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Key Lime Bars


I made these bars last Spring when I spotted key limes for the first time at the supermarket. They’re a little out of character for me this time of year (this is pumpkin spice season after all), but key limes were on clearance last week, and I love a good sale.

Cook’s Illustrated never disappoints, and this recipe is no exception. These bars are so bright and chock full of sweet lime juice and zest, which makes them rich yet refreshing. One of the best desserts highlighting the fruit I’ve had. Only paid subscribers can see their recipes online, but I found this recipe on here for free.

Key Lime Bars



  • 5 ounces animal crackers
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly


  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Key lime zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup fresh Key lime juice


  • toasted coconut pieces, whipped cream, and/or thinly sliced key limes (optional)


Position oven rack to the middle and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7½-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray or grease with melted butter.

For the crust: In a food processor, pulse the animal cookies until they resemble coarse crumbs, this took about ten 1-second pulses, making sure they’re evenly fine. Remove food processor lid and add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle melted butter over crumbs and pulse until everything is evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, around 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Don’t turn off the oven.

For the filling: while the crust cools, in a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until it’s completely incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk. Whisk in the lime juice slowly until it’s fully incorporated. You’ll notice the mixture thicken. This is totally normal.

Pour the filling into the crust, and spread to corners and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake in the oven until the edges are set and are beginning to pull away from the sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 to 1½ hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 12 pieces. Top with whipped cream, toasted coconut, or key lime slices, if using, and serve. The bars can be refrigerated for up to two days. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.


Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet


Nobody makes ice cream quite like Jeni Britton-Bauer.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home is a beautiful resource book I’ve used to make ice cream both at work and at home, always with amazing results. My favorite flavor isn’t an ice cream at all, but a sorbet. And I don’t even really like sorbet.


Riesling is my favorite wine, and pears are my favorite fruit. I was destined to love this.

So when I found myself with a leftover sample bottle of Riesling in my wine bag last week, along with some underripe pears from the grocery store, I used both to make this sorbet. In all honesty, this tastes like taking a bite out of the most ripe, sweet pear you can possibly imagine. The velvety texture just melts in your mouth. If you like pears you will love this sorbet.


Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet


  • 6 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Riesling
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup


Combine the peeled and chopped pears, sugar, corn syrup, water, and riesling in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat on medium until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Simmer until the pears are very soft and tender. The original recipe says this should take about 5-8 minutes, but my pears were underripe so mine took about 15-20.

Remove the pear mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the entire mixture to a food processor and puree until the pears are completely smooth. About 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Press the solids though the mesh into the bowl.

To chill the mixture quickly, pour the puree into a large Ziplock bag and seal. Place the sealed bag into a large mixing bowl filled with ice and  water. Allow the pear puree to chill for 30 minutes. I placed the puree in a plastic quart container to chill it down and allowed it to spend the night in the fridge. Once the mixture is thoroughly cold, process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

Store in a sealed, freezer safe container for at least 4 hours before serving.


Classic Coconut Cake

“Cake or pie?” He asked.

It was the first interview question I was asked when I interviewed at Uchi two years ago. It was a complete break from the usual generic interview questions:

  • So, tell me a little bit about yourself?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Blah blah blah. When you think about it none of that stuff matters. What did matter is if you were a pie person or a cake connoisseur. It was my kind of place.


Truth be told I’m a pie person. I love just about any dessert with fruit in it, and I can’t get enough of a well made buttery, flaky pie crust. When my birthday rolls around, I abandon my pie loving post, and indulge in a different kind of cake every year.

This year, fresh off of a trip to Charleston and stuffing my face with the most delicious coconut cupcake ever from Sugar Bakeshop, I made myself the famed Coconut Cake from Hominy Grill to celebrate.

Bon Appetit’s site explicitly stated that room temperature ingredients made all of the difference in this cake, so plan ahead. I made one slight addition. I added some toasted coconut simple syrup I made to brush in between the layers, because nothing is sadder on a birthday than a dry ass cake, and I wasn’t about to take a chance on an unknown recipe.

If you ever get a craving for coconut cake, this is your recipe. And it doesn’t even need the simple syrup I added. So coconut laden, and that frosting! I would eat a shoe if you frosted it with this stuff. It’s so good.


Hominy Grill’s Classic Coconut Cake

adapted from Bon Appetit


  • Cake:
    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 1/3 cups (loosely packed) sweetened flaked coconut
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 5 large egg yolks
    • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Frosting:
    • 3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 8-ounce package philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup (about) sweetened flaked coconut


  • For cake:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    • Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick cooking spray; line bottom of pans with parchment paper rounds.
    • Mix flour and coconut in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and baking soda in small bowl. Using a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter with a paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    • Add egg yolks and mix to combine.
    • Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low just to blend after each addition.
    • Beat egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon salt with a whisk in a large clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of egg white mixture to the cake batter; fold into batter until just combined. Fold in remaining egg white mixture in 2 additions. Divide batter evenly between both prepared cake pans.
    • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks for about 10 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the sides of cake pans. Invert cakes onto the racks. Carefully peel off parchment paper and cool cakes completely.
  • For frosting:
    • Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract in large bowl until well blended. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Place second layer, flat side up, atop frosting. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle some of coconut over top of cake; pat more coconut on sides of cake.

Can be made one day ahead. Just allow to sit at room temperature a few hours before serving.

Desserts Travel

Sugar Bakeshop in Charleston



While heading to lunch on Cannon Street in Charleston we passed by Sugar Bakeshop. We decided to stop in and grab a cupcake and some coffee. I believe a truly great meal begins and ends with dessert. We refer to this as “the bookend” in our restaurant.


Sugar Bakeshop is right down the street from this really adorable stationary store called Mac & Murphy. The treats are delicious, but the thing we loved most about it was the beautiful courtyard tucked away through a side door. We sat out there sipping coffee and chatted with another couple while eating cupcakes from vintage plates. It’s a beautiful space! I only wish I had snapped a photo of it. 


DSC_0280It’s tucked away off the beaten path, but definitely worth stopping in if you love coffee, sweets, and ivy covered outdoor spaces. I’m still dreaming about that coconut cupcake. My birthday is next week, and I think a Coconut Cake is in order to celebrate.

Sugar Bakeshop
59½ Cannon Street
Charleston, SC. 29403

Desserts Food

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

DSC_0593I thought I had the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, until now.

When I worked as a cook at Olympic Provisions Olympia Provisions, I would sometimes go in on my day off and help our pastry chef, Amelia Lane, with her workload. Baking was never my strength, but working with her and experimenting at home helped me to become a better baker. I would weigh ingredients and assemble cookie doughs, cheesecakes, English muffins, and biscuits. I started every day hoping we would make her Chocolate Chip Cookies, because they were the best darn cookie I ever had and I desperately wanted her recipe. She finally shared it with me, under the premise that I wouldn’t give it out. To anyone. Not even my momma.

I kept that promise, and when people would take a bite and beg me for the recipe I would pretend like I didn’t understand their request. Her cookie, chewy and soft, studded with a copious amount of chocolate chips and the perfect amount of salt, was the recipe I would reach for if I wanted to please the most discerning people in my life.

DSC_0577That is until now. This recipe – by famed Chocolatier Jacques Torres – is the greatest recipe I’ve come across. The cookies are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. It’s the most amazing marriage of texture in a baked good I’ve experienced. Lots of semi-sweet to bitter-sweet chocolate and just the right amount of salt on top really capture the essence.

They’re incredible, really. Some people believe the recipe is unnecessarily fussy. Maybe it is, with its two different types of flours and dough chilling time. Maybe it’s because the ingredients have to be weighed (which is what you should be doing as it achieves the most consistent results). I don’t really care. One bite automatically justifies its fussiness. At least to me it does.

The only change I made to the recipe was adding toasted pecan pieces to the dough along with the chocolate. For the chocolate I used Valrhona 58% cacao content discs. They tend to be a little large so I chopped them by hand.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 55 percent cacao content 
  •  Maldon salt


Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together to combine. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until each egg is fully combined with the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla extract. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredient mix until it is just combined with the other ingredients, about 5 to 10 seconds. Fold in the chocolate pieces (and nuts if you’re using). Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Weigh out 1.75 ounce pieces of dough and mold them into balls, and place them on the baking sheet spaced about 2-3 inches apart. Top with Maldon salt and bake for 11-13 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway during baking. The cookies are done when they are golden brown around the edges and lightly brown in the middle. They may appear soft in the center. Allow cookies to rest on sheet pans for a few minutes before moving them to a rack to cool. These are best warm.

Desserts Food

My Favorite Chocolate Mousse

DSC_0007Chocolate Mousse has been one of my very favorite desserts for as long as I can remember. Desserts that have a rich flavor, yet have a very light, airy texture have always appealed to me. A spoonful or two after a hearty meal is my ideal way to end the evening.

I found this recipe in a copy of the New York Times Cookbook I received as a Christmas gift a few years ago. While flipping through the pages, the Chocolate Mousse recipe immediately caught my eye. The following Thanksgiving, I made it one of the sweets to grace the dessert table.

DSC_0008The ingredients are basic, and most of them I tend to have in my pantry. You will dirty a dozen bowls in the process of making this recipe. There’s a lot of melting, separating, and folding, but the entire thing comes together in less than 20 minutes.

You melt the chocolate, separate a half dozen egg yolks from the whites, make a sabayon with the yolks, fold the chocolate and sabayon together, whip the heavy cream, fold it into the sabayon, whip the egg whites, and finally fold it all together.

I like making individual portions of mousse, so I usually ladle it into small decorative cups and allow it to hang out in the fridge until I’m ready to serve it.

One way I make the recipe my own is by adding Kahlua to the sabayon instead of the sweet liqueurs called for in the recipe. I think coffee and chocolate bring out the best in each other.

Chocolate Mousse


  • 1/2 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua, or other sweet liqueur like Framboise, Amaretto, Chartreuse, or Cointreau
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • Grated Chocolate or fresh fruit, for garnish


If using slab chocolate, cut it into 1/2 inch pieces and place in a metal mixing bowl or double boiler. Set the bowl on top of a saucepan of almost boiling water. Place a lid on top of the mixing bowl and allow the chocolate to melt over low heat until completely melted. Remove bowl from double boiler and set aside.

Put the yolks and the water in a metal mixing bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly and vigorously until the yolks start to thicken. Add the liqueur, and continue to beat constantly until the sauce achieves the consistency of a sabayon. It will be thick, and form ribbons when it drips off the whisk. Remove from the heat.

Add the melted chocolate to the yolk mixture and fold it together.

Beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, adding 2 tablespoons of sugar about halfway through the end of beating. Fold the heavy cream into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Beat in the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the mousse. Spoon the mousse into a crystal bowl, or individual cups and chill until ready to serve.

Garnish with whipped cream, fresh fruit, and grated chocolate if you desire.

serves 12


Cover-to-Cover Project: Lavender Shortbread

overhead multiple 2 autotone-1

Earlier this month I signed up to take part in The Bitten Word’s annual Cover-to-Cover project. It’s a baking project where readers volunteer to make every holiday confection published in their favorite cooking magazines. I knew I would need motivation to kick my holiday baking into high gear, and a plate of cookies makes just about everyone I surround myself with happy.

I was pretty stoked when I received my assignment. I was up to bake the impossibly beautiful Lavender Shortbread cookies that graced the cover of this month’s Bon Appétit Magazine.

cookie overhead autotone-1

These beauties were included in a magazine spread covering the vibrant desserts from Craftsman & Wolves Bakery in San Francisco.  When I couldn’t track down edible flowers I ordered freeze-dried raspberries, French lavender, and pistachios. I also candied some fresh rosemary and thyme I already had on hand. Outside of my flower acquisition fail I followed the recipe to the letter.

These cookies are both gorgeous and delicious. The combination of the dried lavender, sour dried raspberries, and candied fresh herbs really brought a bright and complex flavor that is unlike any holiday cookie I’ve had before. Everyone loved them, even my nephews.

The shortbread came together quickly, and the glaze was ever so thick, shiny and beautiful. Both need to be made in advance, so tackle them the night before you plan to bake and decorate away.

cookie white balanced-1

Lavender Shortbread with Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs


The Glaze:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

The Shortbread and Assembly:

  •  cup rice flour
  •  teaspoon kosher salt
  •  cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
  • 1 cup (two sticks), plus 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground dried lavender
  • Freeze dried and/or dried fruits, dried edible flowers, nuts, and/or dried herbs, for decorating.

Special Equipment:

  • 3⅛”-diameter and one 1¼”-diameter biscuit cutter. Extra points for presentation if you happen to have fluted cutters.


For the Glaze:

Using a rubber scraper or spoon, stir together the egg whites, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl until completely combined. You shouldn’t see any dry spots of sugar. All of it should be incorporated. The original recipe recommends allowing the glaze to rest for at least 12 hours so the sugar can fully hydrate, but you can use the glaze before that if you are pressed for time.

If you are making this in advance, just cover and place it in the fridge overnight and bring it up to room temperature before you dip the cookies in it. The chilled glaze will keep for 1 week covered in the fridge.

For the Shortbread:

Using a stand mixer on medium high speed, beat the butter, sugar, and dried lavender for about 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is pale and very fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently.

Meanwhile in another bowl, combine the rice flour, salt, and all-purpose flour and whisk to combine. When the butter is fluffy and beautiful turn the mixer down to low and add the contents of the flour bowl. Mix until fully combined, no more than 30 seconds. Form the dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least two hours and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out the cookie dough between two sheets of lightly (and I mean lightly) floured parchment paper until the cookies are about 1/8″ thick. Using the large cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can, while re-rolling the scraps of dough. Use the smaller cutter to punch out the cookie centers. Bake cookies on parchment lined baking sheets for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are light brown and golden. Rotate the sheet pans halfway through baking.

Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack. When you’re ready to dip the cookies, dip the tops into the room temperature glaze and place back on wire rack. Decorate quickly. The glaze sets within a 60-second window so go wild with your toppings once that cookie is out of the glaze.

According to Bon Appétit, these will keep airtight at room temperature for about 1 week. They lasted about a day here.

Breakfast & Brunch Desserts

Apple Cider Doughnuts


Last week was the second installment of National Doughnut Day. Celebrated twice a year – once in June and again in November – it’s a day to channel your inner fat kid and go nuts for the bliss that is sweetened fried dough.

Apple Cider Doughnuts just made sense, considering that it’s November and all. I don’t fry at home very often, primarily because I live in an apartment with a pathetic excuse for a fume hood, and the place smells like I fried something for a week after the fact.

I tried this recipe from a decade-old article in the Washington Post. I reviewed quite a few of them circulating the net, and I chose this one because I liked the ingredient list. The pastry chef who wrote the recipe worked at Hearth Restaurant, and she reduces the apple cider considerably to concentrate the flavor. Considering most Apple Cider Doughnut recipes can be lacking, this is a very smart move.

I did make one modification to the recipe. I ended up reducing 2 cups of cider instead of the 1 cup called for in the recipe. The final yield was ½ cup, which I separated by adding ¼ cup to the recipe, and using the remainder to add to some powdered sugar for the glaze. It was the smartest idea I’ve ever had. By far.

Cinnamon-sugar was the traditional covering, and since people tend to get almost evangelical about that kind of stuff I covered the bulk of the doughnuts that way. The cider glazed ones were better. Way better. They went long before I got any photos of them.


Apple Cider Doughnuts

adapted from this Washington Post article



  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 3½ cups flour, plus extra for the work surface
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk (low-fat or nonfat will work fine)
  • Vegetable oil or shortening, for frying


  • 2 tablespoons reduced apple cider
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon


Make the doughnuts: In a saucepan over medium to medium-low heat, add the apple cider and reduce gently to about ½ cup (this took about 25 to 30 minutes). Separate into two ¼ cup portions and set aside.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, add the flour, baking powder and baking soda, ground cinnamon, sea salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally with a spatula.

With the mixer on low, slowly pour in ¼ cup of the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, and mix until it is combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until it is just incorporated. The dough will be wet and sticky at this point. This is okay.

Prepare two half sheet pans with parchment paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheet pans and sprinkle the top of the dough generously with more flour. Flatten the dough gently with the palm of your hands or with a rolling pin until it is even and about ½-inch thick. Feel free to use more flour if the dough sticks to your hand. Place in the freezer to firm up for at least 20 minutes.

Remove the dough from the freezer and using a 3 to 3½-inch doughnut cutter (you can also use a 3 to 3½-inch biscuit cutter and a 1-inch biscuit cutter), cut out your desired doughnut shapes. Place them on the other prepared sheet pan. Once all of the doughnut shapes are cut place the sheet pans in the refrigerator. You can re-roll the leftover scraps of dough and cut additional shapes from them.

Prepare an adjacent counter with several layers of paper towels. Prepare the glaze by adding the remaining 2 tablespoons of reduced apple cider to 1 cup of powdered sugar in a bowl. Whisk well to remove any lumps. If you are using the cinnamon-sugar mixture to top your doughnuts, combine the two together into a medium sized bowl and toss with your hands until the cinnamon is evenly distributed. Set the bowls aside.

Add enough oil to a deep fryer or pot to come up about 3 inches to the side. Attach a deep fry thermometer. Heat over medium until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Add a few doughnuts to the oil and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute or so. Flip doughnut over and allow to cook another 30-60 seconds. Remove from pan promptly and drain on paper towels for about a minute. Add more doughnuts to the pot.

Working quickly, toss the warm doughnuts into the cinnamon sugar mixture. If you are glazing the doughnuts, allow them to cool slightly before you dip the tops into the glaze. Serve warm, because nothing in the world is better than a warm doughnut.