Financiers are a French petit-four cake, traditionally made with brown butter and almond flour. Adding chocolate to the mix makes for a next-level brownie that we can’t get enough of. We wanted intense chocolate flavor so we ditched the bittersweet chocolate and went up on the unsweetened.
Stuffed apricots are an iconic Turkish dessert. We found that by tweaking the sugar concentration of the syrup, we could simultaneously cook, candy, and rehydrate our apricots.
I don’t do well with compliments.When someone praises me or my baked goods, I usually try to brush it off. This never works, of course, and I’ve slowly gotten better at just graciously saying “Thank you.” But you can imagine my embarrassment when a mutual friend introduced me to Ruth Reichl, the famous food writer and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine—and immediately my friend told her that not only was I writing a cookbook, but that I also made the best babka she had ever tasted! Ms. Reichl peered at me through her glasses as if she were sizing me up. Thankfully, she was very gracious and, sensing my discomfort, changed the subject, and we had a lovely conversation about New Zealand instead. But if I ever have a chance to meet her again, I’ll bake her this babka.
Among my German friends, there may be no Christmas cookie more popular than the beautiful Zimtsterne: thick and chewy star-shaped cookies topped with a drift of white meringue that shatters under your teeth. Just the mention of them never fails to elicit deep longing sighs and a faraway look in people’s eyes. Flavored only with cinnamon and the naturally toasty flavor of roasted almonds, Zimtsterne are a study in what is possible with simple ingredients and a little elbow grease. Making Zimtsterne requires some stamina. The dough is sticky, fine motor skills are required for painting on the meringue, and you need lots of counter space to let them dry overnight before baking them. But the effort is all worthwhile. There is much debate about how to bake Zimtsterne so that the cookie stays soft and chewy and the meringue as white as possible. I’ve tried every method out there, but find that drying the cookies overnight and then baking them briefly is the best way.
Once fully cooled, Springerle must be stored in airtight containers, where they will keep for months. Do not eat them right away; they need time to develop their flavor and, more important, their texture. When they are freshly made, in the first few weeks or so, they will be crunchy on the outside but, when pressed, their crust will shatter slightly, giving way to a soft interior. As time goes on, they will get harder and harder, eventually getting so hard that you’ll be able to eat them only after dunking them in hot tea. I prefer Springerle when they get this hard, but others prefer to keep them soft. To do so, store the cookies with a piece of bread or a chunk of apple, which will supply them with moisture and keep them soft (replace the bread or apple every few days) .
You’ll need bacon, Ritz crackers, sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, chocolate chips
File under “Things You Should Only Eat Once a Year.” Ritz Cracker Bacon Brickle is an over-the-top sweet, salty, and crunchy confection perfect for Winnimere and
Boxing Day parties.
In a nonstick medium sauté pan, cook 4 chopped bacon slices (I use Vermont Smoke & Cure Maple Brined Thick Sliced Bacon) over medium heat until crisp. Transfer
with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with aluminum foil, leaving extra foil overhanging the edges. Put 25 Ritz crackers in a single layer in the
prepared pan, completely covering the bottom of the pan.
In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and the reserved bacon fat and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook until the mixture turns
light brown and has a nutty aroma, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and the bacon.
Pour the sugar mixture over the crackers and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips over the hot brickle. Return to
the oven and bake until the chocolate has completely melted, about 2 minutes. Smooth the chocolate out with a heatproof spatula and cool completely on a wire rack.
Lift the brickle from the pan by the edges of the foil. With the foil still in place, wrap the brickle tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight. The following day,
carefully peel away the foil, wrap the brickle in plastic wrap, and freeze until ready to serve. Break the brickle into serving size pieces and serve frozen.
Store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
If you can't find blanched sliced almonds, grind slivered almonds for the batter and use unblanched sliced almonds for the topping. Serve plain or with whipped cream.
Dorie Greenspan: "What I know for sure is that everyone who has these cookies smiles and smiles are pretty powerful."
It’s hard to decide what’s best about this cookie. The texture’s a definite attention-grabber: It has a slight flakiness at first and then it’s all melt. The flavors of the rosemary and Parmesan, one of those meant-to-be matches, are front and center.
Never underestimate the pleasures of meringue. Simple to the point of plain, meringue delivers delight with every messy bite. As neat as you may be, it’s impossible to eat a meringue without producing a pile of shards and crumbs, and that’s part of the cookie’s charm.