Baking Fail – Brazilian Carrot Cupcakes

I suppose these weren’t terrible cupcakes, but none of us were really a fan. My bake challenge was a very difficult Brazil this week, hence the Brazilian carrot cupcakes.

I had high hopes for these! Original recipe stated self-rising flour, which I completely ignored. It did have baking powder in them, but not enough apparently to get a good rise. The glaze also never set up for some reason. Glaze was still tasty, BTW, just drippy!

There’s one thing I did enjoy about cupcakes – the carrots are pureed. If you aren’t an enormous carrot cake fan because of the texture, see if you can find a recipe with pureed carrots. Carrot flavor and beautiful orange color minus the shreds 😉

Maybe you’ll have better luck then myself! Original recipe here.


Almond Toffee Sea Salt Brownies

Not to be dramatic, but I’m pretty sure these almond toffee sea salt brownies were the best brownies I’ve ever had. Seriously.

Bake challenge was brownies or blondies this week and Google images led me straight to these. Salty + sweet is always a winner in my book, and these did not disappoint!

The chocolate layer is sweet, fudgy and dense, while the top layer is crisp, crunchy, and salty. My batch took about 40 minutes total to bake.

I wish I could take credit for these, but I can’t! Original recipe is here. This one is a keeper!

Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Mousse

My bake challenge from WEEKS AGO (that’s how behind I am!) was Bastille Day. I know very little nothing about this holiday other than it is French, which brings me to this extremely rich hazelnut dacquoise with chocolate mousse!


A dacquoise sounds really fancy, doesn’t it? Pronounced like “day-kwaz,” it’s French, apparently meaning “of Dax,” a French town. I printed out a recipe from Fine Cooking and about choked on my coffee when SIX PAGES spit out of my printer. Then began my foot-dragging on baking said daquoise; I knew it would be a production to make. Continue reading “Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Mousse”

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.