Monday, December 30, 2019

Top JennyBakes Recipes in 2019

This list is based on my own opinion, not necessarily by popularity of the post.
  1. Lacy Brown Butter and Ricotta Cookies (from Stella Parks @bravetart in Instagram)
  2. Peanut Butter (and Chocolate) Chess Pie (from South by Sean Brock) 
  3. Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies
  4. Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup (from The Bacon Bible)
  5. "Featherlite" Pancakes (from Rosa Parks via the National Archives)
  6. Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from Genuine Pizza)
  7. Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting (from Edd Kimber @theboywhobakes on Instagram)
  8. Orange Honey Cake (from Icing on the Cake)
  9. Brown Butter Blondies
  10. Pumpkin Tea Cake (from Tartine)
You know a recipe is good when you repeat it. I've made #9 at least three times this year.

I liked #7 and then went and made a different cake for my birthday, one I threw away without even finishing the first piece! Boo.

This was my last year with the Abrams Dinner Party, and recipes #4, 6, and 8 came from cookbooks they sent my way. 

Chocolate Cherry Trifle

I was wandering Lidl or Aldi and came across a large jar of sour cherries, and it brought to mind this ancient recipe of Nigella Lawson's show where she makes a chocolate cherry trifle, in her inviting, no stress way of making the viewer feel they can cook or bake just as easily as she can! (You can see that original video and see what I mean.) The unfortunate thing in my household is that I'm the only person who loves cherries, so I knew I'd need to make it for the annual library holiday lunch. I feel like it was a good choice; I saw a few people go back for seconds.

Nigella buys small chocolate pound cakes from the store but I didn't have that option; I did however have an aging chocolate cake mix in the pantry, and made this pound cake recipe using it as the base. It was just fine and worked well. A few notes at the end of this post about other differences I picked up along the way.

Chocolate Cherry Trifle


2 (approximately 12 ounces each) chocolate pound cakes
1/2 cup black cherry jam
1/2 cup cherry brandy
2 cups drained bottled sour cherries (recommended: Morello)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, minimum 70 percent cocoa solids, chopped
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
3 cups heavy cream
1-ounce bittersweet chocolate
Special Equipment: Large wide trifle bowl


  1. Slice the chocolate pound cake and make jam sandwiches with the cherry jam, and layer the bottom of a large wide trifle bowl. Pour over the cherry brandy so that the cake soaks it up, and then top with the drained cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate while you make the custard.
  2. Melt the chocolate on low to medium heat in the microwave, checking after 2 minutes, though it will probably need 4 minutes. Or you can place it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, ser aside while you get on with the custard.
  3. In a saucepan warm the milk and cream. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa in a large bowl. Pour the warm milk and cream into the bowl whisking it into the yolks and sugar mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, scraping the sides well with a rubber spatula to get all of it in, and pour the custard back into the rinsed saucepan. Cook over a medium heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. Make sure it doesn't boil, as it will split and curdle. Keep a sink full of cold water so that if you get scared you can plunge the bottom of the custard pan into the cold water and
  4. whisk like mad, which will avert possible crisis.
  5. The custard will get darker as it cooks and the flecks of chocolate will melt once the custard has thickened. And you do need this thick, so don't panic so much that you stop cooking while it is still runny. Admittedly, it continues to thicken as it cools and also when it's chilling in the refrigerator. Once it is ready, pour into a bowl to cool and cover the top of the custard with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
  6. When the custard is cold, pour and spread it over the chocolate cake layer in the trifle bowl, and leave in the refrigerator to set, covered in plastic wrap overnight.
  7. When you are ready to decorate, softly whip the cream for the topping and spread it gently over the layer of custard. Grate the chocolate over the top. 
Notes from JennyBakes:

The custard made me nervous and I feel I undercooked it, but I was worried from this recipe that it would get too thick or burned. I sure wish they included a temperature!

I added a little powdered sugar to the whipped cream because I felt strange adding it unsweetened.

Since this was a daytime function, I replaced the cherry brandy with the cherry juice from the canned cherries, but did put 2 tbsp of kirsch to make up the 1/2 cup. This way there was plenty of flavor but not an overwhelming amount of alcohol.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Buckwheat Double Chocolate Orange Cookies (gluten-free)

I came across this recipe while looking for new cookies for the holidays, and thought it sounded tasty enough to apply to everyone. I was disappointed when I made them because the gluten-free flour combination resulted in that somewhat bitter aftertaste I think most people who have baked gluten-free will be familiar with. Well boo, I thought, I'll just freeze them and send them to my family when I'm ready to send that box, which wasn't quite when I made these.

This morning I decided to taste one to see how they did post-freezer and discovered - no bitter aftertaste! Dang! They are actually quite soft and delicious! And I could have included them in my cookie boxes after all, which were all already packed. Ah well. Hopefully my sister will enjoy them. I'm wondering if a quick trip to the freezer will solve all my gluten-free flours taste woes and plan to try that strategy again.

Buckwheat Double Chocolate Orange Cookies 
(from fixfeastflair, where they call them Buckwheat Orange Double Chocolate Cookies)


  • 6 Tbsp. (85 g) unsalted butter
  • 12 oz. (345 g) bittersweet chocolate (60–70% cacao mass), chopped (about 2 1⁄4 cups), plus several chunks for the tops of the cookies
  • 11⁄2 tsp. (1 g) packed finely grated zest from 1 medium orange (or bergamot if you can find it!)
  • 1⁄2 c. (65 g) buckwheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. (15 g) tapioca flour
  • 3⁄4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. (130 g) organic granulated cane sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Flaky salt such as Maldon, for the tops


  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (175ºC). Line 2 rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over the lowest possible heat. Add
  3. 8 ounces (230 g) of the chocolate and the orange zest, and melt together, stirring frequently to prevent the chocolate from scorching. Continue cooking until the mixture is pleasantly warm, but not super hot, to the touch. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Sift the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and stir in the vanilla until just combined, then the warm chocolate butter mixture. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a flexible silicone spatula to fold in the remaining 4 ounces (115 g) chopped chocolate.
  5. If the batter is very runny, let it cool for a few minutes until it firms to the consistency of a thick brownie batter. Use a #40* spring-loaded ice cream scoop or 2 spoons to drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Top each cookie with a few chunks of chocolate and a few flecks of flaky salt.
  6. Bake the cookies until puffed and cracked and the edges are set, 8–12 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Let cool on the pans. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. The cookies are best the day of baking but will keep, airtight at room temperature, for up to 3 days. 


-Usually I ignore recipes that say to scoop all cookie dough onto cookie sheets at once. For this recipe, you really should, because the tapioca flour will keep thickening the dough.
-Seriously, freeze these cookies overnight before eating.

Monday, December 16, 2019


I've been circling David Lebovitz's recipe for Panforte for a few years. I couldn't decide if it was just like fruitcake or more like candy. If it was sweet or decidedly not too sweet. Last year, I bought all the ingredients for it but never made it, leaving me cleaning out candied fruit and rancid nuts that really should have been used, whoops. This year I was determined to try it so even though it was the last thing I made for my holiday boxes of baked goods that I give out to a select few, I extended my baking by a day to make it. And honestly unless you are candying your own fruit it is not that complicated, I don't know why I get recipe hangups sometimes.

The most important thing to know is that this recipe looks to be something that a baker can improvise with (see my extensive notes after the recipe for more), it keeps forever, and at least in this iteration, it smells super Christmasy while you are making it. I hope I did it justice.


(recipe from David Lebovitz, a pastry chef I admire, go buy his books and read his blog!)

To skin hazelnuts, rub the still-warm toasted nuts in a tea towel, to get off as much of the skins as possible. The nuts can be toasted in a 350ºF/180ºC oven for about 10 minutes first. If you want to make your own candied citron, you can find [David's] recipe at that link. You'll often see Panforte baked on rice paper (or made of another edible starch), which is harder to get than parchment paper. You can buy sheets of wafer paper online, and cut them to size.
5 tablespoons (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)
2 1/2 cups (325g) nuts; any mix of walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, toasted
3/4 cup (110g) flour
1 cup (200g) chopped candied citron or another candied citrus
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
3 ounces (85g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 cup (210g) honey
extra cocoa powder, for dusting the pan
powdered sugar, for dusting the panforte
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC.)
2. Spray a 9 to 10-inch (22-23cm) springform pan with nonstick spray. Dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, nuts, flour, candied citrus, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and red chile powder. Use your fingers to make sure all the ingredients are separate.
4. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
5. In a pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 240ºF (115ºC.)
6. Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture, add the melted chocolate, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. I start by using a spatula and as the mixture cools, once it’s cool enough to touch, I use a dampened hand to get it flat.
7. Bake the panforte for 30 – 35 minutes; the center will feel soft, like just-baked custard; if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it’s done. (Do not overcook it, or it will be too firm once cooled.) Let the panforte cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully (sticky edges might tear, so keep an eye out), then let cool completely.
Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Sprinkle the panforte with powdered sugar and rub it in with your hands.
Storage: Panforte can be kept for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Notes from JennyBakes:

- I am down one regular sized springform pan and knew I'd be cutting this up, if it worked out, to put into holiday boxes. Since I saw quite a few panforte around the internet in square forms, I felt okay baking it in my 9" pyrex with two overlapping sheets of parchment paper, which I sprayed with nonstick spray. These recipes are sticky so you want some way to get that sucker out of there.

- I have not had hazelnuts for a few years. I grew up with them and sometimes my Mom sends them for the holidays but I have not found a way to buy them online without buying in bulk or spending astronomic amounts. I thought I had almonds but they had gone bad, so all I used were walnuts. That wasn't what I would have done on purpose and I think it's best either with his mix of nuts or just some kind of variety. I did toast the walnuts I had for 10 minutes and let them cool before making the recipe.

- I wish I had followed David's direction on step 6 to put more effort into making the mixture flat on top before baking. Unlike a cake which would settle, the panforte retained the shape it started, and so when I added the powdered sugary it looked quite nobbly.

- I still am not certain of the desired texture and since my candy thermometer somehow only goes up to 222, I only know my sugar boiled beyond that. The pieces are slightly gooey but still hold up on their own so it's possible I either underboiled or underbaked, but I was equally wary of overboiling and overbaking. I may ask one of my colleagues who travels often in Italy, in case she's had the chance to eat it from the source.

- I came across this wonderful article in The Guardian about making the perfect panforte and there are so many interesting variations. I was also comforted by the one pictured from Nigella Lawson, because the top looked like mine after baking - slightly sticky, darker around the edges, maybe a bit of a feeling of goo.  That feature makes it sound like many of the ingredients are interchangeable, although at some point it is no longer a traditional recipe. I saw one recipe in my searching that was a ginger apricot version, and that sounded delicious, as did one that used dried figs.

- I am not certain how this differs from a fruitcake, although I am recognizing that there is no booze in this recipe, which I think of as central in a fruitcake.

- For even more information, check out the historical entry on Panforte di Siena from Fine Dining Lovers

Monday, December 09, 2019

Cheddar Biscuits with Pecans

Martha Stewart calls this a "Southern hors d'oeuvre" and it's true that I was first gifted a tube of these during the holidays in the south. I knew I'd want to make them as gifts in the future, and that future is now. These are a super easy food-processor recipe, you just need chilling time. I think this is similar to the mixture used for cheese straws but rolled up and sliced is a bit easier. I apply the egg white prior to pressing the pecan on, because that made more sense to me, but you should try it however it makes sense. I added very little cayenne but if you are baking for people who have higher spice tolerance, you can play with that as well.

Cheddar Biscuits with Pecans
(recipe from Martha Stewart)

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
30 pecan halves
2 egg whites, lightly beaten


Place cheese, butter, flour, salt, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor; process until a dough is formed, about 10 seconds. Turn dough out onto work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch-thick log; wrap with wax or parchment paper and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Unwrap dough and slice each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place dough rounds on prepared baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart; gently press a pecan half into the center of each. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Bake biscuits until crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Biscuits may be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Pecan Pie and Thanksgiving with the -Stans

We traditionally have anything but tradition at Thanksgiving - a practice born of vegetarianism and not needing to make anyone else happy but us. So we've had tamales, two years of Native American foods, paella, Italian, even Thanksgivukkah the year Thanksgiving landed on the first day of Hanukkah.

This year I took inspiration from one of my reading goals for 2019 - to finish reading a book from every country in Asia. This has opened up the steppes making up much of the former USSR and byproducts of English colonialism. I've played with some Southeast Asian cuisine but decided to dig into the -stans. I had fun researching traditional foods of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Krgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. I didn't end up making food from everywhere, especially since the two most traditional foods of Kazakhstan are horse and mutton.

I made sabzi (spinach) and gulpi (cauliflower) from Afghanistan, one of many dal recipes from Pakistan, also a comfort-food rice recipe called khichri from Pakistan, and attempted dumplings from a YouTuber I found from Uzbekistan. I ended up not making a few recipes I had marked that would fulfill more -stans, but we had plenty for two people. I let Trader Joes make the flatbread because I was wiped, and I didn't fully make a pulao/plov rice recipe that is very much prominent in this region - it also usually includes meat as a main ingredient so I just didn't have a way to replicate it. I did, however, use a half-ton of onions across the board.

My husband asked for pecan pie for dessert. Somehow, in my entire life, I'd never made a normal pecan pie. I once burned a chocolate pecan pie, which wasn't a good memory. So I embarked on research. I have found if you search for "best" alongside practically any recipe, you'll find your way to some pretty good recipes. There were quite a few mentions of the Texas State Fair recipe, which I suspect is one of the standard southern versions that has made the rounds. But then I found a guy named Craig who had blogged his hunt for the best pecan pie. He ended up combining the best parts of his grandmother's pie with the best parts of the Texas State Fair pie.

I decided to use a crust recipe I liked best, but that's when I really ran into an issue - do you prebake the crust or not? Craig says to bake the crust 40 minutes (!!) while some of the recipes he had used didn't prebake at all. King Arthur Flour says 10 minutes but it was still pretty pale. I cut the difference and baked it 20 minutes. But since I didn't have any dried beans in my pantry, a few places the crust sank down a bit. (I know how to bake a pie crust but didn't do a good job doing what I know, honestly.)

I had filled the crust to its capacity, taking into account the low sides, but there was still some dark brown sugary mixture in the pan so what did I do, when I knew better? I went ahead and poured it into the crust. So it carmelized on the bottom. While I did not have a soggy bottom, I definitely had a crispy, caremlized crust that did not want to come out of the pan in a solid piece. Ah well. We ate a few pieces and threw the rest away... I guess maybe pecan pie isn't really my thing. I linked you to Craig's recipes above, so I won't repeat it here, since I'm not sure I did it right anyway.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!