December 20, 2017

Almond Roca shortbread

As I mentioned before, I tend to think of shortbread and icebox cookies at this time of year.  If you're like me, you've probably had quite a few batches of Christmas cookies coming out of the kitchen and been savoring plenty of holiday goodies in general.  That said, let's squeeze in one more recipe for this holiday season.
Have you ever had Almond Roca?  They are small log-shaped buttercrunch/toffee coated in chocolate and almonds.  Growing up, they were the only candies I can remember my mother liking.  I used to eat them, too, and while they weren't my very favorite, I certainly enjoyed them and loved scraping off the chocolate and almond coating and then biting into that crunchy toffee center.
Last month, I caught a cookie roundup over at Kelly's blog (I do enjoy seeing all the holiday recipe roundups and gift guides at this time of year) and saw a recipe for Almond Roca made me think of all those red tins of Almond Roca we used to have around the house during the holidays or around Chinese New Year.  

So I thought it would be fun to make these cookies, which are essentially shortbread with sliced almonds and toffee bits folded in.  To simplify things a little bit, I used chocolate-coated toffee bits (instead of plain) and omitted the chocolate coating on top of the baked shortbread.  
These were a fun version of shortbread to make and eat!  They have that classic sandy texture with extra crunch from the almonds and toffee bits.  If you like nuts and crunch in your cookies, this Almond Roca shortbread is a great rendition to try one day.

December 12, 2017

Checkerboard icebox cookies

It goes without saying that the clock ticks on and that seems never more true than during the holidays, around December, when time is precious and it really flies.  That said, I've been making an effort to be organized and realistic in my December plans.  I think I'm doing well this year - I don't feel rushed and I'm savoring the season, which means simple things like family gatherings, an outing or two to see the lights and sights of the city, and time to enjoy all the wonderful seasonal treats.
I love seeing, buying, and enjoying all the festive holiday goodies at this time of year!  I can hardly resist a colorful box or any kind of foil-wrapped chocolates.  I make sure we indulge in plenty of that along with some homemade treats. Holiday baking is a real pleasure and I love days when the kitchen turns into a mini cookie factory and I churn out a batch or two of Christmas cookies.  
Come this time of year, I think of all kinds of cookies but particularly, I think of shortbread and icebox type cookies - the sandy, crumbly cookies that I frankly don't make too often otherwise.  They always seem to hit the spot - a great accompaniment to a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.  The slice-and-bake kind of cookies are also convenient, great for impromptu enjoyment or for gift-giving.   

For fun, I recently tried a batch of checkerboard icebox cookies.  Not only is the pattern fun (like that Battenberg cake I made a while back) but you also get to combine two classic flavors - vanilla and chocolate - in one cookie.  Best of both worlds!
I was afraid the cookie might be tricky to pull off but the recipe comes from The Perfect Cookie book by America's Test Kitchen, which gave me the convenience to tackle it.  It really was easy to do and the cookies came together like a charm.  I'm happy with how my first attempt turned out and the pattern of the cookie is not only fun to see but tasty to eat.  I think we were partial to the chocolate part of these checkerboard cookies but that probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me.

December 1, 2017

Red velvet crackle cookies

"Operation: Make/Eat Christmas Cookies" is in full swing!  Basically, I make it a leisurely monthlong process at my house.  I make cookies, we eat cookies, and we repeat this simple process.  I know some people make Christmas cookies in one frenzied swoop right before the big day and I love this idea of turning my house into a cookie factory for a day with a massive output but I never could figure out how to make that work.  Stretching it out, generally enjoying it a batch at a time, works for us and that's what we do throughout late November and December.  
So in the spirit of making and eating cookies during the holiday season, here's my latest contribution.  No surprise "crackle" (or "crinkle") cookies make an appearance because they usually do.  Their snow-topped appearance makes them perfect for the winter and holiday time.  I've made a few versions and I'm always looking for another to try during this time of year.  When I saw this recipe for red velvet crackle cookies, I knew I'd found the one for this holiday season.
I saw the recipe in this lovely Holiday Cookies book.  Naturally, I liked the red velvet aspect - the color fitting for the holiday season.  I also liked that the recipe had not only cocoa in it but also melted chocolate.  And brown, rather than granulated, sugar suggested a nice soft, moist texture that appeals to us.  Sure enough, these red velvet crackles were very chocolaty and moist.  They are chocolate crackle cookies dressed in red for the holidays!

November 25, 2017

Chocolate peppermint sugar cookies

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!  Now that the big meal is behind us, we can officially start making Christmas cookies!  I look forward to this moment all year long because the ritual of making cookies - filling the house with the aromas of sugar, butter, spice, and, of course, chocolate - and sharing these special morsels with loved ones, or to gift to others, is a big part of the holidays for me.
I'm so excited to be in my little kitchen baking cookies for the holidays.  Last year this time, we were living in a bit of a construction zone as we renovated our kitchen. Because of that, there was very little in the way of homemade cookies, or any cooking or baking in general, and I missed it dearly. 
It aways seems like there's so little time to make, eat, and share cookies during the holiday season so let's start early and savor it the best we can.  My agenda's pretty full with a few family favorites that I have to make but I also like to fit in a few new (to me) recipes.   So I started by making these chocolate peppermint cookies, which are delightfully soft and chewy on the inside while a coating of granulated sugar on them a light crunch on the outside.
These cookies are based on The Sweet and Simple Kitchen's chocolate espresso sugar cookie recipe.  I love the texture combination of a chewy interior and crackly exterior but as good as espresso sounds, I wanted to go for with peppermint flavor for the holidays (very much like these cookies).  I went fairly easy on the peppermint so that in the end, you have a soft and chewy chocolate sugar cookie with a cooling peppermint effect in your mouth.

November 16, 2017


Once fall arrives, I live in anticipation of the holiday season - that fairy tale world of twinkling lights, cozy family time, gift-giving, and gatherings over a good meal.  Sweets and treats are surely part of that image and regardless of how close reality is to fantasy when it comes to the holidays, I find myself impatient, with fingers tapping, wondering when I can start baking Christmas cookies already!  
Cookies are coming...but aside from cookies (and lots of chocolates - this is when I stock up on some extra special chocolates), I also think of warm indulgent drinks to sip and savor.  I tried Barcelona hot chocolate a couple of winters ago and it became our Christmas morning drink.  I recently auditioned another contender with this Bicerin (pronounced: bee-chair-EEN), a coffee and chocolate drink native to Turin (Torino), Italy.

Torino is a part of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy.  When I think Piedmont, I think hazelnuts and given my love of all things chocolate-and-hazelnuts, I always pay attention to anything associated with Piedmont.  Well, this drink, Bicerin, which translates into "small glass" in Piedmontese (for how the drink was originally served), has been around since the 18th century when it was served at the cafe, Al Bicerin.  But forget the small glass; after trying it, I want as big a glass as I can get my hands on!  
This delicious drink consists of three parts: a base layer of rich hot chocolate, followed by strong coffee or espresso, topped with a final layer of lightly whipped cream.  It's rich and absolutely delicious for any fan of the coffee and chocolate combination.  

I have been wanting to try David Lebovitz's recipe for Bicerin for a long time and I am very happy I finally have.  Even dialing down the amount of chocolate I used for the base layer and using my regular drip coffee, the drink turned out sensational.  It was a great accompaniment to breakfast on a cold morning last weekend.
The nice thing about making things at home is you can customize it to your liking.  Maybe you prefer your drink with a little less hot chocolate and a bit more coffee, or the reverse.  Use espresso instead of strong coffee if you have it.  And instead of whipped cream, you could top it with milk foam for a lighter version.  I prefer mine with plenty of rich chocolate flavor and the whipped cream was a wonderful treat.  It's great to see the layers in the drink (if you look closely) but I like giving it a stir before taking a good sip and enjoying that wonderfully robust chocolate and coffee combination.  It will warm and cheer you right up!

November 9, 2017

Maryland fudge cake

I love when I see something tasty yet simple that has me hopping into the kitchen for a little baking therapy.  A couple of days ago, I saw this recipe for a Maryland fudge cake at Food52 that immediately tempted me.  I was lured by the simple, uncomplicated process and, frankly, the plain fact that I'd end up with a fudge cake at the end of it all.  I mean, how bad can that be?  The answer is, not bad at all.
I made a small 6-inch version of the cake - more like a torte, which I always think of as relatively thin, single-layer cakes, usually made with nuts.  This cake/torte is a lot like a brownie.  It puffs as it bakes and you end up with a crackly top and a crust, especially along the edges, which are almost hard in a wonderfully dense and chewy kind of way.  At its core, it is meltingly moist and sweet.  Offsetting the sweetness, studs of toasted walnuts give the cake a ton of texture and flavor.  
This cake is easy to make, a great little simple after-dinner treat to slice up and share.  I opted out of the thin layer of chocolate frosting you can make and top this cake with.  I think it's sweet and moist enough already without it.  The cake tastes great plain, also good with a little whipped cream on the side.  Ultimately though, I recommend it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 
It's so interesting to learn about regional cooking, as in the case of this Maryland fudge cake, a recipe found in a publication from the 1960's.  Also interestingly enough, I had recently seen a show featuring Smith Island Cake (Smith Island being off the mainland coast of Maryland; the cake is considered the "official" dessert of the state of Maryland).  I was tempted by it but Smith Island Cake is a far more complicated affair - featuring as many as 15 thin layers of cake alternating with thin layers of fudge!  You can probably imagine why I choose to dive into this far simpler fudge cake for the time being.  

October 19, 2017

Ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote

I spend a lot of time thinking about weekend breakfast...they make me happy and I think it's natural to want to think about things that bring you joy.  I love that first meal of the day, sitting down to something savory or something sweet and unwinding over a few cups of coffee.  We're always digging into a constant array of pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, or something similar.  I love making all our family favorites (it's a good thing there are quite a few) and I also love it when I get to try a little something new.
This was my first time making ricotta pancakes. I had them once in a restaurant and I remember the lightness to them.  I hadn't really thought about it but after making sour cream pancakes recently, I thought "how about ricotta?".  Inspired by that whim, I bought some whole milk ricotta and we enjoyed a batch of ricotta pancakes last weekend.  
Ricotta pancakes are light and fluffy, yet rich and hearty.  They're a little extra moist and a bit creamy.  In other words, they make a lovely weekend breakfast.

They taste great with the usual drizzle of maple syrup but I topped them with a blueberry compote, which is very easy to make using straight-from-the-freezer frozen blueberries.  I was inspired by the signature pancakes I see on my instagram feed from Clinton Street Baking Co., a restaurant in NYC.  I've yet to eat there (warnings about the long wait deters this homebody) but the photos of their pancakes topped with blueberry compote, as well as their other comfort foods, totally call out to me!
Pancakes are a great canvas - fine eaten plain but better with maple syrup, spread with jam or Nutella, or topped with fruit or a berry compote like this.  I recommend them all on weekend mornings!  And I counted this as another happy breakfast I was grateful to share with my family.  

The food isn't as important as the company and conversations that go with it at the breakfast table but it sure helps to have something yummy to gather over.  To that end, I'm always open to new inspirations! 

October 13, 2017

One-bowl oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (made with oil)

In general, I'm a fan of baking with oil and those recipes always appeal to me.  I suppose I feel somewhat "virtuous" using oil instead of butter, plus there's the convenience factor of not having to bring butter to room temperature, as you often need to do before the mixing and baking can begin.
Honestly, it doesn't take all that much to tempt me to bake a batch of cookies!  And this recipe from Half Baked Harvest was particularly tempting since it's just so simple - one bowl to mix everyone up, as you see below. And when a recipe is touted as a mom's specialty and one of the best around, I know I have to try it. 
The secret's in the oil.  The lineup of ingredients include the typical roster you'd expect in an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie but instead of butter, softened and creamed with sugar, you stir in canola oil.  The result is a somewhat crumbly, moist dough.  

I'd say the only tricky part of the recipe is molding the dough balls.  It doesn't want to stick together so you can't simply scoop the dough.  Instead, take spoonfuls of it and squeeze it together in your palm to pack it into a ball.  Be mindful to take some of the chocolate chips and incorporate it into the dough and on top to make sure you evenly distribute them among the cookies.
The little bit of finagling with the cookie dough balls was certainly a worthwhile effort.  In about 12 minutes, I had lovely little mounds of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter.  The cookies have a great texture - thick, chewy, and moist.  They are chock full of chocolate from a generous amount of chocolate chips.   
I liked these cookies best a bit warm...the chocolate flavor is more intense and the caramel notes in the cookie seem to stand out more.  Enjoy them fresh from the oven if possible but you can always warm them for 10 seconds or so in the microwave.  Cooled, the cookies are still great - with a firm yet moist and chewy texture.  

My son is a big fan of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and these have his stamp of approval - whether warm or cooled!  That always makes a mom feel like she's accomplished a mission.  

October 3, 2017

Dinner lately ...

My, how time flies!  I hope life has been good lately.  I'm nestling into fall and in this sometimes crazy world that we live in, I find comfort and a little insulation in a good book and, of course, in the kitchen - by cooking meals to enjoy with my family.  

Recently, I've been trying some new things on the savory side.  I'm still baking but leaning on the treasure trove of great recipes I've already discovered from the past 6 years of blogging.  Since I wanted to pop in here and say "hello", I thought I'd indulge in a little dinner "show-and-tell" today. No specific recipes per se (in most cases, I took ideas from several recipes at a time) but just a little walk through of dinner lately around here...please pardon the hodgepodge of different-quality photos; many of them are my casual Instagram snaps, taken when lighting is not at its best around dinnertime.  

First up, there was my stuffed peppers project.
When we went to Charleston, we had a lovely dinner at Magnolia's where I had the most amazing vegetarian dish.  I wasn't exactly sure what would arrive but it turned out to be stuffed peppers, filled with the chewiest rice and topped with pepperjack cheese and a sweet tomato chutney.
It inspired me to make my own at home.  While the version I came up with was quite different from the amazing restaurant dish, it had similarities and I was very happy with dinner that night!  I filled my peppers with jasmine rice (cooked in chicken stock and some saffron), onions and corn sautéed with a touch of curry powder, garlic, and herbs, diced tomatoes, and some ground turkey.  The pepperjack cheese adds just the right touch of richness, making them all the more satisfying.

September 20, 2017

One-skillet beef mac & cheese

This easy, one-pan, beef mac & cheese immediately became a favorite at my house after I tried the recipe a few months back.  It is one of my son's favorite dishes and he can devour it in minutes (and could likely eat the entire pan himself if you let him). So after making it so many times, I thought I'd post it here on the blog for quick reference; I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots before the sunset as I plated it for dinner last week.
And with summer essentially in the rear view mirror (how did that happen!) and the change to cooler temps making us crave heartier meals, macaroni and cheese comes to the rescue.  This one-skillet dish comes together in less than 30 minutes so it's easy enough for busy weeknights.  

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Christina Lane's blog, Dessert for Two.  My son loves a bunch of her recipes, which I make over and over again. This skillet mac & cheese recipe is one and it comes from her savory cookbook, Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two. Honestly, my son could eat the entire skillet so as time went on, I've snuck in a bit more meat and pasta (as much as I can without overflowing my 10-inch skillet) to amp up the portion.  If you're feeding more than two people as a main for dinner, I suggest some garlic bread and/or a big platter of roasted vegetables to go alongside.  
This macaroni and cheese gets its creaminess and thickness from a combination of milk, water, cornstarch, and, of course, cheese - cheddar cheese, to be exact.  The cheddar gives it such a great familiar flavor but I've also made this with some pepper jack cheese thrown in, and since it melts so well, it gives the mac & cheese a great texture.  In other words, don't be afraid to personalize it.  

I think the same goes on the flavor front when it comes to the spices.  A mix of spices including chili powder and smoked paprika give this mac & cheese a nice smokey flavor but I've experimented with different proportions and I sometimes throw in other spices from my spice box. When I first made this recipe, the flavors were a bit too strong for my son so I tampered down the spice levels.  But now...he's grown used to it and I'm pretty heavy handed with the spice.
Another way to mix and bulk this up - add some vegetables into your mac & cheese.  I often toss in some broccoli and when all else fails, there's always frozen peas on hand. It's fair to say that almost everything tastes good in a creamy cheese sauce!

September 12, 2017


A couple of weeks ago, I made tiramisu for a very special occasion.  Not only did I recently celebrate a big birthday, my brother - who's ten years old than I am - marked a milestone birthday of his own!
About a week before my brother's big birthday, my sister in law planned a family gathering to celebrate not only his birthday but ones for two of my nephews (late August and early early September is a busy time!).  There was champagne and nibbles, ice cream cake for the kids, and we planned to go out to dinner.  I wanted to contribute a little something to the at-home festivities and I knew it would be tiramisu.

My brother orders tiramisu for dessert almost every time we go out.  It might well be that we tend to go to an Italian restaurant when my siblings and I go out to dinner together but all the same, tiramisu is just a favorite dessert of his (and my husband, too; it seems to be a "guy" thing). Before this, I'd made individual tiramisu but I'd never done the traditional classic version in a larger serving pan.
I was a little nervous about this.  Making something you haven't really made before for a special occasion - even when it's just family who wouldn't mind if things aren't exactly stellar - is a bit daunting.  This is the time when you do some homework, cross your fingers, and get to work.

Making this tiramisu wasn't without some minor hitches but all was well.  My tiramisu, with amaretto as the liqueur of choice, turned out just fine.  I'm told it was quite tasty, actually.  I have to say I enjoyed what I tasted very much even though I'm no expert.  The important thing is that the birthday boy said it was as good as any restaurant's, and I have to be satisfied with high praise like that!
The tiramisu I turned out is a compilation of a few recipes, leaning heavily on David Lebovitz's recipe I used previously for the individually portioned ones.  It uses egg yolks as well as egg whites (as opposed to heavy cream), which I think makes for a lighter texture and flavor.  We don't personally have issues with using raw eggs but you have to decide on your comfort level in that regard.
It's no wonder so many people love tiramisu.  It's rich and creamy, yet so light.  The coffee flavor, as well as amaretto liqueur in my case, gives it just the right kick.  
Photos of the sliced tiramisu above are actually from the second tiramisu I made.  My husband angled for his own "personal pan" and I was happy to oblige.

September 1, 2017

Chocolate Heaven in a cupcake

I realize it's not exactly a novelty for me to be here, ranting and raving about chocolate cake.  I mean, it was just a few months ago when I was swooning over those amazing ultimate chocolate cupcakes.  I can only assure you that I'm always sincere!
While I do like to "play the field" when it comes to chocolate cakes/cupcakes (and chocolate desserts in general), I have a lot of room in my heart to love a lot of recipes!  This gets proven again and again as I eat and discover all the wonderful chocolate cake renditions out there.  It's all about diversity and mixing things up.
So today, let me add another chocolate cupcake love affair to my list.  In a roundabout way, these cupcakes come by way of Savannah, Georgia.  You family and I went to Charleston, S.C., recently on vacation.  During that trip, we drove to Savannah one day.  Aside from wanting to see the lovely city, I really wanted to visit Back in the Day Bakery.  I am so happy we made the pilgrimage (particularly as I learned that they would be closed the following week for summer vacation)!  The place was as charming as I expected and the people might well have been sweeter than the treats.

While we were there, we tasted these mind-blowing Chocolate Heaven cupcakes.  We tried one and went right back for another!  They were amazingly moist, with a super fluffy, tender crumb.  The cupcakes packed some wonderful chocolate flavor and somehow the cap of chocolate sprinkles on top of the creamy frosting was just right. I fell hard for these chocolate cupcakes.
The amazing Chocolate Heaven cupcake at Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia
We didn't make it to the bakery that day until early afternoon.  By then, and given the fact that August is a slow month for Savannah, there wasn't a ton to choose from and I can only say that I'm so grateful there were still some of these chocolate cupcakes in the case!  Chocolate Heaven, indeed!  I wish we'd had time and space to try more of their treats but we'd just eaten lunch in Hilton Head, had plans to visit Leopold's next for ice cream, and had dinner reservations.  To say that I'd want to go back to Savannah just to have more food from Back in the Day Bakery is not an exaggeration. Hopefully, someday...

In the meantime, you know what I love to do...try to recreate something wonderful I ate on vacation, back home!  Since one of the lovely women working at the bakery told me these cupcakes were a relatively new addition, I didn't have high hopes of finding the recipe...until I looked and realized there is a Chocolate Heaven cake recipe in the first cookbook!!  Bingo!  I realized this would take me pretty close to what we enjoyed in Savannah so I took the cake recipe, reduced it down from a 3-layer cake, and turned out some cupcakes!
So how did my homemade version compare to the ones at the bakery?  The good news is they taste very much alike.  I realized that to make a good old-fashioned bake, it takes good-quality ingredients, time and love in the way of patience in the process.  Here specifically, I also think sour cream is one of the "secrets" as well as really good chocolate in the form of Scharffen Berger, and coffee.  
Not surprisingly, the ones at the bakery were superior.  While the home version were moist, the bakery cupcake was fluffier, with more of an open crumb.  My cupcakes baked up with slightly rounded tops while the bakery's were flat, making a great base for an even and generous layer of frosting.  I skimped in comparison when it came to frosting on my cupcakes but for all that, these cupcakes still transport you to heaven for a few moments while you're devouring them.  I would surely love to eat them again and again!
Don't skip the chocolate sprinkles on top of these cupcakes because for some reason, they are just so right here!  They somehow reinforce the whole chocolate experience. 

August 27, 2017

Vanilla cashew clusters

I adore cashews and I love making easy snack mixes that involve nuts - whether as a nibble for a party, to pack up and gift to friends, or just to have around as a snack.
These vanilla cashew clusters I spotted from The Kitchn were too easy to resist.  Did I mention I love cashews?  I really do, and these simply involve a bag of cashews that you toss with an egg white, (brown and granulated) sugar, a touch of cinnamon, and vanilla extract to give them a fun sweet flavor with a little spice.  Let the oven do the rest of the work, toasting the nuts and setting that sweet coating on top.
I made these for friends and I'm hoping they like cashews as much as I do.  I also brought some along to a gathering with my family; they're terrific with drinks.  You can also enjoy them with yogurt for breakfast, as a topping for an ice cream sundae, or just pack up a bag and take them along on a road trip or as a snack on the go.  

In other words, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these and plenty of reasons to make a batch!

August 20, 2017

Simple chocolate party cake

It's been a busy couple of weeks, filled with celebrations and a vacation. I recently celebrated a big birthday and we just got back from a wonderful trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  
Before all that, I happened to be looking at some beautiful bakes from Style Sweet CA on Instagram and then spotted a simple chocolate cake on the site that I thought would be fun to make with my son.  It reminded me of the Texas sheet cake we made together last summer and it, in fact, is that with a different type of chocolate frosting on top.  
Instead of making a sheet cake, we divided the cake recipe in half and made a single-layer 8-inch cake (I made just 1/3 the recipe for the frosting and it was more than enough).  I decided to tag this as a "simple chocolate party cake" instead of "easy chocolate sheet cake" as the original is called since I baked it in the round, which I think is a bit more formal looking.  If you bake it in sheet cake form, it's great to slice into small squares or rectangle servings for a crowd. 

The chocolate icing - given the high ratio of confectioners' sugar in it - is the kind that forms a bit of a dry crust on the surface.  It's not what I'd call "fudgy" (which I think of as a smoother, more creamy, chewy texture like this) so instead of calling it a fudge frosting recipe as I found it, I'd say it's more a classic American-style chocolate frosting/icing on this cake.
My son and I had fun in the kitchen preparing this cake.  It's nice to sneak a few moments together doing something simple like baking or cooking.  And the final reward of having a homemade cake can't be beat.  As with all things homemade with care, it seems to taste all the better.
His shirt says "Never Skip Cake" (not true, but would be a good line)
Incidentally, I realized that we made this cake just a couple of days before my birthday (okay...not so coincidental...I may have planned it that way!) so I can say my son helped make me a birthday cake this year!  If I sound desperate, sometimes I am.  

August 6, 2017

Walnut sticky buns (small-batch)

There's been a pattern developing...what with cinnamon rolls, babka, yeasted coffee cakes, and the like, coming out of my kitchen lately.  Making sweet rolls may not be the best habit to get into but I have to admit I find myself doing just that lately. Maybe I just need to get it out of my system?  That's the rationale I'm going with for now.
Since becoming smitten with homemade cinnamon rolls, I've been thinking about trying my hand at sticky buns.  It's the "logical" next step because while cinnamon rolls are decadent, you up the ante with sticky buns, which are like cinnamon rolls with an added sticky sweet caramel topping.  Once in a while, you just have to go for it.  Like I said, I think I need to get it out of my system. 

My lone defense in all this sweet roll-making is that at least I've (mostly) been sticking with small-batch recipes.  Here, I adapted the pecan sticky buns recipe from Dessert for Two, which makes 4 buns.
I made a few tweaks to the recipe, including using walnuts instead of pecans because pecans are not a family favorite.  Instead of baking the 4 sticky buns using a jumbo muffin pan (which I don't have but sometimes wish I did), I baked them in an 8-inch cake pan.  Lastly, I reduced the amount of butter in the filling by half in an ongoing attempt to enjoy decadent treat in the least decadent way.  Maybe it's silly and futile when we're making sweet treats like this but I can't help but try.
Baked sticky buns before they're flipped over to reveal the caramel tops
Things were not looking good for my first attempt at stick buns.  The dough, which didn't require kneading but I felt could have used some, was wetter than I expected so the buns were fragile to handle (that sounds funny, doesn't it).  I was also concerned that I didn't have enough of the sugar mixture at the bottom of the pan (though that turned out not to be a major issue).  But the worse offense I committed might have been not running a knife around the pan to loosen the buns around the edges before attempting the all-important flip.  Because of that, I have no presentable photos of all 4 buns flipped over together showing off their sticky caramel tops. Suffice it to say a bit of each bun stuck to the pan.
I thought we would just eat these sticky buns in all the messy stickiness and I'd forget about it for a while...but I took a bite, then some more, and realized I had to post it so I can sing their praises.  They are so tasty! Why was I surprised?  As with most things filled with butter and sugar, these sticky buns did not disappoint.  And I might add that any leftovers are mighty tasty the next morning, with just a few seconds in the microwave to warm them up.  All that sticky sweetness preserve them quite well!
From the slightly hardened, almost-crunchy, caramelized edges to the moist chewy soft centers, these sweet rolls filled and topped with toasted walnuts are rather addictive!  The way I look at it, instead of buying them outside, make them occasionally at home so you can indulge responsibly.  They are a worthy occasional splurge!  I find myself craving sweet comfort foods like these lately even in the midst of summer...not sure why it is but I'm getting it out of my system by enjoying my cravings in moderation.  A small-batch recipe is the answer.


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