Ultimate Cinnamon Buns



3/4 cup warm whole milk (110 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant/rapid-rise yeast (one packet)
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces and softened


1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 stick)


1 1/2 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon whole milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Dough

Make foil sling for 13x9 inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan.

Grease foil.

Whisk milk and yeast together in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix 4 1/4 cups flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. Add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.

Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes (if dough is still wet and stick, add up to 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it releases from bowl). Turn out dough onto counter and knead to form smooth, round ball.

Transfer dough to medium greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to middle oven rack. Pour 3 cups boiling water into loaf pan into oven, close oven door, and let dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

3. For the Filling: 

Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Remove dough from oven and turn out onto lightly floured counter.

Roll dough into 18-inch square and, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, spread with butter, then sprinkle evenly with sugar mixture and lightly press sugar mixture into dough.

Starting with short edge, roll dough into tight cylinder, pinch lightly to seal seam, and cut into 8 pieces.







Transfer pieces, cut side up, to prepared pan.

Cover with plastic and let rise in oven until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

The sliced buns, ready for their second rise.


4. For the Glaze:

Remove buns and water pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk all ingredients together in medium bowl until smooth. Remove plastic and bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 35-40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.


Transfer to wire rack, top buns with 1/2 cup glaze, and let cool for 30 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze.

Serve. And try and stop with just one.

Dark Chocolate-Cherry Ganache Bars

I'm always on the lookout for new "bar" recipes. I enjoy bars more than brownies (a bold statement, I know), but usually just because bars tend to be a bit more complex than brownies. There are "layers" to bars, more bits and pieces to experiment and fiddle about with.
And they tend not to invoke the almighty kerfuffle that brownies do. You know the one. Cake-like brownies versus fudge-like brownies. Wars have been fought over less.

Bars circumvent this debate entirely because there are literally no limits to their potential.

These, for example, have a nice cocoa-rich shortbread base, an absolute no-no on the brownie front. They also feature (as you can tell from the photo) thick top layer of pure dark chocolate ganache. Now, I suppose that puts them on the "fudge" side of things, but really, that's over-simplifying. Ganache is a horse of an entirely different color, a little bit more delicate than your standard fudge-y brownie.

But, like any fudge brownie, they are dense. I mean, dense. Cutting these into anything resembling brownie shapes would send most people into diabetic shock. For the sake of your audience, cut these as small as you dare. Slivers, even. Trust me, you'll get enough chocolate to last you a lifetime.

Time: 1 hour, plus chilling time


150 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

90 grams confectioners’ sugar (about 3/4 cup)

26 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons dark cherry jam (to be fair, raspberry or strawberry would probably work just as well here)

340 grams bittersweet (dark) chocolate, at least 62 percent, chopped (12 ounces)

2/3 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons kirsch, rum, brandy or other spirit

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, for sprinkling.

1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and fine sea salt. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture just comes together into a smooth mass. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press the dough into the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.

2. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the shortbread until firm to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Brush jam over shortbread’s surface and let cool thoroughly.

4. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the kirsch. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle fleur de sel on. Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Slice and serve.

Yield: 18 bars.

Pumpkin-Pecan Pie with Whiskey Butter Sauce

Yes, you read that title correctly. Not just a pumpkin pie. Not just a pecan pie. Not just whiskey. All three. Combined.

Paula Deen, eat your heart out.

Now this recipe does require a bit of backstory. Around Thanksgiving time, I discovered the *one* store in Oxford that sold canned pumpkin, the necessary ingredient for the time-honored classic of pumpkin pie. Not knowing when I'd find another supply, I immediately bought 4 or 5 cans, thinking surely I'd use it over the course of the year.

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and those cans of pumpkin puree sit unused on my kitchen shelf. Knowing I have a flatmate who has a certain penchant for pumpkin pie, the Super Bowl seemed as good a time as any to pull one out and revisit the wonders of Thanksgiving desserts. But making just a pumpkin pie didn't seem quite right. Not for the Super Bowl. It had to be, well, super.

And so I went recipe trawling. And almost immediately I found a Texan recipe (surprise, surprise) for the gastronomic sugary feast that is the pecan pumpkin pie. Not only did it combine two pies in one, it feature whiskey in the sauce. And not "burn the alcohol off while making this" whiskey. No, no. Straight up "mix it with some cream and serve" whiskey sauce. Eat too much of this pie and you'll not only get diabetes, but you'll get one heck of a hangover. Be warned.

But this pie is delicious. Amazingly delicious. Yes, it's sweet. But not overwhelmingly so. The muted flavors of the pumpkin pie balance out the rich treacle that is the pecan element. Combine that with creamy whiskey, and well, you've got heaven on a plate. Thanks again, Lone Star State.

Yield: Makes on 8-inch pie

Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (113.4 grams)
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Pumpkin Filling
1 cup cooked pumpkin purée
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pecan Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup (this is almost impossible to find in the UK, I recommend a combination of 1/2 cup golden syrup and 1/4 cup black treacle)
2 small eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (14.18 grams)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
3/4 cup pecan pieces
Whiskey Butter Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick) (56.7 grams)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon very hot water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (or Scotch single malt, which is what I had available)


Pie Crust
Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and incorporate with your fingertips until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture in tablespoon increments, stirring continuously with a fork. Form the dough into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pumpkin Filling
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Pecan Syrup
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°F  (163 degrees C). Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to 3/16 inch. Very lightly flour the top of the dough and fold it into quarters. Carefully place the dough in the greased cake pan. Press firmly in place and trim the edges. Chill for 15 minutes.

Spoon the Pumpkin Filling into the pan, spreading evenly to distribute. Gently pour the Pecan Syrup on top. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool and serve with Whiskey Butter Sauce.

Whiskey Butter Sauce
Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler set over gently simmering water.

Beat the sugar and egg in a small bowl until blended. Stir the egg mixture into the butter. Add the hot water and stir until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from the double boiler and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the cream and whiskey.

Strawberry Crisp with Pine Nut Topping

This dessert suffers from an identity crisis. Or rather a vocabulary crisis. Yes, I've called it a crisp, but what differentiates it from a crumble, a grunt, a brown betty, or a cobbler?
Now, from what wikipedia tells me, the cobbler (and its derivations, including the crisp) is the US equivalent of the UK crumble. Now I've made far more crumbles in my life than cobblers, most of them in the US. What makes one belong on the eastern side of the Atlantic or the western side, I still have no idea.
All I know is that whatever you call it, this crumble/crisp/grunt/brown betty/cobbler is one of my favorite desserts of all time. A delicious fruity sweet confection, topped with some combination of oats, sugar, flour, and spices.
Why Bittman wanted to mess with this time-honored combination, I have no idea. But there he went, putting pine nuts with it.
Why? Who knows?
I never had a crumble in my life and thought "Wow, you know what would make this perfect? Pine nuts."
But I was curious. What if it was amazing? What if it raised crumbles (etc.) to a whole new plane of existence? How could I not try it? I even had (absurdly expensive) pine nuts on hand! The recipe was calling to be made.

How did it turn out?
Well, it tasted....like a crumble. Despite the avowed 1/2 cup of ground pine nuts added to the crumble topping, there was no new depth of flavor to be had. It tasted like the good ol' combination of oats, flour, sugar, etc. No new boundaries of cuisine pushed here. So, while the product was certainly scrumptious (I mean, there's nothing wrong with a crumble tasting like a regular crumble), but I don't think pine nuts will be making a permanent addition to my dessert culinary standards.
Ah well, at least we tried it. Better luck next time, Bitty.

6 cups strawberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup crushed pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Toss strawberries with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch; spread in a greased 8-or-9-inch pan.

2. Combine brown sugar, butter, rolled oats, flour, pine nuts, cinnamon, a dash of salt (and almond extract if you like) in a food processor (bah, don't be lazy, just stir by hand).

3. Crumble over fruit and bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes.

Spicy Smoky S'mores Bars

Oh s'mores. Simple yet enduringly delicious. And, surprisingly perhaps, quintessentially American. I attribute this to the lack of the campfire concept in Britain. Although I haven't been camping here myself, I have had enough North American friends go off packing into the wilds of Cornwall or Somerset to come back and bemoan the lack of a proper campfire. Apparently it's just "not done" in England. Tis a shame. For without campfires there cannot be a proper s'more experience. 

But it's not just the campfire. Not really. No, this country will never appreciate the s'more until graham crackers are accepted here. Because honestly, when a recipe (if you can even call the directions for s'mores that) calls for only three ingredients, you'd better have all three. I don't care what they say about using biscuits (the British kind, mind you), tea cakes, cookies, what have you. There is something strangely unique about the graham cracker. And its presence (or lack thereof) will make or break any good s'more recipe.

I digress.

I miss s'mores, sure. But I hadn't thought about them in years. Not until a recently published article on Slate talked about the wonders of cooking shows and their potential to get you to, well, cook. Now, I haven't seen the show which this recipe comes from (Ann Thornton, we salute you) but this recipe is living proof that not just shows can get you to cook, articles about cooking shows can get you to cook equally as well (ok, well, maybe I'm a captive audience, but still). As soon as the article mentioned something about s'mores bars with chipotle chile, there was no going back. As the article said: I had to make them.

So I did.

But alas. I am in a graham-cracker free country. The fact that usually suppresses any lingering urge in me to make s'mores. But no. This was too delicious-looking a recipe to pass up. I would press on. And so I found myself trawling the biscuit aisle of Tesco, vainly in search of something that resembled the quintessential American graham cracker. In the end, I decided on a mixture of butter and ginger biscuits. Yes, yes, I know. Twas not a graham cracker. Biscuits are too sugary- too full of butter. They don't have the glorious thin "crispness" of the graham cracker. But desperate times, people. Desperate times.

And did I mention these things are ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS? Oh goodness. You can't get enough of them. They feature the same magical simple goodness as original s'mores, the kind that leaves you wondering how just a few ingredients can turn into utter bliss. These things are dangerous, I warn you now.

Made even more so by the fact that the recipe is simple as pie. Despite lack of graham, the biscuit base did just as well (I mean, honestly, they're biscuits. They were not going to taste horrible). True, it was not the original s'more all Americans know and love, but these bars are so more-ish (to use a British phrase) anyway that you forgive them their shortcomings. True s'mores will have to wait for American soil, but in the meantime, these will do quite nicely.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more, softened, for pan
18 plain graham crackers (about 2 packages) (or, if in Britain, a combination of ginger and butter biscuits, probably around 15-20 in total)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup (or 1 bar) dark chocolate (I used Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate)
3/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile power
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows

The graham cracker (ok, biscuit) crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (or approximately 175 C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil. You want to leave about 4 inches of overhang on the 2 opposite sides. These are going to serve as your handles to remove the bars from the pan in 1 piece, so make sure that there is enough of the overhang for you to have a solid grip. Grease the foil well with the softened butter.

In your food processor (or in a plastic bag), grind the graham crackers into a fine meal (you need 2 cups). In a large bowl, combine your crumbs with the sugar, sea salt and melted butter. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Set aside a heaping 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture for the topping. Evenly press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom the foil-lined pan. Pop your crust into the oven and bake until it is golden brown and your kitchen smells of graham crackers, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack or on a dishtowel on your counter.

The bars, pre-broiler

Melt the milk chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously until fully melted. Do not turn up the heat to hurry this process, you must keep it on low. Alternately, you can microwave the chocolate on low power, stirring after 2 minutes. Once the chocolate is fully melted, it's time to add various chile powders, if using, and stir it in completely.

Preheat the broiler.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cooled graham cracker crust. Spread the chocolate evenly over the crust with a butter knife. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the chocolate and press them lightly into the chocolate. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over and in between the marshmallows so that you cannot see the chocolate peaking through the marshmallows. Broil the bars 6 inches from the flame until the marshmallows are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate is hard, 2 hours or so. Grab the ends of the foil liner and lift the bars out of the pan in 1 piece. Move to a cutting board and cut into 24 squares.