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S’mores Cheesecake

S'mores Cheesecake Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog by Kate Wood. This is a campfire inspired cheesecake that comes out without cracks or dry edges every time. A graham cracker, butter and sugar crust and a simple chocolate filling made from melted bars or chips. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath in the oven to get a smooth and creamy cheesecake. Top the whole thing with toasted marshmallows and more graham cracker crumbs for a summertime favorite cheesecake.

Spring is officially in the air. The trees are blooming, everyone has a sinus infection, and our little corner of lower Alabama is slowly turning into a muggy, rain forest-esque area that ensures I am constantly frizzy and a little sweaty. Spring, in my mind, is the pre-party for summer when my diet will primarily consist of fresh produce, frozen beverages, and anything made on the grill. These last few weeks before full-on summer mode make me want to reminisce on the deliciousness that ensued during the fall/winter months and celebrate it one last time. Today, we will do just that by way of s’mores cheesecake. 

S'mores Cheesecake

Now don’t get me wrong- summer and I get along really well. What’s not to love? Longer days, flip flop weather, and the fact that I get to wear white everyday without any judgment from more fashionable onlookers is reason enough for me to celebrate the warmer months. But once summer hits, I’m going to be rolling out all of my favorite fruit-based desserts and it’s really an injustice to forget little beauties like s’mores cheesecake. So let’s take a look, shall we?

This cheesecake, with its creamy chocolate innards and buttery graham cracker crust, is topped with a handful or two of marshmallows and a rich, chocolate ganache that seductively whispers, “come hither.” I love the texture of this cheesecake- smooth, fluffy, and not too dense. Bonus points for the fact that I have never ONCE had this cheesecake develop an unsightly crack or crevice on the top. The crust is sweetened with brown sugar and seasoned with a heavy-handed douse of salt because, if you ask me, sweet and salty is still in. Chocolate cheesecake, graham cracker crust, and melty chocolate ganache practically begs for some festive little marshmallows, thus- s’mores cheesecake.

S'mores Cheesecake

Before we dive head-first into fish tacos, strawberry daiquiris, and giant slices of watermelon, let’s celebrate the right now with this s’mores cheesecake. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. 
S'mores Cheesecake
 
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S’mores Cheese

S'mores Cheesecake Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog by Kate Wood. This is a campfire inspired cheesecake that comes out without cracks or dry edges every time. A graham cracker, butter and sugar crust and a simple chocolate filling made from melted bars or chips. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath in the oven to get a smooth and creamy cheesecake. Top the whole thing with toasted marshmallows and more graham cracker crumbs for a summertime favorite cheesecake.

This s’mores cheesecake has a buttery graham cracker crust, a rich and creamy chocolate filling, and is slathered with a chocolate ganache before being topped with toasted marshmallows.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 90
  • Total Time: 2 hours
Scale

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 11/2 sleeves of graham crackers
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

For the cheesecake

  • 11/2 pounds (3 blocks) of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the ganache

  • 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream

Toppings

  • 3/4 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 sheets of graham crackers, crumbled

Instructions

To prepare the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor to crumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until combined to a wet sand consistency.
  3. Pat crumbs into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

To prepare the cheesecake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start a kettle or pot of boiling water on the stove top for the water bath. You’ll need about 3 quarts of water. Wrap your springform pan with crust baked inside securely with aluminum foil. I triple layer and make sure there is no room for the water bath to leak through the pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cocoa powder, beating an additional 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated. Add the cream and vanilla, and beat until smooth and no lumps remain, about 2-3 minutes. Do not overbeat.
  3. Using a rubber spatual, push your cheesecake batter through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Pour this mixture into your prepared springform pan.
  4. Place your springform pan into a pan/dish slightly larger than the springform. I use a 10″ round cake pan, but any oven-safe dish with sides will do. Pour water into the water bath pan until the water level reaches almost halfway up the sides of the springform.
  5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The filling will barely be set but will still jiggle slightly if jostled in the oven. Allow to rest in the oven with the heat turned off and the oven door propped open slightly (I use a wooden spoon) for an additional 30 minutes. Then, transfer the springform pan to the fridge and allow to cool for at least 4 hours or overnight, if possible.
  6. Once cheesecake is cool, remove from pan and prepare the ganache. Microwave the heavy cream on low heat just until it begins to lightly bubble. Remove from microwave and pour over top of the chocolate chips. Cover with Saran wrap and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Allow to cool slightly- if your ganache is too thin, it will drip down the sides of the cheesecake too quickly. Spoon the ganache over top of the cheesecake and smooth out gently with a spatula. Once you get close to the edges, push the ganache out gently, allowing little trickles of chocolate to cascade down the sides. Allow ganache to set up slightly. Extra ganache will keep in the fridge for 1 week.
  7. Top with graham cracker crumbs and and a sprinkling of marshmallows. Toast with a torch or under a low-heat broiler until golden brown.

Notes

  • Cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, but marshmallows should be toasted just before eating.
  • Do not overmix your cheesecake batter. Overmixing can cause cracks and holes in your cheesecake.
  • Be sure ingredients, particularly the cream cheese, are room temperature. If they are too cold, clumps will form and you won’t have a smooth and creamy cheesecake.
  • Feel free to adapt this cheesecake! You can opt out of the marshmallows for a double chocolate cheesecake, or layer in peanut butter cups before baking for a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake. The world is your oyster!

Recipe Adapted From: Miette

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies Recipe by The wood and spoon blog by kate wood. These are tiny, mini buttery butter pecan cookies that require just a few minutes to make. These crisp cookies are almost like famous amos cookies and are inspired by Gmomma's cookies. Tiny chopped pecans, sugar, and flour are among the few ingredients here. Find the how to for these small cookies on thewoodandspoon.com

I’ve reached the point of my pregnancy where I think my husband is becoming a bit concerned. Just the other day, he looked at me and said, “Why don’t you go take a shower… or cry… or do whatever you need to do. I’ll take care of Aimee for the rest of the night.” Catching my reflection in the mirror validated his voiced concerns- I looked greasy, tired, and a few minutes shy of a breakdown. So I got in the shower to a soak a bit, and in those minutes of quiet, I dreamed up today’s recipe: crispy butter pecan cookies.

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies

Now, please don’t mistake my momentary exhaustion for a lack of gratitude. Even on the longest days and most sleepless of nights, I wouldn’t trade the hand I’ve been dealt for anything. It’s in those darkest hours of the night, sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the nursery, when my big girl is sleeping soundly in my lap and I can feel the rolling movements of my baby boy underneath my skin, that the weight of God’s blessing in my life is almost more than I can bear. There is nothing I could ever do in my lifetime to earn this honor. This duty of motherhood, the title and tasks I wear some days as if it were a dried up milk stain on a favorite silk blouse, is a badge of undeserved love stamped on my life. It’s evidence of one million things I have to give thanks for. Someone, please, in a few months from now when I sit in that same nursery sleeplessly nursing, changing, and consoling the new baby we’re waiting for, remind me that this is a gifted treasure, not a burden to bear.

On that note, remind me also of these crispy butter pecan cookies.

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies

There’s a lot to love about these little buddies- they’re buttery, crisp, and perfect with a cup of coffee- but they also contain only 5 ingredients and take only 20 minutes to make. If that doesn’t sound perfect for a busy mom’s schedule, I don’t know what does. The inspiration for these cookies came from my hometown hero, GMommas Cookies. OK, so I know I’ve already mentioned them more than a few times like here and here. But why mess with a good thing? These petite, bite-sized cookies are crisp all the way through and have a pronounced, real butter flavor that I have yet to find in many other recipes. Plus, as the cookies bake, the pecans become toasty and nutty and all together decadent.

Yeah, I know. Your mouth is watering. So do yourself a favor and next time you have a spare 20 minutes, grab a glass of milk and a handful of these crispy butter pecan cookies.

On second thought, grab two handfuls. You’re welcome.

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies

 

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Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies

Crispy Butter Pecan Cookies Recipe by The wood and spoon blog by kate wood. These are tiny, mini buttery butter pecan cookies that require just a few minutes to make. These crisp cookies are almost like famous amos cookies and are inspired by Gmomma's cookies. Tiny chopped pecans, sugar, and flour are among the few ingredients here. Find the how to for these small cookies on thewoodandspoon.com

These crispy butter pecan cookies are delicate, nutty, butter-packed, bite-sized morsels of nutty deliciousness. You cannot eat just one.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 72 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature, but not too soft
  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup of finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and confectioners sugar until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, chopped peans, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and mix just until combined.
  5. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop out 1 teaspoon balls of dough. For uniform cookies, gently and quickly roll each mound of dough into a ball.
  6. Bake 13-18 minutes, or until cookies are fragrant, barely set, and browning on the bottom. Allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

Notes

  • These cookies are mini! So while one batch makes 72, trust me- you’ll be glad you have extras.

Lemon Almond Tart

lemon almond tart recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a simple almond meal flour crust, crunchy and golden, filled with a creamy custard like lemon filling. This is a take on the classic french tarte au citron. Make ahead and store in the fridge. Find the recipe for this summer fruit favorite on thewoodandspoon.com

“If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again.” I’m not sure where that quote originated, but whoever it came from clearly has never tried to create the perfect lemon tart. I can almost see those people pointing and probably laughing at me as I taste tested another round of lemon tarts with utter disappointment. Well, this time, I get the last laugh, because I am happy to report that after many tries, I nailed it. Today, I get to share with you the recipe for the best, most perfect lemon almond tart – a light and nutty almond crust  filled with a creamy, tart lemon filling. (Drool)

lemon almond tart

This all started with a giant bag of lemons and an afternoon peruse through Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon” cookbook. I ran across his recipe for lemon tart (or as Keller and the French call it, “Tart au Citron”), and I thought it may be worth a stab. I had all of the needed ingredients, with exception of those needed for the pine nut crust, but thanks to a lone wolf bag of almond meal left in the netherparts of my pantry, I decided to proceed.

Attempt number one was eggy- and so, so tart. Everything Thomas Keller does is is perfect, so I confess that my lack of skills and palate were likely to blame. Unfortunately, as my husband pushed the tart around on his plate, I knew it wasn’t a winner. 

Attempt number two yielded a perfect almond crust but with a filling that was still kind of eggy. I researched and discovered a few things about cooking with lemon and eggs (see notes!), so  attempt number three left me with a perfectly tart/sweet lemon filling. Unfortunately, I torched the shell this time around and failed to cook the filling for quite long enough so it still wasn’t right. #humblingkitchenmoments

lemon almond tart

Attempt number four, as baby bear would say, was juuusssst right. Lemony, sweet, and with an incredibly creamy mouth feel, this was a tart sexy enough to call it by its French name. This was a tarte au citron.

I often receive complements from friends and family about how lovely all my food looks from the 2×4” screen of an iPhone, but what most people don’t know is that behind every photo is usually a failed attempt, a frosting that’s too stiff, a curdled filling, a sink full of dishes, or a scorched mess on the bottom of my oven. Those things aren’t as fun to write about or as pretty to photograph, but they’re apart of the process. If this is ringing any bells right now, take heart, because redemption is almost always just around the corner. This week, we’re calling redemption lemon almond tart.

Lemon Almond Tart

Read through the recipe, and the notes in particular, prior to getting started. There’s no need for y’all to make the mistakes I’ve already trudged through. I like my lemon tart the exact way I take my ice cream sundaes- with a giant dollop of whipped cream. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to be sure to whip some of that up as well.

 

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Lemon Almond Tart

lemon almond tart recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a simple almond meal flour crust, crunchy and golden, filled with a creamy custard like lemon filling. This is a take on the classic french tarte au citron. Make ahead and store in the fridge. Find the recipe for this summer fruit favorite on thewoodandspoon.com

A light and nutty almond crust filled with a creamy, tart lemon filling. I prefer this tart served with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream and lemon almond crumbs.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 45
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Scale

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 4 ounces (About 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of almond meal
  • 7.5 ounces (About 1-1/2 cups) flour
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) of sugar
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the filling

  • 1 teaspoon butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 whole eggs, cold
  • 2 egg yolks, cold
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of about 21/2 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons of packed lemon zest
  • 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the lemon crumbs (if desired)

  • About 1 cup of reserved, uncooked almond crust crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter

Instructions

To prepare the crust

  1. In a bowl, combine almond meal, flour, and sugar. Using a pastry cutter or the back of a large fork, cut in the stick of butter until dough is uniformly pea-sized crumbles.
  2. Lightly whisk the egg and extracts together in a separate bowl, and, using the pastry cutter again, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Only manipulate the dough as much as you have to to make it uniform. Overworking your dough will cause it to toughen when baked.
  3. Place dough in the refrigerator for about ten minutes while you prepare your tart pan. Dough can also be left covered in the fridge at this point for up to one day.

When ready to prepare the tart

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using your hands, butter a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom with 1 teaspoon of softened butter. Lightly dust the bottom and sides of pan with flour.
  2. Using your fingers, press the almond meal crust into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. You will likely use all but 3/4-1 cup of the dough. Trim any excess off the top.
  3. Bake crust for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are almost turning golden and the center crust is set. Allow to cool while you prepare your filling. Alternatively, the crust can be made one day in advance and set aside covered.
  4. Bring a small-medium saucepan filled with an inch of water to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  5. In a bowl just barely larger than the saucepan, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar.
  6. Once water is boiling, place the bowl of eggs on top of the saucepan and whisk until mixture becomes paler and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon juice and zest, continuing to whisk all the while. Occasionally turn your bowl to ensure you don’t cook the eggs. Continue whisking consistently until mixture is thickened, about the consistency of a very loose pudding. Your whisk should be leaving a momentary trail behind it as it moves through the bowl and the mixture should generously coat the back of a spoon. The entire cooking process will have taken about 10-12 minutes.
  8. Turn the heat off, but with the pan still on the burner, add the cold butter, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, whisking until piece is combined before adding another piece. Stir in the vanilla.
  9. Pour your filling into the tart crust. Place a piece of saran wrap directly on top of the filling and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Tart is complete at this point, but lemon crumbs can be added as a garnish if desired.

To prepare lemon crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl, combine about 3/4 cup of reserved, uncooked almond tart crumbs with lemon zest and sugar. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir until small clumps form.
  3. Spread out on a sheet pan and break up larger clumps to smaller, pea-sized pieces. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden, shaking pan intermittently. Allow to cool. Sprinkle on top of tart or on top of each piece along with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Notes

  • Crust dough will be crumbly, but be sure to cover the sides and bottom of your pan thoroughly and evenly. It may crack in the oven, but that’s ok.
  • When zesting your lemons, avoid the pith (the white part below the yellow exterior of the lemon). Zesting the whites can cause your tart to taste bitter.
  • Cooking time of the filling may differ depending on the type of saucepan you’re using and how large your bowl is on top of the pan. If your bowl is too large, it will take longer to cook the eggs.
  • Cooking your filling in some materials can cause your tart to taste metallic or eggy. After trial and error myself, I recommend using a glass bowl and a silicone whisk.
  • If you prefer a much more tart filling, add another packed teaspoon of zest to the filling.
  • If you like to serve your tart with whipped cream (don’t we all?), whip 1 cup of cold, heavy whipping cream until frothy, then slowly add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. When nearly to stiff peaks, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Yum!

Recipe Adapted From: Thomas Keller

Easter Cake

easter cake Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog by Kate Wood. This is a how to on making a layer cake covered in robin egg blue frosting and speckled to look like an egg. This tutorial is adapted from the cake blog. Step by step how to and photos for this easter / good friday / spring time cake on thewoodandspoon.com

Easter Cake TutorialAbout one year ago, almost to the day, I made the decision to be more intentional on social media as a means of determining if blogging and putting myself out there on the interwebz was something I was ready to do. About two weeks into this experiment, I made an Easter cake, speckled to look like a robin’s egg, topped with little nests of swirled chocolate buttercream, and studded with leftover jelly beans from Aimee’s first Easter basket. (Shameless shout out to other moms who buy candy “for their kids” that just so happens to be their own favorite varieties and wind up hiding in the secret, “mom’s only” corner of the pantry. I feel you.) The cake was adorable and because I was pretty excited about it, I posted a photo on Instagram. Imagine my surprise when, hours later, Food and Wine magazine re-posted the photo. MY photo. I found myself victory dancing in the living room, high-fiving my husband, and with a new batch of Insta-followers. To me, that Easter cake was a moment of much needed confirmation that I was to continue forward.

easter cake

Since then, I’ve had a lot of people ask how to make that humble little cake, so in honor of Easter, you’re going to get a fancy little tutorial today. This Easter cake is fairly simple and is a perfect excuse to get messy in the kitchen. If you have kiddos, or if you just share my affinity for pretending to be artsy in the kitchen while simultaneously stuffing your face with Easter candy, this cake is for you! Little ones can help with the speckling and will love the opportunity to sneak a jelly bean or a lick of the frosting bowl. Be warned that this process can get a little messy, so be sure to protect your work space with newspaper, wax paper, or old t-shirts of your husband’s that you secretly want to make disappear. 

easter cake

This Easter cake is one I plan to make for years to come and seems like a brilliant tradition to start with my family in the kitchen. My babies aren’t even old enough to say the words “Easter Cake”, but I’m eager to make memories with them on special holidays. If you have any traditions or recipes you like to share with your family during this holiday, I’d love to hear about it below in the comments section!

Happy Easter and Happy Baking!
easter cake

To make the Easter cake, you’ll need:

  • One baked cake (I used a 2 layer, six inch cake in a lemon poppyseed flavor which will be coming to the blog soon. You can try this recipe if you’re looking for a no-fail cake recipe)
  • 3 cups of frosting, divided
  • Light blue gel food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • M&M’S Eggs, Jelly Beans, Cadbury Mini Eggs, or any other bean/egg shaped candy
 

Tools you’ll need:

  • News or wax paper to cover your work space
  • A clean, unused paint brush or a natural bristle pastry brush
  • Piping bag fitted with a 1M tip
 easter cake

Directions:

  • Set aside 1 cup of frosting.
  • In a bowl, add a small drop of light blue food coloring to the remaining two cups of frosting. A little goes a long way, so add slowly. Once your frosting it too dark, there’s no going back! Also, keep in mind that the frosting will darken as it sets.
  • Fill and frost your cake. I like to smooth my cakes with an off-set spatula like this , but a butter knife will do the trick!
  • In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder and the vanilla extract until a thin, watery slurry comes together.
  • Set your unfrosted cake on a clean, covered work surface. Do no speckle close to anything you can’t easily wipe down with a wet rag- things are about to get messy!
  • Hold your paint brush or natural bristle pastry brush at the base of the bristles. Squeeze, applying a small amount of pressure with your fingers to fan the brush slightly. Dip the tips of the brush in the cocoa/vanilla “paint” and find a spare corner of your covered work space to practice your splatter. While continuing to fan your brush with one hand, use the fingers of your other hand to lightly pull back the bristles and release. This will be a slingshot type of movement and will result in a splatter effect on your work surface. Once you’re confident with your speckling skills, move on to the cake! I start with the sides of the cake and finish with the top.
  • Mix your remaining cup of frosting with the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder. Add a small amount of water, if needed, until frosting is piping consistency. In my experience, a medium consistency frosting works best here and can best be described as frosting that, when peaked, will droop slightly without collapsing back into the blow.
  • Fill piping bag with this frosting and pipe away! I did simple swirls but you can get as fancy as you’d like.
  • Top each swirl with one piece of candy.

easter cake

 

Technique adapted from The Cake Blog

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole wheat sandwich bread recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a fluffy, healthy, 100% whole wheat sandwich bread that is fluffy and mild tasting. This is a homemade bread good for kids to eat. Makes great toast and sandwiches. Made soft with vital wheat germ. Naturally sweetened with honey. Find the recipe on thewoodandspoon.com

Everyone has their things.

Growing up, my mom was a stickler for writing thank you notes.

If someone gave you a birthday present, you wrote a thank you. If someone gave you graduation money, you wrote a thank you. Heck, if someone gave you a piece of gum or shared a glass of water, that was probably worth a note too.

My dad had his things as well. He believed in waking with the sun. Sleeping in, according to him, was a waste of perfectly good morning hours and an obvious sign of laziness.  So on Saturday mornings around 6:30 a.m., he would call up the stairs, “Good morning, Kate,” and I was expected to be downstairs ASAP. This was incredibly painful for 14 year old me as I had probably stayed up till 2 am watching reruns of “Saved By The Bell” or “TRL” (I see you, Carson Daly).

photo of whole wheat sandwich bread

I remember, at the time, hating these things my parents believed in. I would complain about having to awkwardly write a long, drawn out note instead of just calling to say thank you like all my other friends did. After all, I had a super fancy, brand new Nokia phone, and it was good for things other than playing Snake… maybe, I think.

Similarly, I was always the weirdo kid awake at 7 a.m. at slumber parties and church lock-ins, laying in my sleeping bag for hours, pretending to still be asleep and not the girl whose stomach was growling in protest from the delayed breakfast hour.

I never really got my parents. Now, so much makes sense.

My abhorrence for thank you notes has been replaced with a deep spirit of gratitude. Scouring TJ Maxx for discount stationary or spending $5 on a fancy letter-pressed card  is totally acceptable to me because there’s something  so romantic and sincere about putting pen to paper.  In the same way, I am now a tried and true morning girl. A creature of habit, my recipe for a perfect morning (every morning) is 10 ounces of coffee, 1 tablespoon of almond coffee creamer, and a few moments of quiet before the baby wakes up and the opening credits of a busy day starts rolling.

Thank you notes and early mornings fit me like a glove. They’re familiar and feel good to my soul. They’re my bread and butter.

whole wheat sandwich bread

On that note, I have a recipe for you. This is my go-to recipe for whole wheat sandwich bread. It’s excellent toasted with peanut butter and honey, and equally delicious with thick slices of tomato, cheese, and basil sandwiched in between. It’s 100% fluffy, moist, and (hooray!) whole wheat.  If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great recipe to start with as no bread machine or stand mixer with dough hook is required.

Read the instructions carefully before starting and make sure you set aside enough time for the proper rise. If you don’t let you bread rise enough prior to baking, you won’t get the height and fluff we’re looking for here. And let’s be honest- bread without fluff? Why bother? 

Watch this quick tutorial for a how-to on shaping sandwich bread loaves if you need the run down.

 

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole wheat sandwich bread recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a fluffy, healthy, 100% whole wheat sandwich bread that is fluffy and mild tasting. This is a homemade bread good for kids to eat. Makes great toast and sandwiches. Made soft with vital wheat germ. Naturally sweetened with honey. Find the recipe on thewoodandspoon.com

100% whole wheat sandwich bread that is super simple, slightly sweet, and totally delicious.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 90
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 mL) warm water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 gm) active dy yeast
  • 11/4 cup (300 mL) milk (I use 2%), room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) light oil (canola, vegetable, or extra light olive oil)
  • 5 cups (600 gm) of whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons (20 gm) of vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tablespoon (20 gm) salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the water and allow to dissolve, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the milk, honey and oil. Add 2 cups of the flour, salt, and gluten, stirring just until combined. Add the remaining flour and stir until dough is a fairly uniform, shaggy dough.
  3. Allow the dough to rest 30 minutes.
  4. In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or by hand, if preferred) knead dough until dough is smooth and only slightly tacky, about 7-8 minutes. If dough is too sticky, add up to 1/2 cup of additional whole wheat flour.
  5. Spray a large bowl lightly with baking spray and place dough inside, covering tightly with a sheet of Saran wrap. Allow to rest in a warm spot for about 1-1/2 hours, or until dough has risen and is approximately double in size.
  6. Once risen, remove dough from bowl and separate in to two equal pieces, handling the dough as little as possible. Gently form the dough balls in to small loaf shapes.
  7. Place dough in to two separate loaf pans (8.5″ X 4.5″ X 2.75″) that have been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with Saran wrap and allow to rise again for about 45 minutes, or until the dough has just barely risen over the top of the pan. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  8. Once risen, place loaves in the oven and immediately decrease the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until loaves have browned and sound hollow when tapped on the top.
  9. Allow to cool in pan for ten minutes and then remove to finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Notes

  • It is vital that bread rises well prior to being baked. If your bread is not rising well, place loaves in a slightly warmer spot in your kitchen. I let my bread rise next to a warm oven.
  • Allow bread to cool completely prior to slicing.
  • Bread will keep on the counter for several days but will keep best in the refrigerator for up to 6-7 days. There’s no preservatives in this stuff so it won’t last as long as your supermarket bread- eat fast!
  • Wrapped securely in aluminum foil, bread will keep in a freezer for up to four months.

No-Churn Mocha Brownie Fudge Ice Cream

no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a simple ice cream that requires no maker or machine. It's whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk, flavored with brownie mix (i like ghiradelli) and filling with dark hot fudge sauce and bits of brownie pieces. A pinch of espresso powder helps to bring out the coffee flavor in this chocolate lover dream ice cream. Find the recipe for this creamy summertime favorite, best no churn ice cream on thewoodandspoon.com
Pickles and ice cream- the stereotypical pregnancy craving foods. I will validate 50% of this theory because ice cream has definitely been on my radar lately. In fact, if I had to sum up my pregnancy cravings in one food, it just might be today’s recipe: no-churn mocha fudge brownie ice cream. Yeah, I know, it’s a mouthful. But so is this ice cream, so you’re gonna want to stick around for this one.

At the time of writing this, I am 26 weeks pregnant and just days away from entering my third trimester. According to the pregnancy app on my phone, the baby that I’m currently growing is approximately the size of a green onion. Let’s pause here for a minute, because I really need someone to explain this to me. I have a masters degree in science and I still don’t understand how a baby that small can make me feel about the size of a small tug boat. How can a green onion cause even small features like my nose and chin to feel bloated? And what about all this heartburn? Does requiring an Alka-Seltzer after eating nothing more than a slice of toast sound like the mischievous workings of a green onion? I don’t think so. Whoever is coming up with these food/baby comparisons (and I’m thinking it’s gotta be a man) should consider modifying this method of measurement and stick with something that is a little more gentle on a mama’s heart. I don’t want to look at the scale and see that I’ve gained X number of pounds, only to be told that my baby is the size of an avocado pit. That is just rude. 

no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream

But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about ice cream.
I’m a huge fan of making ice cream the old fashioned way but sometimes you just ain’t got time for that. This no-churn ice cream recipe comes together pretty quickly, requires zero stovetop cooking, and BONUS:
BROWNIES.
I decided to take easy street on this recipe by using Ghiradelli box brownies, but you could certainly make yours from scratch if you’d like and we will all pat you on the back for being an overachiever.
 
We start the ice cream making process by baking up a small pan of good ‘ole boxed brownies with the chic addition of a little bit of espresso, just because. Incidentally, if your toddler eats half of the brownies before you even get started- don’t worry. There will be plenty.
no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream
Once the brownies are cooled and diced, we whip up the rest of the ingredients. Here’s where you will win for being an overachiever: use homemade whipped cream. It’s better that way.  no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream
Add some reserved brownie mix, a bit of Kahlua (because we’re all grown ups here), some hot fudge, and POOF- ice cream.
The hardest part of this process is not actually making the ice cream… it’s waiting for your ice cream to set up in the freezer. You can do like I did and set aside the unfrozen leftovers in the fridge to feed your man friend for dessert. My husband, always the sophisticated palate, said the unfrozen mocha ice cream was “the best thing I’d ever made.” Really? The best thing I’ve ever made is unfrozen ice cream with boxed brownies chopped up in it? [Shakes head]
no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream
The terrific thing about this method of ice cream making is that it’s super adaptable to a number of flavors, and start to finish, this process can take less than an hour. Magic. So give no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream a try. I hear green onions really dig ice cream so if you need me, I’ll be camped out by the freezer. You know, for the baby.
no-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream

 

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No-Churn Mocha Brownie Fudge Ice Cream

no-chno-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a simple ice cream that requires no maker or machine. It's whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk, flavored with brownie mix (i like ghiradelli) and filling with dark hot fudge sauce and bits of brownie pieces. A pinch of espresso powder helps to bring out the coffee flavor in this chocolate lover dream ice cream. Find the recipe for this creamy summertime favorite, best no churn ice cream on thewoodandspoon.comurn mocha brownie fudge ice cream

No-churn mocha brownie fudge ice cream: rich, smooth, no-churn mocha ice cream laced with fudge and brownie pieces.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Total Time: 30
Scale

Ingredients

For the brownie pieces

  • 1 (20 ounce) box of dark chocolate brownie mix, divided
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg

For the ice cream

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons of coffee liqueur
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup hot fudge sauce, melted and cooled slightly

Instructions

To prepare the brownies

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray an 8″ metal baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Measure out 1-1/4 cups of brownie mix, sifting out any chocolate chips, and set aside. This will be used later in ice cream.
  3. In a bowl, stir together oil, water, and egg until combined. Add the instant espresso and remaining brownie mix, stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are barely set and the center still looks barely underbaked. Brownies will continue to cook once taken out of oven. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the ice cream

  1. Cut brownies into 1/2″ squares. Set in freezer while preparing other ingredients to keep cool.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, coffee liqueur and 1-1/4 cups of the reserved brownie mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the cold, heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
  4. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk mixture. Once combined, fold in the remaining whipped cream. Fold in 1-1/2 cups of the brownie pieces until well combined.
  5. Spoon the brownie ice cream mixture into a standard loaf pan until about 1/3 of the way filled. Drizzle in a bit of hot fudge and drop in a few brownies pieces as well. Repeat this process until the loaf pan is filled.
  6. Allow to set up in a freezer for at least 6 hours.

Notes

  • For a stronger brownie flavor, you can use all of the reserved 1-1/2 cups of brownie mix in the ice cream.
  • The addition of the coffee liquor helps to keep the ice cream smooth and from freezing too hard. If you don’t care for the taste, try adding another type of liquor in its place. If you’d prefer not to use alcohol, be sure to set the ice cream out a couple minutes prior to eating to maintain good scoopability.
  • If you do a really good job about folding your ice cream together gently, you will likely have a cup of the mixture that will not fit in the loaf pan. Feel free to set this aside or freeze in another container.

Banana Cream Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

banana cream pie with oatmeal cookie crust recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. A simple press in crust made up of store bought crunchy crisp oatmeal cookies (i use gmomma's) is filled with a vanilla and banana flavored pastry cream and slices of real bananas. The whole thing is topped with whipped cream and extra banana for garnish. This recipe is a great summer or spring time cream pie recipe and can easily feed a crowd at your next gathering or party. Find the recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

A few weekends back, I traveled to Orlando for a belated 10 year high school reunion. Being the product of the late 80’s/ early 90’s that I am, the words “high school reunion” bring me mental pictures of Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” in their Easter egg-toned lamé  outfits just before they fly off via helicopter into the sunset. I’m completely unashamed to report that “High School Musical” also comes to mind, and I seriously (and not so secretly) wish that Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens would reunite down the road for their own musically-inspired version of a reunion. At what age is it inappropriate for me to admit things like that?

From what I’ve gathered from movies, television, and limited personal experience (all legit sources, right?), reuniting with friends from your past can be terrifying for a lot of people, and understandably so, given that the teenage years are often flooded with a crap-shoot of drama, hormones, bullies, and insecurities. So naturally, leading up to this weekend, I thought a lot about the past, listened to a bunch of old burned CD’s, and even looked through a few photo albums from my pre-college years, trying to prepare myself for whatever the night may entail. Even on my way to the reunion, I half expected fear to rear its ugly head along with a million and one of my petty insecurities.

banana cream pie with oatmeal cookie crust 

I’m happy to report that the evening was splendid. I’ll attribute a majority of the painlessness to the fact that I had a truly enjoyable and relatively easy high school experience, marked by loads of fun memories and only a smattering of truly heartbreaking and cringe-worthy ones. Only a handful of people showed up to the dinner gathering, but that kept an element of intimacy, relaxedness, and fun that a larger party of people perhaps would have squashed. It definitely helped that I had my high school and current best friend, Jesse, there as the ultimate wingman/sidekick, but the rest of that lack of anxiety, I have decided, can be attributed to newer attempts I’ve made to genuinely be OK with the person I am right now. This has been one of my goals for 2016: Being OK with me.

I want to be truly content with my life. I want to be proud of who I am. I want to be confident in what I can offer.

I want to walk through life free from shame of who I’ve been or fear that I don’t measure up.

I want to be excited about my life and feel free to relish in the million things I have to be joyful about.

I want to see my present life as something worth sharing with people I haven’t seen in 10+ years, and I want to do so without any hint of sadness at “what could have been.”

I want to know and believe that who I am and what I have is enough, this year and for another ten years.

That’s the person I want to be. 

Admittedly, I have a long way to go. But that’s why it’s a goal and not something I’ve already checked off my list. It’s something worth striving after. 

banana cream pie with oatmeal cookie crust

Another something worth striving after? Perfect banana cream pie.

Have you ever made a cream pie from scratch, only to have it fail to set up and turn into a sloppy tin of pudding? Well, I have. That’s just about every cream pie I’ve ever made. That is, until recently. I ran across this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated and decided to try a variation of it. This recipe uses less liquid than others I’d tried in the past, so I was pretty optimistic that this could be the makings of a winner. It did not disappoint. And because I was feeling extra jazzy, I added an additional layer of bananas AND a cookie crumble crust. Mercy. 

I’m planning to attempt converting this to a coconut cream and chocolate cream pie recipe in the near future, so cross your fingers, legs, and whatever else in hopes that they are as successful as this bad boy was. And if your sweet tooth is calling your name this week, you should make this pie. You should also probably rent “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and cry laugh while you eat it with someone awesome… bonus points if you’ve been friends since high school. 

banana cream pie with oatmeal cookie crust

 

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Banana Cream Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

banana cream pie with oatmeal cookie crust recipe by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. A simple press in crust made up of store bought crunchy crisp oatmeal cookies (i use gmomma's) is filled with a vanilla and banana flavored pastry cream and slices of real bananas. The whole thing is topped with whipped cream and extra banana for garnish. This recipe is a great summer or spring time cream pie recipe and can easily feed a crowd at your next gathering or party. Find the recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

A traditional banana cream pie made special with an oatmeal cookie crust.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 10 1x
Scale

Ingredients

For the cookie crust

  • 6 ounces of crunchy oatmeal cookie crumbs (I used GMommas Buddascotch Oatmeal, but another crunchy oatmeal cookie could be substituted)
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon salt (depending on salt preference)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large bananas

For the topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

To prepare the cookie crust

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor or by hand, finely chop cookies/crumbs into a coarse consistency, adding the remaining crust ingredients towards the end. Mix to combine. The mixture should resemble wet, coarse sand.
  3. Press the crust in to a standard 9″ pie plate. (There will not be enough crumbs to coat a deep dish plate)
  4. Bake until the crust begins to firm up, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

To prepare the filling

  1. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium saucepan.
  2. Whisk in the egg yolks, followed by the heavy cream and milk, until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. The mixture will slowly thicken to a loose pudding consistency. Be sure to whisk constantly while mixture thickens, otherwise you will have clumpy pudding as opposed to a uniformly smooth pudding.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and stir the pudding through a fine mesh strainer to remove any clumps.
  5. Return the mixture back to the pan, but off the heat, and gently stir in the butter and vanilla.
  6. Allow mixture to cool slightly, stirring once or twice a minute, for about five minutes.

To assemble the pie

  1. Thinly slice (about 1/8th”) a layer of bananas over the bottom of the pie crust. I used about 3/4 of a banana for this.
  2. Spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the banana layer.
  3. Repeat the layering of banana slices once more, topping with the remaining pudding.
  4. Smooth the top and place a piece of Saran wrap directly on top of the pudding. Allow to cool in the refrigerator at least for 4-5 hours, but preferably overnight.
  5. When ready to serve, whip the remaining heavy cream with a hand or stand mixer, starting on low speed and increasing to high.
  6. Add sugar along the way and turn the mixer off when stiff peaks have formed.
  7. On low, stir in the vanilla until combined.
  8. Keep pie refrigerated until ready to serve and garnish with extra banana if desired!

Notes

  • Cooking your filling enough is really important. You’re looking for a consistency similar to a loose pudding. It will thicken slightly as it cools, but you don’t want to quit the cooking process while the filling is still soupy.
  • Try to avoid over-stirring the filling after it has been cooked. This can cause it to loosen up.
  • Before decorating, I sliced the remaining banana slices and put them in a bath of one cup of water and the juice of half of a lemon. This will slow the browning process and allow you to decorate with bananas a little ahead of time. Note that bananas will still brown slightly given enough time.

Recipe Adapted From: Cook’s Illustrated

Breakfast Danish

breakfast danish by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a rough puff pastry made by laminating dough, rolled out and filled with winter fruits like apples, cherries, cranberries, and other bourbon soaked fruit. Learn how to make laminated dough and how to braid a danish dough. Turns into golden, flaky, pastry once baked. Recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

Brett made a scrunchy face at me and meticulously picked through the remains of his breakfast danish. “There’s a lot of fruit in here”, he said.

“Get out of the kitchen”, I replied.

I usually encourage constructive criticism when it comes to recipes and baking, but this danish had taken so much research, preparation, and use of my spare time that I wanted nothing short of glowing reviews. My husband, though, sometimes a bit more honest than my pride can bear, had already given away how he really felt about the pastry that contained hours of my love, sweat, and flour. He went on the lament of all of the “raisins” in the danish, even as I repeatedly confirmed to him that they were dried cherries.

“CHERRIES. They are dried cherries. It’s legitimately dried fruit soaked in bourbon and then baked into a delicious, flakey crust. How is that ever a bad thing? Explain. Now.”

I usually try to heed most of my husband’s likes and desires but this was one instance where the degree to which he was wrong was no match for how oh-so right the pastry was.

braided breakfast danish fruit filling

At the start of this year, we visited Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN. I high recommend it. Anyone who would kind of consider themselves a foodie, or even anyone that just really likes to eat, would find themselves at home among the never-ending parade of seemingly perfect meals that we were served the entirety of our stay. The resort is small, intimate, and classically Southern, and they are known for their culinary and wine program.

On the last morning of our trip, we sat down for brunch and my attention was immediately directed to my left where BJ Novak (you probably know him as Ryan, the temporary hire on “The Office”) was dining with three other people. I was literally seconds away from approaching him to ask if we could FaceTime Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapour) so I could fangirl  her and talk about her new book that had me near-pants-wetting the entire time I read it. Right about that time, our waitress brought to our table a complimentary treat: breakfast danish. Let’s talk about that danish.

Actually, I may need a minute to just cherish the memory of that pastry.

Blackberry Farm- you know how to do it. You see all the other restaurants and resorts serving club crackers and cold biscuits as their complimentary bread basket and you decide to Michael-Jordan-slam-dunk-from-the-free-throw-line all over their faces. No, this was not your run of the mill bread basket. 

That danish was of another world. That danish tasted as though it was made entirely of butter and fairy dust. That danish was melt in your mouth, rich, buttery, flaky, tender pastry wrapped around a tart and spicy fruit filling.

braided breakfast danish fruit filling

It was beyond. And I knew I had to have it. After scouring the internet for a recipe that seemed worthwhile, I ran across a recipe by efore I tell you the recipe, a few thoughts that I will share in rhetoric:

  • Is this a ridiculously simple recipe? No. This recipe can look a bit overwhelming from the front end and it is not a mere one or two steps.
  • Is this a recipe that I can prepare in an hour start to finish? Absolutely not. This will take you a chunk of time and is best worked through in short phases throughout the day.
  • Is this a recipe that will melt my face off? Yes. Prepare your face for its day of melting. This is a recipe that is worth every second of meltage and more.

braided breakfast danish fruit filling

I recommend reading the recipe start to finish a few times so you’re kind of prepared for what’s ahead. For additional notes, be sure to check out the original recipe for the pastry as well.

And by the way, BJ Novak, if you ever read this by some random strike of luck or coincidence, tell Mindy Kaling I say what’s up and that we should be best friends. That is all. 

braided breakfast danish fruit filling

 

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Breakfast Danish

breakfast danish by the wood and spoon blog by kate wood. This is a rough puff pastry made by laminating dough, rolled out and filled with winter fruits like apples, cherries, cranberries, and other bourbon soaked fruit. Learn how to make laminated dough and how to braid a danish dough. Turns into golden, flaky, pastry once baked. Recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

A tender, flaky pastry crust braided and baked around a sweet and tart blend of winter fruits.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 90
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Scale

Ingredients

For the danish dough (Recipe by Samantha Seneviratne)

  • 1 ½ cups bread flour, plus more for rolling dough
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup cold whole milk

For the winter fruit filling

  • 13 dried apricots, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons good quality bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg

Instructions

To prepare the dough

  1. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse to combine until butter is distributed in pea-sized pieces throughout the flour. Put the flour mixture in a medium bowl.
  2. In a separate, small bowl, whisk the egg and milk with 2 tablespoons of water. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Fold the mixture until the liquid is evenly distributed, being careful to not overwork the dough. Dump the contents of the bowl out on to a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Chill for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to an 8-by-15-inch rectangle. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the rolling and folding process. Dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking, rotate, roll, and fold a final time, ending with a small, rectangular piece of dough. Wrap the dough in Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time. You will have rolled and folded the dough six times. If the dough becomes loose or tacky, place in the fridge to rest for a bit. Wrap the dough and place in the fridge for 2 hours or up to overnight.

To prepare the filling

  1. Combine the apricots, cherries, and bourbon in a 4 quart saucepan over low heat with just enough water to almost cover the fruit. Allow to simmer over low heat until fruit has plumped and some of the liquid has been absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes total. Set aside the fruit and its liquid in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pan over medium heat, combine butter, apples, brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, dried fruit, and lemon juice. Bring to a bubble and reduce heat to low, cooking for 5-7 minutes or until apples have softened slightly but are not mushy. During this time, slowly add liquid reserved from the dried fruit so that the filling remains a moist a syrupy consistency but never watery. You may not use all of the reserved liquid. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Allow to cool in the refrigerator.

To assemble the pastry

  1. Roll the pastry dough out in a 11×14″ rectangle on a lightly floured piece of parchment.
  2. Using the back of a knife, mark off a 3″ section of dough running the length of the pastry. Be careful not to break all the way through the pastry. This will serve as your guideline of where the fruit filling will go.
  3. Starting at one end and working your way the entire length of both sides of dough, make 1″cuts perpendicular to the lines you first created, dragging your knife from the barrier line to the end of the dough.These will be the pieces of dough you braid over the top of your fruit filling. Cut off the top and bottom 1″ strips, leaving just a center “flap” on either end.
  4. Beat an egg in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of water and apply a thin coat of this egg wash over the braiding strips and end flap.
  5. Spoon your filling in to the 3″ partitioned section of dough, discarding any extra watery liquid that may have gathered in the bowl.
  6. Fold the center end flaps up and over the fruit. Starting at one end of the pastry, braid your strips, in a slightly downward angle. When you get to the end of the pastry, fold your strips over and lightly press to ensure that the pastry has adhered and sealed.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Move the parchment to a cookie sheet and cover with saran wrap, allowing the pastry to rise. It will puff up slightly and bounce back at your touch.
  8. Brush the remaining egg wash all over the top of pastry. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, gently turning the pan halfway through. Remove from oven when the pastry is flaky and golden. Cool on a cooling rack until just warm. Serve warm with a simple powdered sugar or brown butter glaze.

Recipe Adapted From: Samantha Seneviratne

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog BY Kate Wood. This is a simple crumbly butter cookie inspired by Emeril Lagasse brown sugar shortbread bars. Buttery cutout shortbread cookies that can be slice and make. Drizzle with chocolate or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Find the simple, easy, few ingredient recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

My husband says I have a Type A personality. While I would suggest that I’m somewhere between a Type A and Type B personality, I do see some inclinations that support his thinking. Time urgency, impatience, and a short-fused temper are all tendencies that I wear frequently like a behavioral scarlet letter, however, this is often offset by a sprinkling of Type B attributes.

One area I typically lean a little Type A heavy? Decluttering.

I love a good clean-out. I love a freshly organized drawer. I love a trip to Goodwill with a car full of stuff. It’s kinda like when you get a new manicure or like that first day of school when you get to crack open that box of pens and write for the first time in a crisp, new notebook. It’s a new lease on life!

Over Christmas, my friend Jesse told me about a book by Marie Kondo, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Curious, I purchased a copy, and after a fairly substantial skim of the book, I was in. I drank the Kondo Kool-Aid. The next day, I began to tidy.

To say that this method of cleaning was life-altering is an understatement. Whole-heartedly, unabashedly, I will tell you that this book has changed my home and life, maybe forever.

Kondo’s method of “tidying” (or as I would describe it, total-home overhauling) is a systematic process of sorting through categories of items in your home by discarding any belongings that don’t spark joy. Yes, I actually handled nearly every item in my home and asked myself the question, “Does this item bring me joy?” Quite often, the answer was no. That item got the boot.
Of course, there were exceptions. Hammers and dental floss and pencil sharpeners aren’t among things that bring me an abundance of happiness, but they do help to achieve other things that I do enjoy- art hanging on the walls, satisfactory gum health, and a newly sharpened pencil so that I can jot down thoughts to share with you kind folks. So those necessary, everyday items sometimes got to stay.

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

It took me 6 days, 20 garbage bags, and 2 trips to the massage therapist after I overdid it with my large, pregnant self before I was able to phone Goodwill to pick up my load. And ohhh, it was a load. 98% of the items in those bags were mine; I was living in such excess and I didn’t even realize it. Years of buying new storage bins and more plastic hangers and new drawer organizers was like trying to put a band-aid on the huge, gaping wound that was simply TOO. MUCH. STUFF.

The week long clear-out rid me of piles of things I no longer cared for, and likely, an infinite amount of future purchases I am now less likely to make. While I didn’t follow every facet of the book’s proposed methods, I can tell you that the ones I chose to utilize brought me an incredible amount of joy and lifted a burden of “stuff” that I didn’t even know I was carrying. I have recomended this book to countless people over the past month and now I’m passing this tidbit along to you: DO IT.  It’s fantastic. Bless someone else with your stuff and see how much easier it is to breathe when you don’t have piles of “unnecessary” staring at you in every closet.

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

Another tidbit? These shortbread. Ohhhhh, these shortbread.

Buttery, rich cookies that are addictive and practically beg for a cup of coffee. You cannot eat just one, but take it from my personal experience: you don’t want to eat more than three at a time unless you want a bellyache combined with an irrational desire to EAT. MORE. COOKIES. 

This is a recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse, and it’s one of the first things I remember baking as a teenager. Emeril’s recipe calls for baking a very similar dough in a springform pan (so delicious), but I find cookies are easier to share with friends. I’ve included two variations for these cookies: one with a cinnamon sugar topping and one drizzled with chocolate. I lean more towards the warm cinnamon flavors for this cookie, but certainly chocolate is never a bad choice. I’ll also mention that I prefer the thicker, smaller cookies as descibed in the instructions, although you’ll notice I went thinner and wider for the cookies I photographed. Either way, these cookies are incredibly worthwhile and a must-have in your arsenal of shortbread cookies. (Sidenote: if you’re the type of person who has arsenals of things like cookies, I want to know you. Let’s be friends). 

Check out Marie Kondo’s book while you’re at it. 

 

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

 

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Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Brown sugar shortbread cookies Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog BY Kate Wood. This is a simple crumbly butter cookie inspired by Emeril Lagasse brown sugar shortbread bars. Buttery cutout shortbread cookies that can be slice and make. Drizzle with chocolate or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Find the simple, easy, few ingredient recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

These buttery brown sugar shortbread cookies are sweet, rich, and perfect for dessert or with an afternoon cup of coffee.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 20 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar, reserved (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, reserved (optional)
  • chocolate ganache, chocolate melting wafers, or melted semisweet chocolate chips for drizzling (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour brown sugar, and salt together until well combined. Add butter chunks and vanilla to dry ingredients and pulse together until a dough forms into one ball. Try not to overwork the dough, but keep in mind this dough is dry and will take more time to come together than some. Flatten dough out into a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roll dough out to 1/4″ thickness. (See notes) Using a biscuit cutter or a 2 1/2″ round cutter, cut out cookies and place on a parchment lined baking sheet at least 2″ apart. If desired, combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over cookies. This will turn your regular old brown sugar shortbread to cinnamon sugar shortbread! If your dough has gotten warm or soft, pop in the freezer for 5 minutes to set cookie’s shape.
  3. Baked for about 12 minutes or just until edges have set. Cool on a cooling rack and if desired, drizzle with warmed chocolate. 

Notes

  • For cinnamon brown sugar shortbread, sprinkle cookies liberally with cinnamon and sugar mixture before baking. If chocolate dipped brown sugar shortbread cookies is what you’re after, apply after cookies have been baked and cooled.
  • The cookies as photographed were rolled to 1/4″ thickness and cut with a 2-1/2″ biscuit cutter. For a more traditional shortbread cookie shape, roll a smidge thicker and cut with a smaller 2″ round cutter. Any shape cookie cutter will do. Baking time will differ based on cookie shape so keep an eye on them in the oven and remove when edges are set and are just barely beginning to brown.

Recipe Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog by Kate Wood. This is the best recipe for a one bowl, soft, moist and fluffy chocolate cake recipe. This cake is made with dark dutch process cocoa and a little espresso coffee powder. Made with oil not butter. This is the best chocolate layer cake recipe you will find and it is so easy! Makes a one layer or layered cake recipe. Find out some helpful tips and technique for making perfect cakes every time on thewoodandspoon.com

Everyone has a go to recipe. It’s the one you’ve made so frequently that you’ve nearly memorized it.  It’s the one you carry with pride into a party and it’s the one you submit to the church cookbook at the end of the year. 

A word on this. Who are the people that are still submitting recipes for gelatinous salads? Are we still eating these things? Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the 1950’s. Unless you’re pouring up that jello mold because you have plans to recreate that scene from “The Office” where Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in a bundt pan of Jell-O then please, let me urge you to reconsider. Maybe it’s my years of working at hospitals or the emotional scarring I’ve endured from having a husband who would rather eat a pudding pack than have a slice of homemade cake, but let the record show that if you bring me Jell-o, or any other food that wiggles in such taunting audacity, we are no longer friends.

I have very few recipes that I’ve created all on my own that I think are really solid, but many to boast of that other creative minds have come up with. One is for chocolate cake. When I first learned about how cool food blogs were, I was testing recipes for my wedding cake. I came across Rosie Alyea’s blog Sweetapolita and fell in major like with her chocolate cake recipe. I have yet to find another one, or even a modification of this one, that tastes better than it currently stands: dark, rich, and incredible fluffy. It’s the recipe I use for everything from wedding cakes to everyday trifles. And because every recipe deserves a fair trial, I have made a pros and cons list:

Pros

  • It’s a one bowl recipe
  • It uses oil instead of butter, so no waiting for butter to soften 
  • It uses dark cocoa powder so no need to chop up bars of chocolate
  • Is easily adaptable to make more or fewer layers
  • Stays fresh for days after baking
  • Freezes well when wrapped in Saran Wrap and foil

 

Cons

  • You will love this cake and subsequently try to eat it all before you’ve even frosted it. Then, when you show up with a tiny one layer cake instead of the 3 layer cake you promised, your friends will ridicule/judge you on account of you eating all of some poor kid’s birthday cake. As a result, you won’t be invited to birthday outings with your friends any longer and everyone will hate you. So basically, if you want to be invited to parties and not be shunned by everyone you’ve ever known, don’t bake this cake. You’ve been warned.Chocolate Cake

This is pretty much all you need to know about this recipe, however, I wanted to share some more tips on cake baking. I haven’t been baking long, but as a self-taught, amateur baker, I know that freebie tips on cake baking are worth their weight in gold. So here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Use room temperature ingredients. The ingredients in most cake recipes will emulsify together better when not at extreme temperatures. So what do you do when you forget to set your ingredients out in advance? Set your eggs in a cup of warm water to quickly bring to room temperature and feel free to nuke milk in the microwave at a low temperature in 10 second intervals till it’s no longer ice cold. As for the butter: consider slicing it into tablespoon pads and resting at room temperature while you set out the rest of your ingredients, or, nuke in the microwave for 8 seconds per side of butter.
  2. Use parchment paper. Yes, it can be a pain to cut out rounds of parchment, but I use it every time. Why? Because the only thing more annoying that cutting out parchment rounds is baking a beautiful cake only to have chunks of it remain stuck to the innards of your pan. If you’re feeling really aggressive, you can purchase pre-cut rounds of parchment online and they make life so much easier. Just do it.
  3. Do not overmix. If you read a recipe that says “mix just until combined”, do just that. Overmixing your batter will cause your cake to be chewy and dense… not usually what we’re going for.
  4. Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. If you open your cabinet and the baking soda says it expired in 2009, throw it out. I’m talking to you, Mom.
  5. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, don’t fret! I sometimes will use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every scant cup of milk when I need a quick substitute for real buttermilk. Works like a charm.
  6. Don’t overbake! Toothpicks cost like, $1 at the store. And I’m pretty sure you can steal them from hostess stands at most chain restaurants. So keep some on hand and when the cake looks just barely firm in the middle and is no longer jiggling in the pan, test it. Moist crumbs should come out. If it’s not done, set the timer for one minute and try again. And in the midst of all that checking, try not to open and close the oven too much. You’ll end up with a  cake crater big enough to put your face in. On second thought, this isn’t such a terrible outcome so do whatever you want. No judgement here.
  7. Allow to cool a bit in the pan before flipping out on to a cooling rack.

 

For more on chocolate cakes, check out my Instagram here — typically chocolate cake overload. I’ll be sharing some decorating how-to’s in the near future so stay tuned!

 

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Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

This recipe for chocolate cake is rich, moist, easy to make, and the only recipe you’ll ever need for chocolate cake.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
Scale

Ingredients

  • 21/4 cups (270 gm) all-purpose flour
  • 21/4 cups (450 gm) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (60 gm) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 21/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 21/4 teaspoons corn starch
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs (180 gm), room temperature
  • 11/4 cups (300 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (180 mL) black coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
  • 11/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 (8″) round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, loosely combine all of the wet ingredients and these to the bowl of the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed for just shy of 2 minutes, scraping the bowl (and bottom of bowl!) twice throughout.
  3. Pour equal amounts of batter in to all 3 pans. Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is just barely set and toothpick comes out of cake almost clean. Allow to cool in the pans and on a cooling rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pans to continue the cooling process. Cake will stay fresh for several days if covered, or, for one month if wrapped well in saran wrap and frozen in freezer.

Recipe Adapted From: Rosie Alyea