Something magical happened the day I decided to dump a container of fresh ricotta into my standard biscuit recipe. I thought I would get lumps and layers of cheese in the biscuits, but I got something better than that. The ricotta melts into the biscuit in most places and creates a fluffy crumb that I had been trying to achieve for years but never knew the secret to. These are dangerously addictive. Proceed with caution.
With its incredibly rich, nuanced, bittersweet flavor, from-scratch butterscotch pudding is worlds away from the dull, sweet kind you get from an instant mix. But making butterscotch pudding can be temperamental: A custard is combined with homemade caramel, and the usual approach of boiling it from start to finish is tricky in a blink-and-you've-burned-it way. Our method is forgiving: Boil the caramel to jump-start it, then reduce the heat and gently simmer it until it reaches the right temperature. Most recipes have you temper the yolks and cornstarch, add everything to the dairy in the pot, and stir away. We swapped this fussy method in favor of pouring the boiling caramel directly over the thickening agents. When taking the temperature of the caramel in step 1, tilt the saucepan and move the thermometer back and forth to equalize hot and cool spots.
Some of my most memorable recipe breakthroughs are a result of error, mistakes, and happenstance. I try to reframe even the most upsetting accidents as a potential victory or chance for growth: Does it help me examine a recipe or dish from another angle? Is there something I can learn from my failure? Can I repurpose my mistake in some way? The answer is yes!
In the process of revising my favorite biscotti recipe, I accidentally doubled the amount of butter and sugar. Butter isn’t even a traditional ingredient in biscotti, so what happens when you add twice as much? In the oven, the log spreads like inching lava, finally settling into a flat, bronzed disc. Once the disk is cooled, sliced into thin spears, and baked again, the result is a super-crisp cookie, studded with toasted fennel seeds, dark chocolate, and whole hazelnuts.
A small tumbler of vin santo or espresso for dunking would be a heavenly accompaniment. Cheers to happy accidents and faux biscotti.
Hot puddings are a great thing to make and eat in the cold weather, there is something so comforting and warming about them. Whether you enjoy this with cold ice cream, add more depth with some double cream, or just enjoy it on its own, this chocolate pudding has a lovely puddle of sauce at the bottom. The addition of cinnamon and cardamom would make anyone go for seconds.
A fruit galette is the workhorse of the sweet kitchen. Freeing yourself from the confines of a pie plate is so liberating. Somehow, no matter how a galette slumps, breaks, or browns, it’s always beautiful. Glory lies in irregularity. Unlike a deep fruit pie, which tends to harbor too much liquid, galettes always leak a little bit. Rest easy. That’s a good thing! It seems to me that exactly the right amount of liquid creeps out so that what’s left inside is a nicely thickened fruit filling with sweet, concentrated flavor, and a crisp bottom crust. The secret is to remove it from the parchment paper while it’s still warm and the leaked juices haven’t solidified. A bonus is that galettes cool much faster than pies. You are closer to dessert bliss than you think.
Extra-juicy, extra-jammy strawberry shortcakes all done up with a splash of bourbon and buttery rye biscuits: Can you think of a better way to celebrate summer? Truth is, I didn’t grow up eating shortcakes, but now that I’m an adult, they are one of my favorite sweets. They’re always easy to throw together, but these are special. Instead of using just any ol’ biscuit recipe, I worked in some rye flour. The brightness of strawberries works so well with the heartier rye, and while the biscuits are still buttery and flaky, they really hold up against the superjuicy berries. That splash of bourbon ties everything together in a beautiful, warming way, though you can easily leave it out if you prefer. If you have strawberries on hand and don’t know what to do with them, you NEED to make these shortcakes. You just do. You can also swap out the strawberries for any other berry you love, or use a mix of all your favorites!
When I was living in Basque country, just outside San Sebastian, I became obsessed with several Spanish sweets. Torrija and Basque cheesecake, especially. There is a pintxos bar in the old town of San Sebastian called La Vina, where they specialise in one thing: tarta de queso, or cheesecake. This is literally the only thing I would go there to eat. They bake approximately ten to fourteen cheesecakes a day, all dark topped and paper ruffled, and they always sell out. This is my version. It works well with acidic fruits such as apricots and citrus. I’ve also made it with poached quince and topped with wild fennel seeds, which was a huge hit. You can either make one large cake or several small ones. If you are going for individual cakes, reduce the baking time to 15 minutes.
Strawberry cake's a southern celebration, often appearing on Juneteenth picnic tables. Traditionally, it's plain cake layered with strawberry buttercream. I've always wanted more strawberry flavor, so I put it in the cake and topping here. Dehydrated strawberries, now sold everywhere as snacks, moisten and soften in a cream cake batter, delivering super berry sweetness. Fresh berries get to shine all by themselves, sitting pretty in a whipped cream cloud.
What’s not to love? A sweet and salty pretzel base, fresh strawberries barely held together with their own juices, and a whipped coconut cream topping. This is something I remember eating during the peak of hot Nebraska summers. I always tried to scrape more than my fair share of the salty pretzels on the bottom.
This recipe comes to us from chef Hugh Acheson and his book Pick a Pickle. You can also try his recipe for Pickled Blueberries. Acheson discusses more things to consider when pickling fruits and vegetables with Francis Lam during the listener question segment of our episode "How Restaurants Are Dealing." He also suggests two great pickling and food preservation resources, the Ball Jar website and University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation.