Posts Tagged ‘Pecan’

One of the best smells in the world– especially on a weekend morning– has to be homemade caramel sticky buns baking in the oven.  The sweet scent of cinnamon wafting through the house, along with the earthy aroma of toasted pecans, is just… divine really.  Caramel sticky buns are one of my family’s favorite weekend treats, so a few years ago we began to scour the Twin Cities for the best ones.  We found a few gems, but more often than not, we were disappointed.  Many were too ‘bread-y’, others were covered in so much caramel that they were just a mess, and a few were hard, crunchy disasters.

Aside from returning to that handful of favorites that we did find, I decided to work on a version that was just right.  I try new sticky bun recipes all the time– I really do.  We’ve gone through a few that are really tasty, but this one is the best.  And it’s better than any we’ve found in local bakeries or cafe’s.  Honestly, it’s perfect.  It makes a nice tall bun that is soft and tender– not too dense– with a lightly-crunchy top.  The dough is soft, buttery, and very easy to work with.  It rolls out beautifully.

One interesting thing about this recipe is that the caramel is on the top and bottom of the roll.  This means you don’t invert the rolls when they’re finished.  Instead, you top them with another helping of caramel.  The result is an even distribution of the caramel throughout the roll.  It’s a simple difference, but it’s genius.

Another thing that makes these buns different from most recipes is that for the filling, you whip the butter along with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (nutmeg makes everything better).  In most other versions, you just spread the butter and sprinkle on the spices.  It makes an amazing difference, so do not avoid this step.  You’re going to want to lick the mixture right off the spoon!

These buns are wonderful to prepare ahead of time.  You can do this a few ways.  First, the dough can be refrigerated (it needs to chill for at least to two hours before it can be rolled into buns, anyway).  Another option is to finish the buns, get them into the pan, and refrigerate overnight.  The rise time will be a bit longer (because the dough is cold), but it makes having a fresh sticky bun in the morning so much easier.  Finally, you can just make them the night before– including the baking– since these one’s stay soft and moist.  In the morning, just top them with the last of the caramel and toasted pecans.  Hope you enjoy these sticky buns as much as we do!

The Recipe:  Perfect Caramel Sticky Buns

(Makes 9)

For the Dough:

2/3 cup whole milk

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 3/4 cup (14 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus a bit more melted

For the Caramel Topping:

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of kosher salt

flour, for dusting

1 egg, for brushing on the buns

Sea salt

Prepare the dough by heating the milk in a saucepan or microwave until the temperature registers 110-115°F.  Mix in the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.  Let it sit for 5 minutes to get foamy.  Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.  Add the remaining sugar, flour, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment.  Give the mixture a quick stir with a whisk, then add the wet ingredients.  Turn the machine on and mix until it’s a shaggy mess.  Add the butter, one chunk at a time, making sure to wait until each piece is mostly incorporated.  When everything is incorporated, knead the dough on medium  for about 5 minutes.  The dough should be soft and silky.  Place the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly coated with melted butter.  Pour a bit more of the melted butter on top of the dough and spread evenly with your hands.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Toast the pecans by placing them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until fragrant.  Let cool.

Prepare the caramel by melting the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar, cream, honey, and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Let continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes.  The glaze will be a deep golden brown.  Pour one cup of the glaze into an 8×8-inch pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the toasted pecans over the glaze.  Reserve the remaining glaze (refrigerate with a cover, if using much later).  Note: I’ve made these rolls by lining the pan with parchment paper so they could be easily removed and placed on a platter.  It also works just as easily to put them into the pan with nothing at all — the choice is yours.

Prepare the filling by placing the butter, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Set aside.

Form the buns by putting a light coat of flour down on a work surface.  Roll the chilled dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle.  Spread the butter/spice mixture on it, leaving a 1-inch plain border on the side furthest away from you.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the pecans over the butter (reserve the remaining pecans — put into an airtight container, if using much later).  Roll the dough into a tight log.  Cut and discard the very edges, if they are uneven.  Cut the remaining dough into 9 equal pieces.  Re-shape if they flatten out in the cutting process.  Place them in the pan and cover with plastic wrap or a light kitchen towel.  Let rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size ( 1 1/2 – 2 hours, if the dough has been chilled overnight).

After the buns have properly raised, whisk the egg with 1/2 teaspoon of water and brush onto the buns.  Place the pan of buns on a baking sheet and put into a 350°F oven and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 185°F in the center.    Remove from oven and let cool for a bit.  Pour remaining glaze on the buns and top with the pecans.  Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee.

Source:  Adapted from Bon Appetite

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I’ve finally gotten around to baking a pie for Relishing It.  (I don’t believe this galette and these hand pies count.)  I’m not sure how it worked out that this Chocolate Pecan beauty is my first pie here– especially since (confession time) I generally don’t much care for pecan pie.  I figure this has something to do with my insatiable sweet tooth.  If a typical pecan pie were the only choice, then yes I’d eat it, but it would never be my first choice.  How’s that for a ringing endorsement?  Come to think of it it, maybe that’s how to convince you to make this dessert as well.  Even though I’m not a pecan pie fan, this is one of the best pies I’ve EVER tasted.

So what convinced me to make a pecan pie?  Two words: bourbon and chocolate.  I love desserts that layer typically sweet ingredients with the subtle flavors of a good spirit.  Here, combining oaked smokey bourbon with the sweetness of chocolate and earthy nuts is perfect.  The flavors are just so interesting that I kept wanting another bite.  The crust is almost croissant-like, yet really holds up well to the liquid filling.   This ended up being one of those rare pies that was perfect.  Perfect texture, perfect flavor combinations.  Just perfect.  Enjoy it with a cup of coffee or a shot of bourbon– both pair nicely.  And save a spot at your Thanksgiving table for this dessert (and this one)– I will be making both.

The Recipe:  Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie

For the Pie Dough:

7 1/2 ounces (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

For the Bourbon-Chocolate Filling:

8 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons bourbon (Maker’s Mark or Knob Creek are good choices)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped

4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate  (Ghirardelli 60% cacao works well)

To make the pie dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the cold butter and pulse for 8-12 one-second pulses, or until the butter is roughly the size of corn kernels.   Drizzle 5 tablespoons of ice water over the  flour mixture and pulse until the mixture becomes moist and crumbly, another 4-6 pulses.  It should hold together when squeezed in your hand.  If it doesn’t, add another tablespoon or two of water and test again.   Turn the dough out onto a work surface and form a disk shape.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to two days.  Dough can be frozen for up to 1 month, defrost in the fridge overnight before using.

To Make the Crust:  Let the dough sit at rom temperature to soften slightly.  It should be firm, but not rock hard, 5-20 minutes (depending upon how long it was refrigerated).  I find that I prefer to roll pie crust on a piece of parchment paper to be the best method for me.  I lightly flour my rolling pin. If you prefer to roll it on the counter-top, just be sure to use as little of flour as possible.  As too much flour makes for very tough pie crusts.  When rolling the dough on the parchment paper, use a rolling pin and roll from the center outward.  You want your dough to get to be about 13-inches wide and about 1/8-inch thick.  Flip the dough into a 9-inch pie plate (Pyrex worked great).  Gently peel the parchment paper away.  Make sure that the dough is pressed firmly against the pie-plate.  Tuck the extra over-hang underneath to build up the edge of the crust.  Gently make it as uniform as you can.  I used every bit of dough for the pie and didn’t have to cut any away.  Crimp the edge of the crust with your fingers.  With the tines of a fork, prick the crust all over.  Chill for up to 1 hour in the refrigerator, or 30 minutes in the freezer.

To Bake the Crust: Position a rack in the center of an oven.  Preheat it to 425°F.  Line the piecrust with aluminum foil and fill it with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the bottom looks dry and the edges are golden,  About 10-12 minutes more.  Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and place a large rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack.

To Make the Filling:  Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl set on a kitchen towel and add the vanilla.  Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, cream, bourbon, and salt in a 1-quart saucepan.  Heat over medium heat just until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot, but not boiling, 3-5 minutes.  This is key — whisking vigorously and constantly, very slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the yolks, this will keep the yolks from curdling.  Strain through a fine strainer set over a 1-quart measuring cup.

Spread the pecans evenly over the piecrust.  Sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly over the pecans.  Slowly and in a spiral pattern pour the  filling over the pecans/chocolate.  Doing it slowly and in this pattern will prevent the nuts/chocolate from moving too much.  Place the pie onto the baking sheet and bake until the pie is slightly firm to the touch and the filling doesn’t wobble when nudged, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool for at the very least 1 hour before serving.  However,  I enjoy the pie the most hours or a day after it’s been baked and has a chance to properly set.  It keeps well and can be made a day ahead of time.  Store it at room temperature and cover with a tea towel.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Oct/Nov 2011

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Thanksgiving is just a week away, but fear not, I’m here to help with your holiday dessert decisions.  This Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake is the answer– trust me.  You already know that we’re a cake-crazy family (just take a look under the recipe section if you need proof), but this is one of our all-time favorites.  I’ve already made it several times this year– most recently for my husband’s birthday a week ago.  It’s beautiful, tastes as good as it looks, and screams ‘celebration’.  Why fall back on the old standards of pumpkin or apple pie, when you can end your Thanksgiving meal with this stunner?

The key component in this cake is brown butter.  I’m of the opinion that it makes everything better.  Brown butter has a complex, nutty, almost caramel-like flavor.  Here, you’ll find it in both the cake and the frosting.  It adds those wonderful, layered flavors that set this cake apart from a typical pumpkin dessert.  And then there’s the nuts.  I’ve topped this cake with a mountain of pecans, pepitas, and ginger– all enveloped by melted brown sugar.  Sublime.  If you don’t want  as many nuts on your cake (what’s wrong with you?), you can half the amounts and sprinkle them in a circle design on top.  I like the grandness of  the big pile on top, plus they’re an addictive snack that you’ll munch on as you assemble this beauty.

I’ve always made this cake with a homemade pumpkin puree.  Aside from the freshness of doing it this way, it’s rewarding to do something with all of those pumpkins that have been decorating the house.  If you have too many things on your plate (yes, I realize that’s a poor pun), feel free to use canned pumpkin puree.  As always, try to use organic and make sure it contains only pureed pumpkin.  Make this cake, and you’ll impress your guests– I promise.

The Recipe: Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

For the Puree

1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half and seeded  (large enough to yield 1 1/2 cups of puree)

For the Cake

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; plus more for pans

9 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; plus more for pans

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup buttermilk  (Note: to make your own add 1 teaspoon white vinegar to 1/3 cup milk and let stand for 10 minutes)

For the Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups pecans halves

1 cup roasted and salted pepitas (raw and unsalted will work, too — just toast them a bit more with the pecans)

4 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

For the Frosting

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

To make the Pumpkin Puree:  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Position racks in the center of oven.  Place pumpkin in a baking dish covered with lid or aluminum foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Let cool.  Scoop pumpkin flesh into a food processor and puree until smooth.  You will need 1 1/2 cups of puree for the cake.  Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Position rack in the center of the oven.  Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by buttering them liberally, lining with parchment paper, buttering once again, and flouring the pans.  Make sure to tap out any excess flour.

To make the Cake: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Swirl the butter occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes.  Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.  In a large bowl, whisk 1  1/2 cups of the pumpkin puree with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until blended well.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined.  Gently whisk in the brown butter until fully incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until the a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Let the cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove parchment paper, and cool completely.

Make the Topping: Melt the butter in a large 12-inch skillet.  Add the pecans and cook until they brown slightly, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle in the brown sugar, pepitas, and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the ginger.  Remove from heat and let cool in skillet.

To make the Frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Swirl the butter occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes.  Pout into a small bowl and let stand until all of the brown solids settle to the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Carefully transfer bowl to freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes.  Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving behind the brown solid bits.  Discard the brown bits.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 1-2 more minutes.

To assemble the Cake: Place one layer of cake on a cake plate.  Spread 1/2 cup of frosting on it.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup (scant) of the nut mixture (rough chop this small amount, so it stays in the cake better) over the frosting and top with another layer of cake.  Frost the top and sides of cake and place remaining nut mixture on the top.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  Serve at room temperature.  Will keep well for a few days.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Oct/Nov 2010

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We’re hosting Easter Brunch this year.   In preparation, I spent much of whatever free time I could grab this weekend paging through cookbooks and magazines to put together the menu.   That was the goal, anyway– as usual, I got distracted.  Reading cookbooks, food magazines, and culinary blogs tends to have this effect.  And, of course, I always end up thinking that there is one more cookbook out there that I must have.  Anyway, my hours spent wandering through recipes paid off.  I’ve nailed down most of the brunch menu.  These Pecan Honey Sticky Buns from Dorie Greenspan will definitely make an appearance.  My family loves them.

Even if you’re not a bread baker, don’t be intimidated by this recipe.  While there are several steps, they’re straight-forward and the result is marvelous.  The buns are made from a very silky, buttery brioche dough.  The first time I worked with this dough, I was stunned.  Its soft, like satin– unlike any other dough I had worked with.  It makes the buns flakey, rather than doughy, as in a normal roll.  The brioche also doesn’t ‘puff up’ much, so the buns don’t get as big as you might expect.  I find them to be the perfect size.

The glaze, as you can see, is sublime.  It’s made of brown sugar, butter, honey, and pecans.  The result is firm, delicious toffee-like caramel.  Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top when they’re done.  The salt will trick your taste buds in to emphasizing the sweetness.  Give ’em a try this weekend!

The Recipe:  Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Brioche Dough

(Note:  Make sure to allow enough time to let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the Pecan Honey Sticky Bun recipe.)

2 packets active dry yeast

1/3 cup just-warm-to-touch water (110 – 115°F worked for me)

1/3 cup just warm-to-touch whole milk

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, but still slightly firm.

Glaze:  (If baking loaves of bread)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

To make the Brioche Dough: Put the yeast, water and milk in the stand of a mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved.  Add the flour and salt, and fit the mixer with the dough hook, if your have one.  Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as your can –  this will help keep your kitchen clean from flour.  Turn the mixer on for a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour.  Remove the towel and increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened.  At this point you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mass.

Scrape the sides of the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball.  Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next.  You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like a batter.  Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.   ( Note: Sometimes when I make this dough, it clumps around the hook and pieces don’t incorporate into the dough well.  I’ve found that if this happens, stop the machine, and with a rubber spatula separate the dough from the hook completely and start again.  It really helps to incorporate everything into a uniform dough.)

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl ( or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40-60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap into the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.  Slap the dough down every 30  minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the covered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

From this point, you can proceed with the Pecan Honey Sticky Bun recipe.  Take note that that recipe calls for only half of this dough.  So, you can either bake two pans of the sticky buns or make the other half of the dough into a loaf of bread.

If choosing to make a loaf of bread:

Butter and flour a 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Using half of the brioche dough, cut each piece into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long.  Arrange  4  logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan.  Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pan, 1-2 hours. Again, it will depend on the warmth of your room.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat and preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the GlazeBeat an egg with water.  Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaf with the glaze.  Bake the loaf until it is well risen and deeply golden, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaf out onto the racks.  Invert again and cool for at least an hour.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns:  ( Makes 15-16 buns)

For the Glaze:

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 stick ( tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 pecans ( whole or pieces)

For the Filling:

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:

1/2 recipe for the Brioche Dough, chilled.  Don’t be tempted to downsize the recipe.  The dough works better in a larger batch.

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan ( a pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the Glaze:  In a heavy -bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, buter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula.  Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the Filling:  Mix  the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl.  If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the Buns:   On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square.  Using your fingers or pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough.  Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you.  Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as your can.  ( At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months.  Defrost in refrigerator overnight, then proceed with the glaze and let them rise and bake as directed.)

With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim away just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll of they’re ragged and not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch-thick buns.  Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wx paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled, and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Baking the Buns:  When the buns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.  Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden; the glaze will be bubbling.  Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven.  Be very careful –  the glaze is very hot and and sticky.

Source:  Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

I do hope your try this recipe — it isn’t as complicated as it seems, and the end result is so worth your time!  As always, I love to hear your feedback!   Thanks for stopping by.


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