Within seconds, my piped swirls are smooth, bald-headed white caps. I now know I should’ve listened to my gut! I’m still learning this particular life lesson apparently 🙂

I could attempt these again, but I’m not about to whip up more lemon curd just to fill a cupcake. Maybe I’ll try in the future when I need to use up leftovers.

Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!

Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!

This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite 🙂

The Basics

Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl 😉

They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.

(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around 🙂

The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory 🙂




Print Recipe
Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
  4. Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
  5. Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
  7. Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  8. When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
  9. If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Ganache Topping
  1. Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
  3. Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  4. Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe 🙂
  6. Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
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