butterscotch pudding dirt cups

It is October 8th, which, in most other years, would mean that sugar beet harvest is about halfway done. I’d be making my grocery lists and putting together recipes for the end of harvest party and waiting for Eggboy to give me the go ahead to start prepping the brisket and baking the cakes. The light at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel would be near and visions of Thanksgiving in sunny Florida would be filling up our brains. 

But this year is not like other years!

Winter came so unfashionably early, with two snowfalls already and an expected four inches of snow on Wednesday, that harvest has been at a total standstill for almost a week. It’s wild! I’ve never seen so much October Eggboy before in my life. We’ve been eating lunch together, we went to an art fest this weekend, and tonight we’re making squash soup! We’re cramming in all of the fun fall things now because as soon as the ground dries, it will be back to crazy harvest hours. At this point though, it’s really hard to tell when that will be. All of my fingers and toes are crossed that when harvest can get back up and running it will run smoothly, and that this insane weather delay hasn’t caused too much of a raucous. 

And, ok, I’m not that superstitious, but I meant to post these sugar beet butterscotch pudding dirt cups last week as a celebration of the beginning of harvest but because of my quick bop out to New York I couldn’t get to it until the weather shutdown, so I never posted my annual beginning of harvest sugar beet thing and what if I jinxed it??? What if I disrupted the tradition and that set a wave of bad luck into the air and mother nature was like screw it, we’re going in?? 

Or maybe I’m giving too much power to marzipan shaped into beets. 

This pudding is just one of the many beet-centric sweets that I made this year in celebration of harvest. Our deep freeze right now is packed with sugar beet cookies, cupcakes, blondies, and donuts, waiting to be defrosted for all of the drivers and other folks who help out this time of year. Most of these sweets were made from old standby recipes but I made this pudding as the new official 2018 harvest dessert.

Growing up, butterscotch pudding was always Stoopie’s thing, and it turns out that Eggboy is also a butterscotch person, so I’m going to attribute this to the fact that Stoopie and E-boy both have November birthdays. The November birthstone is kind of butterscotch-esque in some lights? I think I wasn’t too into butterscotch when I was little because it tends to be so cloyingly sweet and one-noted but when Eggboy suggested it with these cute little marzipan beets I couldn’t say no. 

So I brainstormed and brainstormed and somehow came across a very specific lightly caramelized flavor with a fuzzy mouthfeel that was buried deep somewhere in my memory. It occurred to me that I’d had what I wanted in a butterscotch pudding, I just needed to remember where. I sat on my couch, listing everywhere I could have eaten this thing I was thinking of, and a few more thinks later realized that I was dreaming of the pumpkin pie filling that Eggboy totally nailed last year at Thanksgiving. Up front it was creamy and milky, and it was backed up by a faint yet complex caramel flavor. It was very lightly spiced because he couldn’t find most of the spices in my mom’s house and he used Sarah’s recipe but made a few substitutions, namely he substituted more heavy cream for crème fraiche because he wasn’t confident enough in his pronunciation of crème fraiche to ask what it was or if we had it. I realize that pumpkin pie filling is not butterscotch pudding but there are so many similarities that I’d have been remiss not to use that as inspiration. So I tinkered with that filling and came up with this pudding. It doesn’t have pumpkin, but it does have brown sugar which gets caramelized, so that makes this butterscotch. (Did you know that?? Caramelized white sugar = caramel, caramelized brown sugar = butterscotch.) 

The rest of the ingredients, mainly the spices and the maple syrup, contribute to making this one helluva a butterscotch pudding. Does it need the cookie dirt and marzipan sugar beets buried within? No. But it needs a topping, something crunchy like a cookie or pie crust crumble would work, or a dollop of fresh whip, and perhaps a sprinkle of flaky salt. Oooooh yeah. Consider me a butterscotch pudding convert. 


butterscotch pudding dirt cups

serves 8

ingredients

1/4 c (56g) unsalted butter

½ c (100g) brown sugar

¼ c (50g) granulated sugar

¼ c (78g) maple syrup

¾ tsp kosher salt

2 1/2 c (600g) heavy cream

½ c (118g) whole milk

2 tb (14g) cornstarch

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg


To decorate:

Sprinkles

Crushed chocolate cookies

Marzipan and rosemary “sugar beets”

clues

Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a large heavy pot, stirring until it begins to bubble, and then stop stirring. Cook over medium high for 7-8 minutes, until it turns a dark amber color and begins to smoke slightly. Carefully add heavy cream and whole milk (it will get a lil wild when you pour this in) and stir gently until the caramel melts back down (it will firm up when the milk goes in). Reduce heat to medium. In a separate heat safe bowl, whisk together cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolks. When the milk/caramel mixture is steaming, add a ladle of it to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously, and then pour the egg mixture into the pudding while whisking. Whisk continuously for a few minutes, until it thickens. When it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into serving glasses, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until cool and set. 

To serve top with sprinkles, crushed chocolate cookies, and hide some marzipan beets in the cookie dirt.


black and white donuts + behind the scenes of a blog post!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Today I’m taking you behind the scenes of a blog post because behind the scenes stuff has always fascinated me and also because sometimes I get asked what a typical work day is like and by the time I’m finished explaining my answer I’ve usually lost whoever I’m talking to because it takes too long. My days are always different, one day I might be watching TV all day and making cake, other days I might be lying on the floor with all of my cookbooks open, reading about chicken. Ideally I’m wearing sweatpants but sometimes I brush my hair and put on lip gloss and we will get into when and why. Even though each individual day is different, the arc of creating a blog post, which typically happens over the course of a few weeks or months, is generally the same and fun though! So hold onto your butts because we’re about to get detailed. 

I’m partnering with Intel® on this post because their new Intel NUC Mini PC has helped me streamline the blog post writing process and make it even more fun and organized. 

Phase 1: brainstorming and research. I keep a list on my phone of recipes I want to make and add to it often. These are recipes that are inspired by my heritages, my travels, things I’ve learned about around town (like Funeral Hotdish!!), upcoming holidays, seasons, nostalgic food I grew up with, new ingredients, things I see on Instagram, and things I’m just really gosh darn craving. I schedule them out for blog posts based on what makes sense for upcoming holidays and seasons, and if there’s a recipe I want to make but there are already a million recipes for it on the internet and I don’t feel like I have anything to add to the world of, say, pumpkin blondies, I get rid of it.

When I commit to a recipe, I have a brainstorming session of what the outcome should be. It looks like me sitting on the couch, meditating on the theme of… well in this case, the donut. I think about how it should taste, what it should look like, ideally how it should be made, and, importantly, why I’m evening daring to take up space on the internet about it. Each recipe should serve a purpose, whether it’s to share a new idea or new-to-me ingredient or technique, tell a story, create a new design, or put my spin on an already existing idea. 

In the case of these black and white donuts, I’d never seen a black and white donut before and they sounded tasty and cute looking, so that’s the purpose! In terms of flavor, they should reflect the black and white cookie, which is cakey and flavored with vanilla and lemon, maybe a tiny bit of almond, and has a light tang thanks to either buttermilk or sour cream in the batter. The glaze should be thick and it should dry nicely, providing a sweet delicious shell.

Also coinciding with this brainstorming session is a research phase where I read all about black and white cookies and their history, as many recipes for them as I can find, I look at the #blackandwhitecookie hashtag to get design inspiration, and basically try and do everything short of rewatching the entirety of Seinfeld in order to find the black and white cookie mentions, because at that point that’s safely considered *getting sidetracked*. 

Basically I become one with the black and white cookie/donut. 

And then I write a first draft of a recipe, buy any necessary groceries, and start the best part, phase 2: making stuff!

What used to be constant battles of Molly versus the missing/oil-stained post-it note with all of the recipe scribbles or Molly versus counter space versus a laptop that’s balanced on top of the flour canister is now a streamlined system of pulling up the recipe on my TV screen, which is hooked up to the NUC Mini PC. (You’ve rarely seen my TV screen because I always hide it when my photographers, Chantell and Brett, come to photograph recipes! But it’s how I stay sane working by myself most days, because I can have Bojack on in the background and then toggle over to my word doc to make recipe notes.)

I make a version of the recipe according to the draft, taste it, record any notes, and then copy and paste a new recipe draft with any recipe changes in bold. And I also bring in backup in the form of Eggboy. He may not know the first thing about making a donut but he is a really good taste tester! He is not afraid of telling me when a recipe sucks and is articulate in telling me what needs to change. And then it’s up to me to figure out how to achieve those changes. So then I get back to work and continue to test until it’s basically so good that Eggboy just doesn’t have any words and continues to take bites because he can’t help it and it’s as if the donut has taken over his brain. It might take 26 versions, it might just take 3 or 4.

This recipe didn’t take too many versions because I already had a vanilla baked donut recipe that I liked (in Molly on the Range) and my primary focus was on sneaking in the lemon flavor and paying close attention to how that added acidity affected the rise of the donuts. I honed in on baking soda amounts and played around with a few different measurements there. I also tried a couple of different methods of glazing the donuts and found that a combination of dipping the donuts into the glaze and using a spatula to help it onto the donuts created my fave aesthetic.

After this testing period, leftovers get wrapped up and given to people or stuck in the freezer. These donuts will get defrosted and put out for beet harvest next week!

Once the recipe is where I want it to be, I move on to phase 3: prepping its photo shoot. I write down any particular steps I want to document, think about what angles will make the finished product look the best, pick out props and a wardrobe that will match everything, clean the kitchen, prep ingredients and complete any steps of the recipe that I won’t be showing on camera. For these donuts, I made some finished donuts, some unglazed donuts, some that just had white glaze on them, and a bowl each of chocolate and vanilla glaze. This prep usually happens the day before a shoot and I typically am prepping a few recipes at a time since shoot days often include a handful of recipes. I often have an assistant help with this but my kitchen assistant, Grace, just moved to Michigan :(

Phase 4: photo shoot! The morning of a shoot, I brush my hair and put on makeup! The first time in probably a while. And then Chantell and Brett arrive from Fargo and we get to work! Shoot days are fun because it’s so satisfying to play with finished recipes and we listen to music or have movies on in the background and at the end of the day I try to send them home with as many donuts and cakes as they’ll allow me to give them. 

Once I receive the photos, I sit on my couch and do phase 5: write the post. This is great because it’s cozy and also because I can have the NUC Mini PC hooked up to the hot tub-sized TV that Eggboy *had* to get last year to watch bike races. It’s great though because it’s big enough to see clearly from my couch and the NUC is powerful enough to deal with tons of photos on a regular basis without slowing down.

By this time I’ve been thinking about whatever my post is about for so long that ideally the words just flow right out. Sometimes—ok a lot of times—they don’t though and that might be when I get up and walk to the refrigerator, eat a piece of cheese, take a shower, or look at my phone. This is when 90% of procrastination happens. It’s gotta happen sometime!

Once the post is written, I organize which photos I’m going to use and how they’ll be laid out, and edit the recipe. Those get put into the backend of my site either by me or my assistant Hillary, along with any tags and links. And then it’s posted!

Ta da!

*Eats a donut*

black and white donuts

makes 12-16 donuts

Ingredients

Donuts

1 3/4 c (228g) all-purpose flour

1 c (200g) sugar

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 large egg

1/2 c (120 ml) buttermilk

1/4 c (50 ml) flavorless oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 c (59 ml) water

Vanilla Glaze

2 1/4 c (270g) powdered sugar

1 tb light corn syrup

3-4 tb whole milk or buttermilk

A pinch of kosher salt

A splash of vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze

2 c (240g) powdered sugar

1/4 c (20g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tb light corn syrup

3-4 tb whole milk or buttermilk

A pinch of kosher salt

Clues

To make the donuts: preheat the oven to 375ºF. Coat a 12-cavity donut pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, almond extract, and water. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fill a piping bag or ziploc bag with a corner snipped off with the batter and pipe the batter into the donut pans, filling each cavity halfway. If you have any remaining batter, you can bake it in a second batch.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a donut comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool completely. (A mini spatula helps remove them from the pans!)

To make the glazes, first make the vanilla glaze: mix together the sugar, corn syrup, 3 tablespoons of milk, salt, and vanilla. Add additional milk little by little until the mixture is pourable (you might not need the full remaining tablespoon). You want to be careful not to add too much milk because you want the glaze to be thick and opaque, but if the glaze is too thick it will have a hard time sticking to the donuts. You can always make adjustments by adding more powdered sugar to make it thicker or more milk to thin it out. Place a baking sheet or piece of parchment paper underneath the rack with the donuts and dip each donut halfway into the vanilla glaze, scraping off any excess glaze from the bottom and returning to the rack to dry. Let the vanilla glaze dry, 20-30 minutes if you’re impatient like me, but more like an hour or so if you want it to really be nice and solid, and then make the chocolate glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze, use the same method as mixing the vanilla glaze, and then carefully dip the unglazed half of the donuts into the chocolate glaze. With the chocolate side, I find it’s helpful to use a spatula to help the glaze nudge right up against the vanilla. Scrape excess glaze off of the bottom, place back on the rack, and let dry.

Enjoy!

These are best the day of, but can be kept for an additional couple of days at room temp in an airtight container.

-yeh!

photos by Chantell and Brett Quernemoen

Thank you, Intel, for sponsoring this post! The Intel NUC Mini PC is a small but mighty computer that is shorter than a tennis ball and ready to make photo editing and content creation a breeze. It’s equipped with Windows 10 and the latest Intel Core processors, and videos and movies can be viewed in 4k Ultra HD!

sourdough strata with gruyère and kale

This weekend has brought a string of perfectly cozy autumnal cinnamon spiced moments that are exactly what I live for. The sun has put his fluffy cloudy sweater on and the light is the most beautifully diffused grey, this is hands down the best time of year. Until the snowstorms roll in, then that’s the best time of year.

We sipped pumpkin spice oat milk lattes and ate sourdough apple pancakes and gooey cinnamon rolls for brunch while Sufjan Stevens emerged from the radio (but this had to be changed to Iron and Wine radio because Sufjan Stevens radio always ends up playing Christmas music and nighttime space sounds, does anyone else have this problem?). 

We achieved my ideal date. I didn’t know it was my ideal date until happened, but I wore grey sweatpants and we drove through the dark (it gets dark before 9pm now!) rainy night to the new Pho restaurant in town and ate gigantic steamy bowls of soup. They were never ending bowls of soup and we closed down the place. It was so delicious, I can’t wait to go back.

Watched Bojack season 5!!! It’s as outrageous as ever and continues to exhibit one of the best qualities in a show which is that if you’ve just spent the whole afternoon watching it and then your husband comes home from harvesting beets and wants to watch all of the episodes that you just watched, you can watch them with him and be equally as amused as the first time you watched them because the jokes are all equally as funny the second and third times around and there are endless amounts of references and details to find that you couldn’t possibly catch all in just one viewing. Or maybe you could if you’re hip to that type of thing which I’m not. 

I roasted a chicken! I’ve never really been the chicken roasting type but on Rosh Hashanah I chose to forego the brisket and make Melissa Clark’s salt and pepper chicken and it was sooooo juicy and crispy and salty and perfect and easy and it made the house smell so cozy that I did it all again last night. And even though I had filled up on bagels and didn’t have enough room to eat that much of it, it was worth it. We’re going to have chicken tacos with tahini dressing tonight. 

Honorable mention! This isn’t a fall-specific moment, but I made a nice discovery on Friday night which is that cauliflower pizza crust is not awful!! After a week of challah grilled cheeses and matzo ball soup leftovers, we were in the mood to not feel like death after Friday pizza night so I took a chance on a frozen cauliflower pizza crust and while it was totally flavorless, the texture was correctly crispy on the edges and chewy in the innards and it was a genuinely solid vehicle for sauce and mozzarella. We will do this again sometime but not this week because I’m about to make a big batch of bagels for Yom Kippur and hopefully there will be some leftover for Friday pizza bagels.

Ok, here is another recipe that I developed for summer camp! It’s a savory cheesy bread pudding that is a cinch to make and infinitely improvise-able. At camp, we added a pound of bacon and cooked the onion in the bacon fat before folding everything together. Breakfast sausage would also be great. But without meat, and a great gruyère and enough greens (it always seems like you’re trying to fold in too many greens but they really cook down in the oven), it is totally delicious and you can prep it all ahead, so yes there’s a reason I’m posting it just in time for Yom Kippur. 

A bowl of cheesy, eggy bread that’s mostly very soft, save for a few strategically placed crispy the edges, and yes you should have seconds because there are greens for ~balance~. Does it get much better?? Only if there’s a thunderstorm outside.


sourdough strata with gruyère and kale

serves 8

2 tb unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, diced

16 oz crusty sourdough, cut into cubes

1 c (4 oz) shredded mozzarella

1 c (4 oz) shredded gruyère or swiss, plus more for topping

6 oz kale, chopped (chard or spinach would always work!)

8 large eggs

3 1/2 c (840 ml) whole milk

1/2 c (120 ml) heavy cream

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Black pepper

Hot sauce

If you’re planning to bake this immediately, preheat the oven to 350ºF. If you’re prepping this the day before, no need to preheat now.

In a skillet (or 4 qt braiser that you can put in the oven), heat the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Or if you’re feeling wild and have the time, caramelize the suckers. Remove from heat. Combine the sourdough, mozzarella, gruyère, and greens with the buttery onion mixture, either in a 9” x 13” casserole dish or in the braiser if you used that to cook the onions.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, mustard, salt, nutmeg, thyme, a bunch of turns of pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Pour into the pan with the sourdough. Top with another little sprinkle of gruyère. Cover with foil and bake immediately or refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. 

Bake (at 350fº) covered for 30 minutes, and then uncovered for about another 30 minutes, until browned on top and set throughout.

Enjoy!


cozy braised chickpeas with squash

Blogging on a Saturday night?? It’s like I’m back in college again! Only this time as soon as I post this I am entering a pillow fort and only resurfacing when it's time to go to brunch tomorrow, not going uptown to drink boozes at Kyle and Sam’s house and then coming back downtown and eating Gray’s Papaya hot dogs, ketchup and kraut please, Brian do you want my papaya juice?

The truth is I’ve been in recovery mode from summer camp all week, and on Wednesday when I meant to post about braised chickpeas I had a big long flight and got distracted by watching I Feel Pretty.

Summer camp was off the hook!!! We put as many foods on walls as possible and used a record amount of sprinkles. We served cinnamon rolls with tahini frosting, bougie bug juice (watermelon, mint, a.c.v., salt, fizzy water), pan pizzas, breakfast sandwiches, and vats of late night beer cheese. And I had my annual summer camp Uncrustable and it was still a little frozen but totally perfect. I also led a 90s themed cookie cake making workshop and was tasked to make marzipan boobs. A first for me! But I think I did ok?? Out of all the boobs in the world surely they looked like some of them.

Now I’m racing to the finish line of 5778 and planning my Rosh Hashanah menu. Our apple trees are looking good, the potatoes are ready to be dug up, and the squash miiiight be there?? My current menu draft is this but it will probably change because that’s just how I operate:

Potato challah
Matzo ball soup
Grilled honey chicken
Some charred corn situation
A green thing
Apple and marzipan crumble

But I want to also share with you these braised chickpeas that we’ve been enjoying on these newly cooler nights and that would make a delightful vegan main course for your new year's feasts. The concept is simple: make the same braising liquid you’d make to braise a brisket but instead of using brisket, use chickpeas and squash. Hence the name I originally gave this: Brisket Braised Chickpeas! It's like how chicken fried steak doesn't actually have chicken in it. We are braising chickpeas à la brisket, with red wine, fresh rosemary, delicious home smells, and all. Ultimately, having "brisket" in the name of a vegan dish sounded confusing. But never mind that. Potatoes or parsnips in this would also be good. And this is best enjoyed out of a bowl with a large hunk of bread, torn from the loaf, and I believe it would ring in the coziest of new years!

Shana Tovah, friends!!!


cozy braised chickpeas with squash

serves 6

1/4 c olive oil 

1 large onion, chopped

2 large or 4 small carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

Black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 c dry red wine

1 small butternut squash, cubed

1 (14 oz) can tomatoes

2 c veggie broth

2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed

2 sprigs rosemary

2 bay leaves

chopped fresh parsley, for serving

hunks of bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350ºf.

In an oven-safe dutch oven or cocotte, heat olive oil over medium, until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 10 to 12 minutes. (Alternatively, you can work in a non-oven safe pot and transfer your mixture to an oven-safe dish when it's time to move to the oven.)

Add the cayenne, a few turns of pepper, and the garlic and cook another minute, until fragrant.

Add the red wine and cook until it's reduced by half. Add the remaining ingredients, give everything a stir, and cover.

Transfer to the oven and braise for 2 to 3 hours, until the chickpeas are soft. Discard the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, top with parsley, serve with bread, and enjoy!