Monday, January 25, 2021

Salted Halva Blondies from Dessert Person

The January/February baking cookbook for the Rainy Day Bites Cookbook Club is Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. I skipped the first challenge of the blood orange olive oil cake but it certainly looked delicious. The second challenge, which I posted to Instagram on Saturday the 23rd, are the Salted Halva Brownies. I'm copying the recipe from New York Seed + Mill since they had already posted it online.

A tan colored blondie with sesame seeds on top sits on a miniature turquoise cake platter.

I had baked with tahini before (tahini cookies, buckwheat tahini orange chocolate cookies, and tahini chocolate chip cookies) but had not used halva as an ingredient to add to things. I ordered a vanilla flavored halva and chopped it up. You can't see it in the picture but it adds a distinct flavor and chewy texture which made these very delicious.

Salted Halva Blondies


1 ¼  c flour
1 tsp kosher salt 
½ tsp baking powder
6 oz (170g) white chocolate (chopped)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter 
½ c light brown sugar 

1 large egg 
2 large egg yolks 
1 tbs vanilla extract
4 oz crumbled halva

2 tbs sesame seeds
Flaky sea salt (for sprinkling the top) 

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8” pan with 2 sheets of foil, crossing one over the other. Butter the foil generously and set aside.  
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Gently melt the white chocolate in a double boiler (i.e. in a bowl that is placed over a pot of simmering water). Add the butter and tahini to the white chocolate and stir gently to combine until smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat. 
3. Whisk the brown sugar into the white chocolate. It may start to look grainy and separate (which is normal). Add the egg and egg yolks and vanilla to the white chocolate mixture and whisk vigorously until smooth and glossy. 
4. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mix and use a flexible spatula to combine. Final step is to add the crumbled (or chunked halva) trying not to over mix at this point and break up the halva too much. 
5. Scrape batter into the buttered pan, sprinkle with sesame seeds, flaky sea salt and bake for 20-25 mins (or until blondies are golden brown on the top). Allow to cool in the pan, remove and slice into squares. They should be chewy on the inside and puffed on the top!

Makes 16 blondies. 
You can make these and freeze for up to 2 months.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Heljdopita - Buckwheat Crepe Cake

Every year I focus on a different region of the world for one of my reading goals, and find myself cooking and baking dishes from those countries as well. I recently read the first book for my Europe 2021 goal, a book from a little country called Montenegro. I did a bit of research on recipes from Montenegro, and found a few tourism/travel videos. Many of the dishes are also known in Serbia, of course, since they used to be the same country. It is only very recently that the language of Montenegrin has started to grow more distinct from Serbian as they start to declare their identity. One recipe that came up was what looked like a crepe cake, but the description of it was savory - heljdopita.

I consulted several cooks on the internet. One person made buckwheat crepes and stacked them in a pan to bake, another used a buckwheat type pastry (translated to "buckwheat bark"), and another made more of a dough than a batter, and rolled each piece out separately. I knew I didn't want to have to roll anything out "thin enough" because I never get there. The second person made a lasagna shaped buckwheat pie (referred to as "Perfect and Adorable Buckwheat Pie") but added spinach between the layers, which I liked. So I adapted the first person's recipe, brought in elements for the filling from other recipes, and added spinach between every other layer when I put it together. The recipe videos were all in Serbian and some ingredients are not quite the same, or maybe even measurements, so I did my best!

Heljdopita (aka Adorable Buckwheat Pie)

Ingredients for crepes:

150 g buckwheat flour (I used 1 cup + 2 tbsp)
250 g whole wheat flour (I used 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, but 1 1/2 may have been better)
3 eggs
One and a half deciliters of milk (I used 5 oz)
Three and a half deciliters of sparkling water (I used 11.75 oz, or 1 cup + scant 1/2 cup)


200 g cheese (I used 8 oz feta, they use feta or another sharp crumbly cheese)
200 g cream cheese (I used sour cream since others did, I think the "cream cheese" references is really farmers' cheese, or some other mild soft cheese)
2 eggs
100 ml plain greek-style yogurt (1/3 cup)

Whisk eggs, stir in milk and water. Stir in buckwheat flour; stir in whole wheat flour half at a time. Make crepe like pancakes (medium heat, ladle in just enough to cover bottom, flip when edges start to curl, cook just a few seconds on the other side.)

Mash cheese, stir in sour cream (or cream cheese), eggs, and yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a springform or dutch oven, layer a crepe with a spoon or so of filling, enough to spread around but does not need to fully cover. Add spinach if so desired, fresh baby leaves fine.

Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Browned Butter Madeleines

I got a madeleine pan for Christmas and decided to just jump in and try making a batch in the lull between Christmas and New Year's Eve. I find videos helpful when I need to learn a new technique, so I went to YouTube first. If you're here just for the recipe, I used this one over here. But I have things to say about making madeleines!

Inga from BuzzFeed recorded a video of her with Dominique Ansel, both being charming with one another, making matcha madeleines to hand out to the customers who lined up before the bakery opens. I didn't want to make a specific flavor for my first time, plus he chills the batter 12-18 hours, a long overnight (he says this is for the baking powder's sake.) He uses honey as well. "Not bad." One idea this gave me was that you may be able to easily make flavored madeleines with various flavored powders. He also uses browned butter, and fills the pan with a piping bag.

Kim-Joy, famous from the British Baking Show, had a few hints to making perfect madeleines on her basics video, including using the freezer to speed up the chilling time. Whisking 7 minutes is very important, because madeleines are a sponge cake, and this is crucial to the structure. She does a good job showing the difference between the original beating and the gentle mixing at the end. In a separate video, she shows how to make "pandaleines" using her usual cutesy vibe. I wasn't going to go super decorative in my first attempt but she made me feel I could do this in a shorter period of time. (There are step by step directions in her cookbook, Baking with Kim-Joy.)

Then I watched John at Preppy Kitchen make madeleines with browned butter and lemon. Some of what he did reinforced what I'd seen earlier, and his recipe was more straightforward. I think what I ended up doing was his ingredients plus using the cooking spray on the pan recommended by one of the other websites I consulted. If you watch his video, I'm not sure he's correct about Proust inventing the madeleine but that's a topic for another day.

So now I have this pan. Do you have any favorite madeleine recipes? I'd like to do a glaze or a dip in the next version I try.


(recipe courtesy of John at Preppy Kitchen)


  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter (100g)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 tbsp (100g) sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Melt the butter either in your microwave or in a small pot over medium heat. Browning the butter will add a lovely depth or flavor to the cakes but is of course optional. Once melted or browned pour the butter into a bowl and allow to cool.
  • Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl then whisk together and set aside.
  • Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl or your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer. Beat on high until the mixture is a light yellow color with a thick silky texture, about 8-9 minutes. You'll see the beater leave trails when it's ready. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest toward the end.
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix until just combined. You can sift the flour mixture into the eggs while you fold to avoid getting lumps or over-mixing the delicate batter.
  • Drizzle the butter into the batter and gently mix until just combined.
  • Cover and chill the batter as well as the buttered tins* for 1 hour then scoop one tablespoon of batter into each scallop-shaped well. Bake at 350F 8-10 minutes.
  • Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

 Notes from JennyBakes:

I am noting that the butter, sugar, and flour all weigh the same in this recipe - I think that's what makes these sponge cakes. The additional ingredients help a bit with texture and flavor.

I did not chill or butter my tins, but they were brand new - I washed and sprayed with non stick spray based on the recommendation I found elsewhere. They were easy to remove!