Website remodel, and a coloring book page for you.

Oh, hi, you guys. I am in the process of re-modeling my website a bit, so excuse the growing pains as I make it "mobile friendly".

Meantime, I read an article recently about how coloring book pages designed for adults are the new thing--apparently they can act as a powerful mindfulness exercise. If I uploaded it correctly, you should be able to print this out in an appropriate size for coloring. If not, you can click here and download it in a variety of sizes. Enjoy!

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Double chocolate stout bread pudding with balt marley caramel. Sounds awesome! (Lost Recipes Found)

Rum chocolate pineapple brownies. Interesting. (Recipe for Perfection)

Common cooking mistakes...and how to combat them. (Craftsy)

Raspberry curd tart. I want it. (Tutti Dolci)

A guide to the iconic desserts of Kansas City. (KCUR.org)

Lemon cookie gelato. Please, can I marry this recipe? (How Sweet Eats)

No bake cookie butter bars. Be still my beating heart. (Wallflour Girl)

Bakerella's roundup of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream adventure! (Bakerella)

VERY early morning breakfast bars. I want one, or five. (Salt & Serenity)

Mango cookies. INTO IT. (Whipperberry)

Adventures in Bakebook-ing: a roundup of the totally sweet Sweetapolita blog book tour. (Sweetapolita)

Easy things to draw if you're just getting started. (Craftsy)

Westhaven cake. I'd try it. (Cooks.com)

5 foods to try in Canada. I could go for a beaver tail. (Eturbonews)

How about a Brooklyn egg cream crawl? (Airship Daily)

Ever tried a hedgehog slice? Don't worry, no actual hedgehogs were harmed in the making of. (Giramuk's Kitchen)

Caramelized white mocha meringue. Pinkies out! (Moonblush Baker)

Is rejection worse than death? (CakeSpy)

One response: is rejection worsee than death? (Slow Bloom)

Another response: is rejection worse than death? (Thick Dumpling Skin)

Check me out on the Food Psych Podcast! (Food Psych Podcast)

Book of the week: Betty Crocker's "Frankly Fancy" Foods Recipe Book. This retro recipe pamphlet is one of the more awesome ones that I have come across. It's readily available (and cheap!) on Amazon or ebay - check it out!

Turtles Without Nuts: Fruit Cup Turtles Recipe

Turtle Tuffle bark

A turtle without nuts? Believe it. This controversial confection is a key player in the new book Turtle, Truffle, Bark: Simple and Indulgent Chocolates to Make at Home.

Is it ok to make turtles with fruit instead of nuts? I say as long as the caramel is present, proceed. What do you think? Here's the recipe. 

Turtle Tuffle bark

Fruit Cup Turtles

Eek! A turtle without nuts? Well, why the hell not?
These days, we’ve got such an assortment of dried fruits to choose from, it boggles the mind. I can’t get

enough of those dried tart cherries, so let’s throw those in, along with chopped papaya and a bit of chopped, candied lemon peel. Let’s pretend these turtles are health food, and top them with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Chocolate color? Choose your poison. There is absolutely no way to do these wrong. Take two of these and call me in the morning!

 

  • 2 cups dried tart cherries
  • 2 cups chopped papaya
  • 1 cup chopped lemon peel
  • 3/4 pound caramel
  • 1 pound tempered chocolate
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread cherries in an even layer on the parchment. Layer papaya on top of the cherries. Sprinkle lemon peel on top of cherries and papaya. Set aside.

Place prepared caramel into a bowl. Put bowl in microwave, and heat on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Take out of microwave, stir well with medium­sized spatula, and put back in for 30 seconds. At this point, your caramel should be in liquid form.

Scoop a dollop of caramel from the bowl with your small silicone spatula, and using your other spatula, ease the caramel off the spatula and onto the fruit. Try to make them anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, depending on the size of the turtles you’d like to make. You’ll end up with 20 to 24 caramel turtle middles.

When caramel is completely cooled, you can start assembling your turtles.

Line one or two 18x13 sheet pans with parchment paper. Using a candy funnel, deposit dollops of chocolate on the parchment paper. Each one should be approximately 1 1⁄2 inches in diameter and there should be about an inch between each dollop. Make about six dollops, then place a caramel middle on each one. Continue making bottoms, topping with caramel, every six or so. When you have all your bottoms and middles done, go back to where you started and top the caramel with chocolate. You want to use enough chocolate to mostly cover the caramel. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.

When turtles are completely hardened, they will last in an airtight container for three weeks. 

Excerpted with permission from Turtle, Truffle, Bark: Simple and Indulgent Chocolates to Make at Home

Chocolate Milk Poke Cake

Seven minute frosting

I don't like the term "poke cake" because quite frankly, it sounds kind of dirty. Like, I feel like I should be blushing when I talk about them. But I love, love, love eating them. Because poke cakes aren't anything dirty at all: they're simply cakes which have been poked with a skewer of some sort so that they can be more receptive to delicious soaking liquids (tres leches cake would be a famous poke cake, btw. So would Better than Sex Cake).

Seven minute frosting

And I have to say: this poke cake is spectacular. It starts with a cake mix, but it's fancied up right quick by using melted butter and milk instead of the water and oil called for on the package, and then once baked, it's poked and soaked (see? dirty-sounding!) with an absolutely dazzling chocolate and sweetened condensed milk mixture. Even served just like that, this cake could make you cry with joy.

But save the tears, because there's still frosting! I used seven minute frosting, but you can use whatever type of buttercream or topping you'd prefer.

Seven minute frosting

It's a joy to dig into this cake, because it has all the joy of a yellow cake but the moisture and decadence of a gooey chocolate dessert. 

I'll leave it at this: it's a great cake. And anyone you make it for should consider themselves very lucky! 

Chocolate milk poke cake

Printable version here

Makes one, two-layer, 8-inch cake

For the cake

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Pillsbury yellow cake)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 eggs 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • pinch salt

For the topping

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk 
  • Pinch salt 

To top it all off

  • 1 batch seven minute frosting (recipe here) or buttercream of your choice

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 8-inch cake pans. I greased mine with some Bertolli spray because it had recently been sent to me and I thought it would be nice to say thanks. They didn't pay me to say that. 
  2. Poke cake
  3. Combine all of the cake ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on medium speed until smooth and lump-free.
  4. Poke cake
  5. Divide into the two cake pans, and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
  6. Poke cake
  7. Remove from the oven, and after a few minutes, invert on to a wire rack set above a baking pan (to catch drips in the next step). 
  8. Poke cake
  9. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate, stirring frequently, until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. You can also do this while the cake bakes (that's what I did). 
  10. Poke cakePoke cake
  11. Poke the cake all over at 1 inch intervals using a chopstick--but don't go all the way to the bottom.
  12. Pour the chocolate mixture gently on top. If you're careful you shouldn't have too much loss of chocolate goo. Because it is tasty, and you want it in your mouth, not on the bottom of a pan. 
  13. Poke cake
    See how interesting they look?
Poke cake
    Let the cakes set for a while. Meantime, make some frosting. I used seven minute frosting but you can use whatever kind you like.
    Frost the top of one of the layers, stack the second, and frost the sides and top. Enjoy! 
Seven minute frosting

Have you ever tried a poke cake?

Grandma's Killer Chocolate Cake from Author James Patterson

Mystery Writers of America cookbook excerpt

Here's a riddle: what kind of cakes do mystery writers like?

Happily, the new book The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For is ready and willing to answer this question in the most delicious way. It is a collection of recipes culled from famous mystery writers, and it makes for mighty sweet eating. 

When choosing an excerpt recipe to feature here, my eye was drawn right away to "Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake: via mystery writer James Patterson. I hope you'll enjoy!

Grandma's Killer Chocolate Cake

Recipe headnote:

Here’s one “killer” Alex Cross always loves to catch—Grandma’s Killer Cake! A special family recipe dating from the 1940s, this decadent cake seems to get better with age; it is tastier on day two. And you need to be a good detective around the house after it has been made, sitting there in its glass­domed cake stand, staring back at you with deadly temptation, because a piece seems to mysteriously disappear every time I go into the kitchen. Not to be caught red­handed, so looms the “Killer Cake Killer”!

YIELD: 1 SINGLE­ LAYER 9x12 INCH CAKE OR 1 DOUBLE LAYER 9­ INCH CAKE

CAKE

  • 2∕3 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 11∕3 cups buttermilk
  • 11∕3 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 ∕ 5 cup hot water 31∕2 squares bitter chocolate, melted gently
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FROSTING

  • 1∕2 cup butter
  • 3 squares bitter chocolate
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2∕3 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

 


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs.

2. Blend in flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Add baking soda mixture, followed by chocolate and vanilla extract.

3. Pour batter into one 9­by­12­inch pan or two round 9­inch springform pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

4. Combine all frosting ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Let cool. You can put saucepan on ice if necessary to cool quickly.

5. Remove the cake from the pan, frost, and serve.

About the author: James Patterson has sold 300 million books worldwide, including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He supports getting kids reading through scholarship, Book Bucks programs, book donations, and his website, readkiddoread.com. He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books. 

A Sweet Visit to Florence, Colorado

Florence, CO

Last week, I went to Florence, Colorado. In case you are unfamiliar, this is a weird but wonderful little pioneer town in Southern Colorado. It's home to a bevy of antique shops, plenty of unique architecture, and...the penitentiary. Not kidding.

It makes for an interesting town. And happily, I had some time to explore it. Let me tell you what I found there:

Before I go into food, let me tell you that there is an enterprising artist in Florence who carves tree stumps into elaborate works of art. Here I am next to one of them.

Florence, CO

The first culinary stop was Two Sisters, which is an establishment which seems like it's of a bygone era, or at least a David Lynch movie. We got some very hearty beef strogranoff, which was the special of the day. To our amazement, when dessert came (included with dinner)...it was cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls at night? Don't mind if I do.

Florence, CO

I was surprised to see that Two Sisters had mixed reviews on Yelp. It's certainly not the place to go if you're into organic food, or even vegetarian food. But as a special occasion trip to the Colorado frontier, I thought it was full of charm and homestyle goodness.

The next morning, we went to a place called the Rose Bud Cafe. Everything you ordered arrived covered in gravy. It was that type of place. They did have cinnamon rolls, but we didn't partake. But it did get me thinking: perhaps gravy and cinnamon rolls were the official foods of the town. 

Photo: Rose Bud Cafe Yelp page

After breakfast we went to the local bakery, Aspen Leaf, and picked up a variety of treats, including pecan brownies, bread pudding, and bear claws. Oh, and yes: they had cinnamon rolls.

Florence, CO Florence, CO

We went to the local coffee shop, The Pour House, and got coffee. And a doughnut, made in nearby Cañon City. Why not? 

Florence, CO

We walked by this place and were intrigued, but it was not open. Florence, CO

That day, we went to the Pikes Peak cog railway. Florence, CO

Here we are from very high altitude!

Florence, CO Florence, CO

For dinner, we went to my cousin Jason's house. Seriously, dudes, he built a house. They have chicks. Baby chicks. So cute! 

I made the three ingredient chocolate cake from this very blog for dessert and we ate it before it even cooled. Classy!

3 Ingredient Chocolate Cake

The next morning, we went back to Two Sisters for breakfast, since it was Easter and it was the only thing open. Cinnamon roll? Oh, too full. 

Luckily, a couple of the antique stores were open on Easter, so we toured them and I got THIS treasure:

Florence, CO

I probably should have bought this, but I didn't. If you are going to Florence anytime soon, it's all yours.

Florence, CO

We got home feeling tired and full. Overalll, it was a great and sweet trip!

Places Mentioned: 

Two Sisters

Rose Bud Cafe

Aspen Leaf

The Pour House

Pikes Peak

Yoberri, Santa Fe: Where I Ate Frozen Yogurt and Didn't Hate It

News flash: I ate frozen yogurt and I didn't hate it.

If you read this site, you know that I have strong feelings about frozen yogurt. It's not ice cream. It never will be. Keep it off my dessert plate, please. 

But as part of an ice cream and frozen treat expedition for an article I was writing for New Mexico magazine, I found myself duty-bound to sample the frozen yogurt at local Santa Fe mini-chain Yoberri. And I didn't hate it.

What is so special about this particular variety of fro-yo?

Yoberri, Santa Fe

Perhaps it's the fact that it's made in-house, with quality ingredients. Perhaps it's because they make it with care and precision, and it has a smooth, non-grainy texture.

Or maybe it's the toppings, which include homemade maple fudge sauce, chocolate chili sauce, and more. And fruit, if you're into that (I AM NOT). 

Yoberri, Santa Fe

 

Whatever it was, I found this frozen yogurt downright enjoyable. I got the "classic tart" vanilla, and topped it with aforementioned maple fudge sauce and (natch) rainbow sprinkles. And I ate every bite. 

Yoberri, Santa Fe

Don't get me wrong, my personal preference is still for ice cream; I'm of the "gimme the cream!" sort of mentality that I'm sure other ice cream aficionados will appreciate. But as frozen yogurt goes, this is some of the best I have tasted, and I would eat it again. 

There, I said it. I enjoyed eating frozen yogurt. 

Yoberri, two locations in Santa Fe; online here

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Homemade battenberg cake

Battenberg cake! Make it now. (CakeSpy for Serious Eats)

Marble halvah recipe. I'm gonna try it! (Joy of Kosher)

I've been nominated to go back to Bali to teach. Vote for me? (Vote here)

My best friends, Ben and Jerry, have a sweet new product. Worth your time (Brr-rito)

Speaking of my bffs Ben and Jerry, did you see the cute cartoon I made to document my visit? (CakeSpy)

Easy pancake rolls, three ways. Don't you love the post already? (Crazy for Crust)

How to maintain a healthy relationship with sugar. By my friend Pam! (Peaceful Dumpling)

What was Abraham Lincoln's last meal? (History.com)

That led me to wonder: what about other famous people's last meals? (Mental Floss)

My kind of museum show: an exhibit on New Jersey diners. (GMnews.com)

Good eggs: the many purposes of eggs in baking (Craftsy)

Muscovado chocolate chip cookies. Get a little fancy, why don't you. (Love and Olive Oil)

In praise of doodling. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Carrot cake pop-tarts. (The Emotional Baker)

Matcha chantilly cakes. SO elegant. (Sprinkle Bakes)

Shortbread cookie truffles. Awesome. (CakeSpy)

Book of the week: 

Will It Waffle?: 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron. Seriously. A dude puts every type of food in a waffle maker with one question above all others as motivation: will it waffle? You'd be surprised how often the answer is yes. 

Big note:

be sure to listen to me live on Sunday! Here are the deets:

 

Intoxicating: Tipsy Cakes Class on Craftsy

I want to tell you about my friend Krystina Castella's new class, Tipsy Cakes, on Craftsy. Actually, I'll let her tell you about it. Seriously--it's such a fun class! Booze and cake, what could be wrong? Read on to learn more, directly from Krystina:


Are you a fan of creating cake flavors that have a boozy touch?

I just launched a new class Tipsy Cakes for Craftsy.com (note: you can check out the class trailer here!). The class paired with my and Terry Lee Stone’s Booze Cakes book (Quirk Books) is now the most comprehensive assemblage of technique and tested recipes on baking with alcohol out there.


I had been noticing ads for craftsy.com popping up in my browser over the past several months due to my 3­year­old sons obsession with watching sewing videos. So when a food anthropologist friend of mine who currently works for the company called me and said they have launched into cakes and asked me to develop a course based on the Booze Cake book for them I jumped at the chance. I was excited to have the opportunity to give Booze Cakes book fans more and something different. So what I decided to focus on is adding the collection of already creative and tasty recipes in the book with a behind the scenes focus on technique.


Why is baking with alcohol so much fun?

There are so many uncommon and interesting flavors that you can’t get with the typical vanilla and chocolate flavorings. When I started baking with alcohol it opened up a whole new world of ingredients and flavor profiles to experiment with and a whole set of recipes.

I worked out the curriculum and tested new recipes for months to get the techniques down. In the dead of winter I left the 87­degree temperature of Los Angeles for a week of the beautiful snowy streets of downtown Denver. The space where we baked and shot the class was great old cooking school. The support team from Craftsy that I was provided for the class was top notch.

Although I have written 8 cookbooks (7 on baking) and have worked as a professor teaching in front of people for over 20 years, shooting an on­line cooking class was something new for me. When on a photo shoot for a cookbook I am the producer­ the behind the scenes person and the food is in front of the camera­ not me­ and I was a bit nervous. Although after a day of practicing my jitters faded away and I got the hang of it and loved every minute of it.

My goals in Tipsy Cakes is to:

  • Take the mystery out of baking with alcohol, even for a beginning baker.
  • Teach how to incorporate almost any alcohol into cakes.
  • Show students how much flavor can be added with alcohol and discover what flavor profiles are the best with different alcohol types.
  • Offer base recipes with endless variation possibilities so students can adapt their own recipes to include their favorite booze.

 

In order to help student create their own recipes I created a flavor profile chart for the class. On it I mention suggestions of flavors to try out for your own recipes.


Pairing alcohol with cake: some basics

  • The first place to start is to look at popular cocktails. The White Russian Cake I developed for the class is made with similar ingredients as a White Russian drink: vodka, cream and coffee liqueur.
  • Alcohols paired in cocktails also make great inspiration for cakes. For instance, the B­52 drink is made with Coffee liqueur, Irish cream and Triple sec; you might try to make a B­52 cake with coffee liqueur cake with Irish Cream Buttercream and a Triple Sec Soak.
  • One good rule of thumb when thinking about how to pair alcohols with both sweet and savory flavors is to think about what you like to eat with a favorite alcohol.
  • Do you like to snack on cheddar cheese or eat other salty flavors such as salted nuts when you drink beer? Adding them to a beer cake will also taste good.
  • Another place to look for inspiration are the flavor overtones in the alcohol. For example white wine have citrus, apple, plum and mango, hazelnut overtones. Therefor orange, lemon, apple, plum and mango cakes will taste great with white wine added. 

Other things you'll learn in the class

The course consists of 7 classes, each focusing on what to consider when baking, soaking or adding to frostings and making garnishes. In each class students learn how to get the most flavor in their cake from specific classifications of alcohol.

In the Rum Lesson students learn how to make a soak.

In the Fruit and Nut Liqueurs Lesson students learn to add sweetened fruit­ and nut­flavored liqueurs into fillings and frostings. In the Coffee and Cream Liqueurs lesson students learn how to retain alcohol in baking while still giving the cake enough time to bake through.

In the Hard Alcohol lesson students learn to exercise moderation, and incorporate small amounts of hard liquor to create surprisingly subtle flavors.

In the Beer Lesson I discuss different types of craft beer and explore some exciting flavor combinations that work with each.

 In the Wine Lesson students learn the benefits of reduction and how to create powerful and complex flavors.

Finally in Cocktail Cakes, the most fun lesson, I pull together the techniques demonstrated throughout the class and show a collection of cakes based on favorite mixed drinks.

Along the way students learn about flambé sauces, how to make a poke cake, an ice cream cake, and edible cocktail garnishes including chocolate and strawberry shot glasses. Also on craftsy.com you can ask me any questions you have about baking with booze and post your creations. I hope to hear from and see what you make there – Happy baking and good eating.

Special for CakeSpy readers: get 50% off the class here! 

Note: if you think Krystina is cool (she is!), you can follow her (and the class) on Facebook.

My Delicious Adventure with Ben & Jerry's

Vermont topper

So, I recently went to Vermont. As a guest of Ben and Jerry. You might know them from the ice cream in your supermarket. Let me guide you through the experience in PICTURES. 

My Ben & Jerry's Adventure in Vermont

Vermont! I didn't know who else would be there for the event, and I was a little nervous. But I felt a bit better after I found an awesome goodie back including all sorts of made-in-Vermont treats and a fleece jacket emblazoned with the Ben & Jerry's logo in just my size, and after I had turned on Law and Order, of course.

Vermont trip

The next morning, I took a yoga class at a nearby studio before the Ben & Jerry's events started. Om nom namaste!

Vermont trip

Afterward, I returned to the hotel, got ready and headed down to the lobby, where I found who else but BAKERELLA! I did kind of tackle her. That part is factual. Vermont trip

We all went to the Penny Cluse Cafe, which used to be one of the first Ben & Jerry's scoop shop locations. Perhaps most importantly: we ate in the room where chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was invented. Vermont trip

We headed to the corporate offices of Ben & Jerry's, where we split into teams. Mine included Bakerella (my darling!) and Nick from On Second Scoop. We got to invent an ice cream flavor with a flavor specialist who looked just like Alan Arkin. You can't really see it in ice cream form, but trust me on this one.

Vermont trip

We got to see the faux scoop shop in their HQ where they train franchisees. We also got to eat ice cream. Vermont trip

After our flavor adventure, we had a nice dinner out. Most importantly of ALL: it was on this fateful evening that I was exposed to some cultural phenomena I had not been previously: first, the term "lumbersexual"; second, the term "throwing shade". I now strive to use these terms in at least every other sentence. Vermont trip

The next morning, we got to visit one of Ben & Jerry's dairies. As long as you have absolutely no follow up questions, this is exactly what it was like. Vermont trip

After that, we got to go to their factory and see the ice cream made. For no particular reason, men wearing nets in over their hair hack ice cream for a job there!

Oh, I'm kidding. They slice the pints at random to make sure the fillings are evenly distributed. It does look like a Damien hirst ice cream art installation when they do it, though. 

Vermont trip

Since we were in Vermont, it was the law that we go snowshoeing. Since we were at Ben & Jerry's, our journey ended at the Flavor Graveyard, where they pay homage to flavors no longer in circulation. Vermont trip

WE GOT TO MEET BEN. As in, Ben & Jerry's. He was a really nice guy and he gave us each a stamp so that we could stamp dollar bills with political statements. I'm not kidding. Vermont trip

When it was time to go, I didn't want to leave.Vermont trip

But I did. I missed Porkchop and my sweetie too much to stay in Vermont, so I took a plane back home.

The End. 

Vermont

CakeSpy Undercover: Cloud 9 Creamery, Sante Fe

I get excited about ice cream. And I know, especially in the safe place of this website, I am not alone.

So when I was hired to write an article about ice cream for New Mexico magazine, I was super excited about the part of the article where I would be writing about the ice cream establishments of the state. Being a very hands-on person, I took it upon myself to try as many in person as I could.

One establishment that impressed me in particular? Cloud 9 Creamery.

Talking to someone in yoga class about how I was going there after class (I really like to brag), another student chimed in and implied that I was in for a real treat. 

Dramatization:

So what makes Cloud 9 so special? Let me give you the 411. 

Cloud 9 Creamery shares retail space with another purveyor of tasty sweets, Cocopelli, in a large strip mall near the movie theatre.

When they first started, Cloud 9 Creamery was making ice cream in single servings using liquid nitrogen to make the ice cream. I don't know how it works exactly, but I know that when I tried the ice cream at Smitten in San Francisco, it amounted to pricey ice cream that took a long time to make. It was very, very smooth and creamy, yes. I was very glad I'd gone. But it took a long time to make, and I was hungry. I still remember that part.

Apparently, this was the reaction at Cloud 9, so they switched to more traditional methods of making ice cream--and gelato and sorbet, too. 

Well, I don't have the benefit of being able to compare the different methods side by side, but what I tasted at Cloud 9 Creamery seriously knocked my socks off.

Made in fairly small batches, owner Nicole uses local ingredients whenever possible, and will follow whimsy or special produce finds to make limited edition flavors (a great score on strawberries in the produce market? There's gonna be strawberry ice cream or sorbet today). This is to say that on the day you visit, there might be something special to try--do yourself a favor and try it, because it might not be there next time.

On the day of our visit, since I was focusing on the New Mexico aspect, we stuck to local flavors: for me, the honey-lavender, for my companion, the toasted almond and Sante Fe Pinon. We also tried the salted caramel (awesome), pistachio, and strawberry in little sample spoon sizes. 

How can I explain this ice cream to you?

Well, at the risk of sounding like I've lived in Santa Fe too long: this ice cream tasted happy

I'm a big believer that the maker can impart a flavor on their finished result--no, not by spitting in it or anything, but just by transferring their good vibes. And there were plenty of good vibes in this ice cream. It felt like a place that you could bring your kids, but as adults, you'd love it, too. This is totally in line with the owner's goal to create a family-friendly establishment--and to bring awesome ice cream to Santa Fe.

The flavors were well-balanced, interesting, and very creamy. Crave-worthy. 

We strolled along a sidewalk near the store that had spring blossoms in bloom, and we could almost ignore the commercial hardware store and general mall generic-ness in the sweet bliss of our ice cream moment. 

We both agreed: this ice cream was a keeper. I know I'll be back, and if it's accessible to you, I suggest you check out Cloud 9 Creamery. 

Cloud 9 Creamery, 3482 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe. On Facebook

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Let me teach you how to draw pastries. (Craftsy)

Win a pack of my "Ice cream love" notecards! (CakeSpy's Facebook page)

10 fun facts about the Japanese sweet tooth. (University of Kansas)

How to draw from memory. Fun and useful! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Funfetti cream pie. This girl knows me so well. (The Domestic Rebel)

Strawberry mousse. Looks like the perfect spring dessert! (Pumpkin 'n Spice)

A Dubai store unveils the world's most expensive dessert. Spoiler: I won't be buying it any time soon. (Inquirer.net)

Everybody must get sconed: how to make maple walnut scones. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Orange sunshine cake. Seriously, one of the prettiest things I've seen. (Baked Bree)

Butterscotch pudding cookies. YES YES YES. (Bake.Frost.Repeat)

How to draw block letters. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

In case you have any left (yeah right): how to use up your leftover Cadbury Creme Eggs. (Yahoo AU)

Candied vanilla sugar wafers. Awesome. (In Good Flavor)

Salted caramel beer cake with pears. Interesting! (Honest Cooking)

How to paint bunnies. You need this tutorial. By my amazing mom. (Margie Moore)

Book of the week: Cookie Love. You can get a glimpse of the book from the excerpt I posted, a recipe for Fleur de Sel shortbread with halvah. Like, whoa. The recipes only get better as you go through the book! It's a victory from Mindy Segal, who also owns Chicago foodie landmark Hot Chocolate.

Fleur de Sel Shortbread with Vanilla Halvah

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal

You guys. I was super excited to receive a review copy of Mindy Segal's new book, Cookie Love. Why?

Well, a few reasons. 

For one, she's the proprietress of Chicago foodie landmark Hot Chocolate. Even if you've never been there, if you go to their website, the establishment is explained thusly: "Restaurant. Dessert Bar. Pastries." You should already be halfway in love. If you ever go, I promise you'll be the rest of the way in love.

Second, the recipes look AWESOME. You could seriously just buy this book and look at the pictures for the rest of your life, it would be worth the investment just for that.

But your life would be even better still if you made these cookies: Fleur de Sel Shortbread with Vanilla Halvah. 

Discover them here with this awesome excerpt recipe. 

A note from Mindy: 

I AM ALWAYS ON a quest to find more ways to use halvah in desserts. Coffee, chocolate, and cocoa nibs are my usual pairings with the Middle Eastern sesame confection, but one day I shifted gears in favor of vanilla and fleur de sel. It worked—halvah anchored the vanilla-flecked frosting, for a sweet, salty, nutty result. To finish the cookies, I dip them partially in dark milk chocolate and then place a shaving of halvah on top. The frosting is seasoned well to balance its sweetness, but because the cookies themselves carry a noticeable salt level, you may prefer to add less. 

Fleur de Sel Shortbread with Vanilla Halvah

makes approximately 28 sandwich cookies

SHORTBREAD
11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (13 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 11⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sea salt flakes

FROSTING
8 ounces plain or vanilla halvah, cubed
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
11⁄4 cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, or to taste

TO FINISH
Piece of plain or vanilla halvah, for garnish 8 ounces milk chocolate, melted

Step #1: Make the Shortbread
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the sugar and mix on low speed to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium and cream the butter mixture until it is aerated and looks like frosting, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

Put the yolks in a small cup or bowl and add the vanilla. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

On medium speed, add the yolks, one at a time, and mix until the batter resembles cottage cheese, approximately 5 seconds for each yolk. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together. Mix on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds to make nearly homogeneous.

To cut out the cookies, you will need a rectangular cutter approximately 13⁄4 by 21⁄2 inches. To pipe the frosting, you will need the Ateco tip #32. 

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal page1image22832

Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approxi- mately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a piece of the plastic wrap. Pat each half into a rectangle, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Let the dough halves sit at room tempera- ture until the dough has warmed up some but is still cool to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes.

Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Put one dough half on top.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough half into a rectangle approximately 11 by 13 inches and 1⁄4 inch thick or slightly under. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the dough to straighten out the sides. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, dust the top with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parch- ment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Any time the dough starts to stick, repeat the sand- wiching and flipping step with the parchment paper.

Ease the dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining dough half and stack it on top. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate the layers until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a couple of half sheet pans with parchment paper.
Let the dough sit at room temperature for up to 10 minutes. Invert the dough onto a work surface and peel off the top sheet of parchment paper. Roll a dough docker over the dough or pierce it numerous times with a fork. Using a 1 3⁄4 by 2 1⁄2-inch rectangular cutter, punch out the cookies. Reroll the dough trimmings, chill, and cut out more cookies.

Put the shortbread on the prepared sheet pans, evenly spacing up to 16 cookies per pan.

Bake one pan at a time for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until the cookies feel firm and hold their shape when touched, 3 to 5 minutes more. Let the cookies cool completely on the sheet pans. Repeat with the remaining pan.

Step #2: Frost the Cookies
Blend the halvah in a food processor until fairly smooth. Drizzle in the white chocolate and blend until incorporated. The halvah will turn into a thick paste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter briefly on medium speed for
5 to 10 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until the butter mixture is aerated and pale in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the frosting together. Briefly mix in the vanilla and salts until incorporated, approximately 1 minute. Add the halvah paste and mix until smooth, with a little texture left from the halvah.

Fit a pastry bag with the Ateco tip #32 and fill with the frosting.
Make pairs of similar-size cookies. Turn half of the cookies over. Leaving an 1⁄8-inch border, pipe rows of dots 
onto the cookies. The frosting should be approximately as thick as the cookie. Top each frosted cookie with a second cookie and press lightly to adhere.

Step #3: Finish the Cookies
Freeze the piece of halvah until chilled, 30 minutes.

Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper. Dip a quarter of the long side of each sandwich cookie into the milk chocolate, shake off the excess, and place on the prepared pans. Using a vegetable peeler, shave
a piece or two of halvah and place onto the chocolate- dipped part of each cookie. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, approximately 1 hour.

The cookies can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 

Enjoy! 

Buy the book here: Cookie Love

CakeSpy for Craftsy: Delicious Maple Walnut Scones Recipe

In general, I don't like scones. Because most of them are like cardboard with icing, especially at commercial coffee shops.

But homemade is a different thing entirely. Homemade scones are biscuit-y, crumbly, and nice and hefty and rich. And this recipe, for maple walnut scones with maple glaze (made using the good stuff, from Vermont!), is a winner.

They're easy to make and will make your mouth happy, so what are you waiting for?

Find the recipe here. 

Za'atar Bread Recipe Inspired by Bedouin Tent in Brooklyn

I know you typically come to this site for sweets, but I need to tell you something. Za'atar bread is where it's at, man.

If you've never heard of za'atar spice, let me briefly explain.

Za’atar is a spice mix which is in frequent rotation in Middle Eastern cooking. It can be used as a flavoring ingredient in a recipe or treated as a condiment. In this za’atar bread recipe, it’s the key ingredient.

Typically, the flavorful mix includes thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac, but it’s one of those things that everyone mixes just a little differently. Some mixes may include oregano or marjoram; some might even call for lemon zest. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong; it’s something that if you decide to make yourself, you can play with the ratio of ingredients to find the precise mix that works for you.

This recipe is based on a type of bread served at Bedouin Tent, the Middle Eastern restaurant in Brooklyn I worked at during college. If I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job.

Recipe here.