August 22, 2020

Copycat Levain Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies


I've never been to Levain Bakery in NYC but you can be sure that the next time I make it to Manhattan (hopefully soon!) it will be one of my first stops.  For this blog I've made a copycat of their famous chocolate chip walnut cookie before but when I saw a picture of these dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookies on Mike Johnson (Mike Bakes NYC) Instagram I knew they were going to be my next baking project.  

The stark contrast of tan peanut butter chips against the dark chocolate cookie was so beautiful and stunning.  It doesn't hurt that chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations either.  Be forewarned though, the recipe yields just four cookies, but they are MASSIVE!   Size-wise they are not for the faint of heart.  The diameter measures approximately 4" across!   I suppose you could portion them out smaller than the suggested size but then they'd lose their "Levain-likeness."

It took some major willpower to wait for the baked cookies to cool slightly so I could have a taste but it was worth it.  The chocolate cookie flavor was deep, rich and not too sweet and perfectly complemented the bursts of peanut butter.  All it was screaming for was a glass of ice cold milk.

August 13, 2020

Freeze-Dried Berry No-Bake Cheesecake

I love the idea of no-bake desserts especially when it's hot outside because the last thing I want to do is turn on an oven.  When I saw this post on Serious Eats for a no-bake cheesecake that used freeze-dried fruit I was definitely intrigued.  I've made an icebox cheesecake before but I liked this recipe from Stella Parks because it used the freeze-dried fruits to infuse a fruity flavor, but sans the additional moisture that fresh fruit would bring. 
Luckily I had a bag of freeze-dried raspberries from Trader Joe's sitting in my pantry along with the other cheesecake ingredients to make half the recipe.  The recipe scaled down easily to fit a 9x5" loaf pan.  Since I'm trying to limit the number of trips I make to the grocery store it's always a plus when I have everything on hand.   
I had a taste of the filling as I was making the cheesecake and the intense raspberry flavor from the freeze-dried fruit was incredible.  It was literally a berry explosion.  Is it strange that it reminded me of fruit-flavored Starburst candies?  As a self-professed lover of the color pink this cheesecake also appealed to me aesthetically.  I could easily picture this dessert gracing the table at a baby shower or birthday party.  

August 5, 2020

Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

It was love at first bite when I tasted the famous Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon a few years ago. The combination of creamy, rich custard and crispy, flaky crust was too good to pass up.   I don't think I let a day go by during my stay in Portugal when I didn't indulge in those delicious pastries.

As a souvenir from my trips I brought back a few dozen pastel de nata tins with every intention of creating them at home.   Who would have known that two years later and I only managed one attempt at making the tarts.  Much to my disappointment the results I got were less than stellar, honestly they were crap, so I basically gave up.   I just couldn't seem to find a recipe that worked for the home kitchen.  That is, until now! 

The authentic recipe I had been looking for came by way of Jeremiah Duartes Bills, a Portuguese-American baker I follow on Instagram.  He was offering an online pastéis de nata class and I signed up immediately.  The format was a three hour virtual Zoom class where the students would bake alongside Jeremiah.  Although there were more than thirty five students the class still felt quite intimate and Jeremiah was a great instructor who answered our questions and proffered baking tips.  Three hours went by in a flash.

The recipe he used for the class was based on one he was taught in a pastel de nata workshop.  By the looks of my tarts and those of my fellow students I can happily report that his recipe really worked.  I couldn't believe how well they turned out, almost as if I was transported back to pastelharia Manteigaria in Chiado.  I sent pictures of my pastéis to a Portuguese colleague and even he said they looked like the real thing.  If that's not a seal of approval I don't know what is.   If you love pastéis de nata as much as I do I highly recommend you give this recipe a try and also take Jeremiah's class.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Special obrigada to Jeremiah for the fantastic class and also giving me permission to share his pastéis de nata  recipe on my blog.  I hope he'll be offering more classes on Portuguese baking because I'll be one of the first to sign up.  Also, be on the lookout for his upcoming cookbook, "The Baking of Portugal."

August 1, 2020

Peach Streusel Cake

The yellow peaches at the farmer's market were looking especially nice so I had to make a repeat of the Summer Peach Cake, but this time with a twist.   The original Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for putting the oven roasted peaches in between the cake batter and then topping with fresh peach slices.  But after making the Blueberry Crumb Bars recently I had streusel on the brain and that's how I came up with this Peach Streusel Cake, a mash up of the two recipes.  I loved the idea of the crunchy topping to contrast the soft fruit.

It couldn't be simpler to make since there's no layering involved.  Make the streusel, roast some peach chunks, make the cake batter and then assemble.  Easy peasy!  For the cake in this post I made a 6-inch cake using 1/2 the cake recipe.  NOTE: For the streusel I made the full recipe but you won't use it all.  I just like having extra in the fridge to make more crumb bars or for other baking.  

Just as I had hoped the finished cake was really delicious.  You could easily serve it for breakfast but it's also nice as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche.  If you like peaches then this cake is for you.

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