My Best Oatmeal Cookies

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

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There aren’t too many things that beat a great cookie. And My Best Oatmeal Cookies are a truly great cookie! Chock full of flavorful dried fruits and nuts and seasoned with just the right amount of sugar and spice. Lumpy and bumpy – just the way an oatmeal cookie should be.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies are simple to make, but do use fresh dried fruit for maximum flavor and chew. And please, please, always toast your nuts before adding them to the mixture. For years I would just add nuts straight from the fridge or freezer without toasting them first. What a difference a little bit of toasting makes. Since your oven is already heating up for the baking, just toss your nuts on a baking tray and toast for about 12 minutes or until fragrant while you are prepping the cookies. The nuts go in last so the timing is perfect.

While you could just go with cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe, I strongly urge you to make up a batch of Sweet Hawaij. I’ve begun using it in most recipes that call for cinnamon. Included below is a recipe for Sweet Hawaij from the cookbook Shuk by Einat Admony and Janna Gur. This Yemeni spice blend is magical. I often use it to replace anywhere you might use cinnamon, pumpkin or baharat spices. It will take coffee and roasted vegetables to the next level. Try it in pumpkin pie. I guarantee you will be converted. I make up my own but it is also available online and at spice stores.

Oatmeal cookies happen to be a favorite of my husband’s. The last recipe I tried was for a pumpkin bread that didn’t work the way I had hoped. So I really wanted to make something he and I would love. While I am a huge chocolate lover, everything does not need chocolate to be great. A tendency I have noticed is that people put chocolate chips in EVERYTHING. Please just leave these cookies as is and enjoy them with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

You can enjoy My Best Oatmeal Cookies, still slightly warm from the oven or they will keep for days in an airtight tin with a slice of bread in it.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons of sweet hawaij

1/4 teaspoon of kosher or fine sea salt

1 large egg, well beaten

1/2 cup melted butter or vegan butter

1/2 cup melted solid vegetable fat (I like Crisco)

1.75 cups “Old Fashioned” Rolled Oats

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon dark molasses

1/4 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

1/2 cup moist raisins

1/2 cup moist medjool dates, coarsely diced

1/2 cup moist dried sour cherries

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients (first 4 ingredients listed) into a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix through until everything is distributed evenly.

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (or a spoon) place dough on the prepared baking sheet. The cookies do not spread a great deal but I still keep them about 2 inches apart. I do not flatten the scoops. This keeps the centers chewy and the edges crisp-ish.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies
My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Bake, turning half-way (unless you are lucky enough to have a convection oven) for about 16 to 18 minutes. Ovens vary but the cookies should have flattened out somewhat and are brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3 minutes (more is fine) on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.

Sweet Hawaij

Yield: About 1/2 cup

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!

Frangipane Fig Tart

Fig Frangipane Tart

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It’s fresh fig season! Frangipane Fig Tart pairs luscious almond cream with ripe gorgeous figs to create this beautiful and delicious dessert.

I am an absolute sucker for frangipane and marzipan. When I am in Europe I always search for the beautiful marzipan offerings. Some women look for shoes – I shop marzipan. Shaped to resemble delicate fruits and vegetables – they are almost too pretty to eat. But somehow I always do! And don’t get me started on dark chocolate covered marzipan. Yummmmmmmmmmmm!

Frangipane uses the same flavors as marzipan but in a delicate custardy cream that just melts as soon as it hits your tongue. It is a wonderful filling for all kinds of fruit tarts and is especially delicious paired with apples, apricots and pears. Here I am pairing it with fresh ripe figs while they are in season.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes bits and pieces from other recipes I have made. After 5 plus decades of cooking and baking I have learned that everything is built on something that came before. So if you come across a tart dough that you like, use it again and again in different tarts. Maybe you will add a new flavoring like almond extract or a bit of whole wheat flour to make it fit the new filling.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes the frangipane recipe that I use in my Bakewell Tart. It gets the crust from the Perfect French Walnut Tart with the addition of pure almond extract. The use of Dalmatia Fig jam is a riff on the jam also used in the Bakewell Tart and Linzer Torte. Whenever I cook something new, I search for five or six different versions and take what I like from each. It’s not magic. Anyone can do it.

When you cut open a ripe fig, it has a beautiful natural design that makes the tart a work of art. While I am willing to sacrifice looks for taste on occasion, that is not a compromise I need to make here.

Fig Frangipane Tart

For a delicious vegan frangipane recipe:

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

For another delicious way to use the ripe figs now in season:

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread

Fig Frangipane Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart About 8 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes 

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

For the filling

175 g soft butter (About 13 Tablespoons)

 175 g caster sugar (3/4 cups)

 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 175 g ground almonds (1.5 cups)

 40 g all-purpose flour (1/3 cup)

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

 1 tsp pure almond extract

10 to 12 fresh figs (You won’t use all of them but some will be nicer when cut open than others and some mistakes in cutting also happen….)

3 T Dalmatian Fig Jam (This is widely available in most large grocery stores and online)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

Bake the tart pastry for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack or heat resistant surface. While the pastry is still warm, spread 3 Tablespoons of the fig jam over the bottom of the pastry. Left-over jam is wonderful on toast and with cheese.


Fig Frangipane Tart

While the tart shell bakes, make the frangipane filling. The amount given is generous and you may have a little leftover. It will keep in the fridge for several days and can be used to make some small tarts or in a baked french toast or almond croissants.

Once the tart shell with the layer of fig jam has cooled slightly, carefully spoon dollops of the softened frangipane into the shell without disturbing the jam. Spread it into an even layer that comes just under the rim. You want to leave room for the weight of the figs.

Prepare the figs. There is no magic one way to cut the figs. Experiment a bit to make a pleasing pattern. The frangipane will puff up some in the oven and will then settle down as it cools. So be sure to leave some spaces uncovered with the fruit for the frangipane to puff up.

Fig Frangipane Tart

I always buy a few extra figs. Failures happen and some figs just look better when they are cut open than others.

Mistakes Happen

Sprinkle the cut figs with a little Demerara or sanding sugar. Place in the 325 degree oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the frangipane is just set with a little jiggling in the center. I like to then turn off the oven but leave the tart in there for 8 to 10 more minutes. That really sets things without over-baking.

Fig Frangipane Tart

Allow the tart to cool completely on a wire rack before removing it from the ring.

[I don’t think it is necessary but if you want to give the tart a totally professional glistening finish, you can lightly and carefully brush the top with a warmed and strained apple or apricot jelly.]

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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If you are a fan of bold citrus in a melt-in-your-mouth cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries is for you. What this cake lacks in ‘curb appeal’ it more than makes up for in flavor. After all, isn’t that what crème fraîche or whipped cream are for? And this humble cake requires no equipment more complicated than a whisk. Oh my goodness this cake is wonderful!

As I often do, I was clicking through recipes when I came across a recipe for yogurt cake by the well-known author, Claudia Roden. I was about to make it for Shabbat when I decided to read the comments. They were very, very mixed leaning towards the negative. By that time, however, I had it in my head that I had to make a yogurt cake – so I kept on clicking. I came across one titled French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. It looked simple and the reviews were universally positive.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Now I meant to make it exactly as written – really I did. However, my husband, who recently has gotten into cooking and baking, said “Why don’t we add blueberries?” So I figured, why not? But then he said “What if we zest lemon into some sugar and roll the blueberries in that like for the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake?” Trying to be encouraging in his nascent dive into cooking, I said “Sure, why not?”

And, thus was born the Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

This unpretentious cake can be eaten for breakfast, coffee or tea break or as dessert. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat. And the cake will only get more flavorful and moister as the days go on. Assuming, of course, that it isn’t all eaten up in one go! Serve just as is or with a little crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Recipe

Yield: About 8

Ingredients

For the Cake

1/2 cup whole milk plain natural yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar plus 3 teaspoons, divided

3 large eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

Grated zest of one medium to large lemon, divided

1/2 cup of a neutral oil (I used canola)

1/2 cup of blueberries

For the syrup

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup powdered, icing or confectioners sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray an 8-inch springform or round cake pan with a neutral spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and lightly spray that. Set the pan aside.

Using your fingers, rub about 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest into the 3 teaspoons of sugar. Add the blueberries and toss through. Set aside.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar and the eggs. Stir or whisk until well blended.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Add the oil to the egg mixture and stir through.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture. Now add the lemon zest and stir just to combine. Add the blueberries and gently fold through.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is nicely browned and the cake feels springy to the touch. Depending on the oven, this can take 40 to 50 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is baking, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. This should be more of a runny syrup than a sugar glaze. Set aside.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Then, if you are using a springform pan, just run a thin knife or spatula around the cake and release the outer ring. If you are using a cake pan, turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack. Don’t worry if the cake sinks a bit in the center. Place a pan or some newspaper under the rack to brush on the syrup.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is still warm, use a pastry brush with the syrup. Generously brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake. You may have some extra glaze which you could use when serving the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Perfect French Walnut Tart

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Are you looking for something new for Rosh Hashanah? This luscious French Walnut Tart is perfect. A short bread cookie-like pastry shell gets filled with toasted walnuts, each piece coated in a honey, buttery caramel. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with the earthy richness of walnuts. Yes, please!

Try this Perfect French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

The recipe calls for crème fraîche, a naturally soured cream. It can be purchased in many grocery stores these days. However, it is so simple to make your own crème fraîche. You just need to plan one day ahead of using it. My husband loves it on so many desserts that I almost always have a jar in my fridge. I love homemade whipped cream, but crème fraîche adds a certain umph to what might be an otherwise overly-sweet or blah dessert – neither of which this is.

While this recipe calls for unsweetened crème fraîche, I often add some confectioners sugar and vanilla when I am serving it with a simple cake. Crème fraîche is incredibly easy to produce. All that is required is a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk kefir. Mix them together and leave the jar covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila! If you plan on adding sugar or vanilla to the crème fraîche, only add it after the mixture has soured and thickened.

The cookie-like crust is a dough that anyone can work with. It’s not fussy to make, comes together quickly and there is no need to roll out any pastry!

The Perfect French Walnut Tart is a cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is a lovely dessert any time. But nuts and honey? Perfect as a High Holiday treat. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high, giving it an almost toffee-like texture. Total, unadulterated yumminess!

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (You could use a non-dairy “butter” if you wanted to eat this with meat on the holiday.)

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche (If you need to keep this non-dairy, there are non-dairy sour “creams” on the market.)

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter (Or a good quality non-dairy “butter” like Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

3 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (2.5 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt as a garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, egg yolks, butter, vinegar, cornstarch and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, you want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. (Because this is essentially a short bread crust, there is no need to line the pan or to use weights.) Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes. You might want to put some foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any spill-over. (Do NOT be alarmed when you first see the baked tart coming out of the oven. It will bubble up and look kind of messy at first. Trust me – it settles down as it cools.)

Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Simple Basbousa

Simple Basbousa

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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Simple Basbousa is an easy version of this beloved Levantine sweet treat. This recipe requires no special equipment and because no eggs are called for, it can easily be veganized.

There are many versions of this delightful dessert, including one on my blog with pistachios and coconut. However, all of the recipes for basbousa utilize semolina and a sugar syrup. This means that the cake flavors intensify over time and remains incredibly moist even after several days. Because the Simple Basbousa is dense and sweet from the sugar syrup, a little goes a long way. But it is the perfect complement to well-spiced foods and strong coffee fragrant with cardamom.

I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the changes do not make this Simple Basbousa any more complicated. Generally baked in a rectangular pan. I made mine in a 10-inch square pan because that was what I had on hand.

For Americans who are unfamiliar with basbousa, this Simple Basbousa version reminded both me and my husband of a moist cornbread with honey. Nothing fancy to see here. Just a delicious, simple cake. And in the summer, who wants to slave over dessert?

For more delicious semolina cakes:

Orange Semolina Cake

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Simple Basbousa

Recipe

Yield: 25 squares

For the cake

2 cups of coarse semolina (My so-called coarse semolina proved to be only slightly less refined than my fine semolina, so don’t fret if you can’t find both.)

1/4 cup of fine semolina

1 cup of plain whole milk natural yogurt OR plant-based such as coconut

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or a plant-based vegan “butter,” melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each of pure almond and vanilla extract

25 whole blanched almonds

For the syrup

2 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of water

4 to 5 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon of orange blossom or rose water (I used orange blossom as my husband is not a fan of rose water)

Simple Basbousa

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the sugar and melted butter. Then add the yogurt and mix until smooth and well combined.

Combine the semolina, salt and baking soda and then add to the yogurt mixture. Stir well. The mixture will be fairly thick.

Place the batter into a greased pan (9 X 12 or 10 X 10). Smooth out the mixture using the back of a spoon or an off-set spatula. Score the basbousa with a knife into the squares that you see above.

Add an almond to the center of each square, pressing down gently into the batter.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Ovens vary so it may take longer or shorter.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Bring the water, sugar and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove the syrup from the heat, discard the cardamom pods and mix through the orange blossom or rose water.

As soon as the basbousa comes out of the oven, pour the syrup gradually over the top. It will be absorbed almost immediately. Allow the basbousa to cool and then cut through the score lines and enjoy!

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose.

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This killer Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is decadently rich, dark and velvety. Did I mention that it has an Oreo crust?! And for those with an egg allergy – NO EGGS! I had seen a recipe for a chocolate cheesecake on the King Arthur website and it got me remembering a Mocha Cheesecake that my Mother used to make occasionally when we had guests over. It may have been based on one that was published (we’re talking almost 60 years ago, folks) in the New York Times. I’m pretty sure that the author was Maida Heatter, that doyenne of fabulous desserts.

The only problem is that it’s just me and my husband these days and that cake fed 16 people. Now I REALLY love a great New York-style cheesecake. However, even I cannot eat that much of it. And unfortunately, I never have enough room in my freezer. You know, to put some away for a pretty rainy day – or Congressional Hearings into January 6.

So, it got me thinking that I needed to come up with a version that uses my 6-inch springform pan. I found that this is the perfect size to yield 6 servings. We can definitely consume that over the course of the week.

The base of the cheesecake started with one that I published last year with a blueberry topping. Please use a really good quality dark bittersweet chocolate like Valrhona or Scharffenberger. 70% cacao is perfect. (And actually – never use poor quality chocolate. It’s just not worth it. Better to make something else entirely!) This will counter the rather sweet cookie crust and the sweetened condensed milk. The espresso powder will emphasize the deep chocolate taste.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is for serious chocolate lovers. It has a true, clean chocolate taste and a smooth, truffle-like mouthfeel that starts melting as soon as it hits your tongue. And as rich as this cheesecake is, compared to other New York-style cheesecakes, you don’t have to feel too guilty. Go for it.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)

250 g of crushed chocolate cookies such as Oreos (This is about 2.5 cups)

1/2 cup (113 g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)

Filling

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/25 cups of dark (70%) chocolate (about 175 g)

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 Tablespoon Black Natural Cocoa Powder (Dutch cocoa could be used instead)

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or Dark Rum

1 cup (306 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions

Lightly grease the bottom of the springform pan and line it with a round of parchment. You don’t have to do this but it will make it easy to transfer the cake off of the bottom of the tin.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Do not wash the food processor. Just try to remove any excess crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until all of the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Using a hand beater or the food processor (why dirty another utensil?) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

In a smallish bowl, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the crust from cracking.

Remove the cooled cake to a wire rack and using a sharp, flat blade, just carefully run it around the circumference of the cake. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

When you are ready to serve, unlock the springform and carefully remove the ring. You can then either leave the cake on the bottom for serving or it should come off easily once the suction has been broken. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy.

Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Due to the unprovoked, brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose.

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Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies is a mouthful of a name. I get it. But these utterly delightful, bright cookies just scream Spring! They have the fresh, bright burst of citrus with the rich, sweetness of the white chocolate chips and added depth from the lightly toasted pistachios. Everything you could want in a cookie. Lumpy and bumpy with pistachios and chips. Crispy at the edges with a soft center! And oh, how they smell!

I saw Valerie Bertinelli make her version of these and instantly knew that I wanted to try them. Anything with citrus has my attention even though I have never been a white chocolate fan. Now I grew up in a candy family. My father was in the business and I know my chocolate. And it has always bugged me when I hear the term “white chocolate.” There is no such thing. It is made from cocoa butter without any cocoa solids. However, with age, I have come to accept that it is universally referred to as “chocolate” and has its place in the baking pantheon. But, to be clear, I am a very dark chocolate person. So while the ease of making these cookies, combined with the citrus were an invitation to me, I wanted something to be a counterpoint to the white chocolate. Toasted pistachios!

Therefore, I have tweaked the original recipe to suit my tastes and the result is a real winner. These delicious Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies are now a new favorite and very easy to whip up.

While we may argue over whether white chocolate is truly chocolate, there is no arguing over using a quality brand. Same goes for the butter, vanilla and nuts that you use. You can taste the difference.

Let’s talk sugar for a moment. There are soooooooooooooooo many varieties available these days and they each have their place. The original recipe calls for granulated and light brown sugar. As it happens, I don’t buy light brown sugar – only dark, which has more molasses in it. However, I thought that might be a bit overpowering here. What I do happen to have is powdered jaggery, which I started using during the pandemic. It is a cane sugar with lovely caramelly notes – perfect for these and other cookies. My husband and I also really love jaggery when baking with apples and other fruit. If you are interested in trying it, jaggery is available online and through South Asian grocery stores.

Even before the pandemic, my actual travelling had become more limited. Rather than going overseas, we like to go hiking out west. So while I may stay in my armchair so to speak, instead, I travel through food. Every time I try a new recipe, spice or other ingredient, I delve into the culture and customs of another land and another people.

There is a lot of talk these days about cultural appropriation. But I happen to think that when it comes to food (and jewelry!) this should not be viewed as a negative. While I might not always succeed, I hope that I am honoring those cultures and peoples through the food that I cook and eat.

I always used to cook and bake by the seat of my pants, adding things in as I read off the recipe. But since I began my blog, I have found that taking a few extra minutes of preparation (and possibly bowls) at the front end saves me from mistakes and makes the whole process easier. The French call it “mise en place.” Everything is prepped and organized. So that is how I have written the recipe. However, if you aren’t into that, just add things in the order given directly into the mixer.

I guarantee that these cookies will become a new favorite of yours too.

After a day or so the cookies lose their crispiness. Still delicious, but if you are like me, I love when the edges are crispy and the center is soft. In order to achieve this, just place them in a 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes to refresh the cookies.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar or jaggery
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest (About 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons lime zest (About 1.5 limes)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups white chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli Classic
1/2 cup lightly pan-toasted and chopped raw, unsalted pistachios

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line 2 or 3 rimmed baking pans with parchment or Silpat

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Combine the sugars in a bowl and set aside.

Zest the lemon and lime(s) and set aside.

Add the softened butter and the sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream them for 2 to 3 minutes or until a bit lighter in color and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Crack in your egg and beat until incorporated. Then add in the lemon and lime zest and the vanilla extract. Beat until evenly combined.

Add the dry ingredients in all at once and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a heavy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, give a good mix from the bottom of the bowl. Toss in the pistachios and white chocolate chips and mix through.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (Yes, of course, you can do this with a spoon.) drop the dough onto the lined cookie pans about 2-inches apart. I was able to get 12 cookies per pan. If you use a smaller scoop, you will get more. There is no need to flatten the balls; it will happen naturally in the oven.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Bake each tray for about 10 to 12 minutes (less if using a smaller scoop). My oven temperature is very uneven so I turn my pans once while baking. You want to bake the cookies until the edges are golden and the center has puffed up. The cookies will deflate as they cool.

Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack. Cool completely and enjoy!

NOTE: If you don’t wish to bake all of the cookies now, the dough can be rolled into a log, wrapped well and frozen for up to a month. Defrost the dough slightly before baking.

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

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These wonderfully, fragrant Saffron Pistachio Blondies will conjure up 1,001 Arabian Nights or a treat worthy of Rama and Sita. Rich with pistachios, cardamom, saffron and a hint of white chocolate, these chewy delights are even better the next day. I love desserts that I can make ahead, especially when entertaining. It’s true that depending on where you reside in the world, the ingredients that make these blondies special can be pricey. If these are beyond your budget or you are not a huge fan of saffron, please choose to make something else. Do not make substitutions. On the other hand, the amounts used are relatively small and compared to the price of something from a bakery….

The original recipe called for a cream cheese frosting, which undoubtedly would be pretty, especially if garnished with some additional chopped pistachios or rose petals. However, my husband and I aren’t really into frosting which often can simply mask a less than wonderful cake.

These Saffron Pistachio Blondies can stand on their own with no need of embellishment. Saffron lends a beautiful golden color to the batter in addition to the exceptional flavor. (I am including the recipe for the frosting below just in case you want to use it. If you are using the frosting, the blondies will require refrigeration. And the original recipe used the saffron only in the frosting. It was NOT in the cake batter as I have done here.)

And while I may not be a huge fan of cream cheese frostings, I do love to eat the Saffron Pistachio Blondies with a dollop of homemade, lightly sweetened crème fraîche. The slight tang of the cultured crème fraîche adds exactly the right counterpoint to the dense, richness of the blondie. You can sweeten the crème fraîche with a tablespoon or two of confectioner’s or icing sugar or honey.

My recipe for the blondies deviates a bit from the original in the instructions as well as a few tweaks to the ingredients. This lovely cake would be a wonderful finish for any Middle Eastern or South Asian dinner. Enjoy them soon!

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Recipe

Servings: About 9

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

Ingredients

Saffron Pistachio Blondies

For the Blondies

¾ cup/112 grams raw, unsalted pistachios, lightly pan-toasted plus more for garnish

1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt 

¾ teaspoon baking powder 

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ cup/173 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

1 ¼ packed cups/250 grams dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature 

½ cup/87 grams white chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so the paper spills out over the sides of the pan to create an overhang. This will make removing the blondies a snap. (For thicker blondies, you can use an 8-inch pan. You may have to adjust the baking time slightly.)
  2. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the cardamom, salt, baking powder and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the total flour. Pulse until the nuts are mostly finely ground. By adding the dry ingredients to the nuts, you prevent them from becoming pasty. Add the remaining flour and pulse to combine.
  3. Add the saffron threads to the melted butter and allow to steep as the butter cools down some. Then add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth and shiny. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. The pistachio mixture gets added next. Mix with a silicone spatula to combine being careful to go to the bottom of the bowl so no flour is left unmixed. Gently stir in the white chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer.
     
  4. Bake until the sides are brown and pull away from the pan, and the middle is slightly paler in color, 25 to 27 minutes. Ovens really vary so don’t be surprised if the blondies take longer. Mine baked for 35 minutes and then I left them in the oven for 8 more minutes with it turned off and the door left partially open. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few crumbs attached. Because of the richness of the pistachios and the butter, the blondies are not likely to get dried out. So don’t be afraid to completely bake them through. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
  5. When the blondies are cooled completely, you can lift them out of the pan. At this point, you can cut them as is or frost them. While the blondies can be eaten as soon as they are cooled, I think they are even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to really meld.

Note: These blondies are perfect as is in my opinion. However, if you wish to up the Middle Eastern vibe a bit, you could add a few drops of rose water to the batter or frosting, if using. But be careful. Too much rose water tends to make baked goods taste like soap. My husband really dislikes rose water, so I didn’t try it. Let me know if you do in the comments and how it turns out.

For the Frosting, if using

Ingredients

½ teaspoon/.33 gram packed saffron threads

1 ½ tablespoons whole milk 

6 ounces/170 grams cream cheese, softened 

 cup/77 grams unsalted butter, softened 

 cup/93 grams confectioners’ sugar

 Pinch of coarse kosher salt 

Directions

  1. Finely grind the saffron threads in a mortar using a pestle or in a microwave-safe bowl using the back of a spoon. If needed, transfer the ground saffron to a microwave-safe bowl or to a small saucepan if you don’t have a microwave. Stir in the milk, and microwave on high or heat over medium until the mixture is frothing around the edges but not boiling, about 30 seconds. Place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer to quickly cool the mixture.
     
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, use an electric hand or stand mixer or a heavy whisk or wooden spoon to beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. If working by hand, this takes some muscle. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and beat again until homogeneous and no clumps of sugar remain. Beat in the cooled saffron milk until well-combined. The frosting will turn a bright golden hue.
  3. Once the bars have cooled completely, scrape the frosting over the top, and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Crush or chop some pistachios for garnish and sprinkle all over the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. The bars keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 1 month.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

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Every year for decades I hosted Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the redemption of the Jewish People from slavery. And while it was a lot of work, I loved having family and friends around to join in the seders. There have been many wonderful desserts, including a few that are vegan. (They are linked below.) But I always tried to make at least one new dessert each year. This Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover would have been this year’s entry in that category. Unfortunately, between my niece’s family having moved away and the pandemic, it has been a few years since I hosted any family holiday gathering.

Pesach this year will be spent with Matthew, Frances and Juliana in San Francisco. Perhaps I can convince Frances to make this Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover.

Light, moist and lemony, this flourless cake uses almond flour to replace all-purpose or cake flour. Between the almond flour and the ricotta, this is a cake that it is impossible to dry out. It may get slightly custardy over time, with the flavors only intensifying. Delicious on its own, adding either fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar or a berry compote would kick it up to the next level. Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries would be a great option. However, for my money, true perfection was achieved when I served this luscious cake with a good dollop of lightly sweetened home-made creme fraiche and a few raspberries. No matter how you choose to eat this cake, you cannot go wrong.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

But you don’t have to make this just for Passover. It’s a lovely, light dessert any time of the year. The recipe originated from the Donna Hay Magazine via the Nosher website and has been slightly tweaked by me. And while there are volume measurements included, I strongly recommend weighing your ingredients when baking.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

For Other Great Passover Desserts:

Passover Florentine Cookies

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Chocolate Amaretti Tortemake with kosher for Passover amaretti cookies

Tarte Citron Mamajust substitute 1 Tablespoon of Matzah Cake Meal for the 1 T of flour

Recipe

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Ingredients

120 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
275 grams (1 1/3 cups) granulated or caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped or 1 generous teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (Optional to use only if you wish to have a more pronounced almond flavor)
1/4 cup loosely packed lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons, depending on size)
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
240 grams (2 1/2 cups) almond meal or almond flour
300 grams (1 1/3 cups) ricotta, at room temperature
About 2 Tablespoons flaked (sliced) natural almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter or PAM an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and lightly sugar the sides and bottom.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Place the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla seeds or extract, almond extract and lemon zest in a stand mixer. Beat for 8 to 10 minutes (REALLY) until, pale, creamy and very fluffy. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Gradually add the egg yolks one at a time, while continuing to beat the mixture.

Add the almond meal and beat to combine. Fold the ricotta through the mixture.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.

Gently mix through about 1/3 of the egg whites in to the main batter to loosen it up. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 parts until most of the white bits are no longer visible. Be careful to not deflate the mixture since there is no other leavening in the cake.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth out the top with a spatula. Decorate the top with the sliced almonds.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on your oven. The top should be golden and there shouldn’t be any wobble. If it appears that your cake isn’t done, but you don’t want it to brown anymore, cover it lightly with aluminum foil. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a thin knife or spatula around the cake in the pan to be sure that it isn’t sticking anywhere. Then you can loosen the ring of the springform pan and remove the cake. Do not apply icing sugar until the cake is completely cooled.

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake for Passover

Chocolate Marble Cake

Chocolate Marble Cake

Growing up I had a very Manichean approach to dessert. My favorite cookie was a Black & White. My favorite ice cream was a soft-serve twist of chocolate and vanilla from Carvel. And my favorite cake was Chocolate Marble Cake from our local bakery. In New York, where I lived until I was fourteen, these desserts were ubiquitous. Every good deli and bakery carried the cookie and cake of my dreams. And in those days, a Carvel sign could be seen at most off-ramps all over New York. The truth is, I have never outgrown these loves, although finding really good versions of them in the Midwest is more challenging. So I was VERY excited when I came across this recipe for Black & White Pound Cake using black cocoa powder.

Black Cocoa Powder is what gives Oreos (or Hydrox Cookies, which is what I ate growing up and believe to be superior) their color and unique almost dry chocolate flavor. I had only used Dutch cocoa before. That will work here but the look and flavor will be different. The recipe comes from Sohla El-Waylly, a Food 52 star baker. She is very fun to watch and has several YouTube offerings. Sohla has a slightly funky vibe and a natural charm. I’ve made a few things of hers and the results have always been successful.

Now the one part of this recipe that caused a lot of debate in the comments section was the so-called streusel, which is used in both the middle of the cake and on top. I say so-called because it isn’t really like any other streusel I’ve eaten. It’s quite dry and the whole cake when it comes out of the pan, kind of looks as if it had been rescued from a fire and was covered in coal dust. I know, I know – this doesn’t sound as if I am making a case for the topping. But the funny thing is that as I ate the cake, the not-very-sweet topping grew on me. The part that went in the middle just melted into the cake and was delicious. The stuff on top crumbled off these dark, deep Oreo-like bits which were not overly sweet, but had a certain somethin/somethin.

It would be completely understandable if you chose to leave it off of the top and the cake would be AMAZING. But if you are open to giving it a chance, I would encourage you to do so. Either way, I would definitely use it in the middle of the cake as given in the recipe.

The finished cake when cut is an ever-changing work of art. Each slice is unique in it’s design and all are beautiful. It’s edible modern art, with dark beautiful veins of deliciousness. And while it may appear to be difficult to achieve, it really isn’t. I won’t lie. The cake is a bit fussy, takes a little time and uses several bowls, but there are no special techniques to making this. Just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY read the directions through several times before starting. And I also found that by measuring everything out before I began actually making the cake made things much easier. Yes, it does create more bowls and dishes to wash, but it also means that there is no scrambling to measure and possibly mis-reading things. Directions are crucial here.

I have mentioned it in other posts, but it’s worth saying again. I have become a BIG fan of weighing most of my ingredients when baking. It really is so much more accurate than simply measuring. Kitchen scales are readily available and cost around $25 – money well spent. I have included both measurements and weights where appropriate.

The other thing I learned when making this cake is how transformative long creaming of your butter and sugar can be. Until Sohla, I had never, ever creamed butter and sugar this long. However, I will now never, ever cream butter and sugar anything but this long again! Who knew how light and fluffy the mixture could become? And it is essential that ALL of your ingredients are at room temperature for best results.

Recipe

Chocolate Marble Cake

Yield: One 9 X 5-inch loaf

Ingredients

For the Streusel (Optional)

1 1/4 cup (156 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (20 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons (82 grams) cold butter, cut into cubes

For the Cake

14 tablespoons (196 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (187 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (15 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon milk or water

Chocolate Marble Cake

Directions

For the Streusel

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the cubed
butter and rub the mixture together with your fingers until it comes together into clumps; set aside. [Mine never quite formed clumps and I tend to agree with most of the comments that felt it needed more butter for this to happen. However, it did surprisingly stay together on the cake and when eaten was the texture of a thick Oreo dust. Not especially sweet.]

For the Cake

Set a rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and grease that as well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar,
baking powder, and kosher salt on medium-high speed until pale and very fluffy, stopping once during
mixing to scrape down the paddle and bowl, 6 to 8 minutes total. (You might think it’s done before that
time, but keep going all the way.)

Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. On medium-high speed, beat in the eggs and yolk one at a
time, scraping down the paddle and the bowl after each addition. The batter should look very fluffy,
creamy, and emulsified (if not, your eggs or butter may have been not at room temperature—let the
mixture come to room temperature then try mixing it again).

Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla
until lump-free and totally smooth.

Add half of the sour cream and mix on low until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add half of the flour
and mix until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining sour cream and flour. Using
a flexible rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle and the bowl and mix the batter a few times to make sure
everything is evenly combined.

Transfer about half the batter to a medium bowl. Sift over the cocoa powder and stir into the batter along
with the milk or water.

Sifting Black Cocoa

Add half the cocoa batter and half the vanilla batter to the pan in alternating dollops. Top with half the streusel and repeat dolloping the remaining batter.

With a butter knife or offset spatula, swirl the knife through the batter to make sure it is evenly distributed
into the pan with no big air pockets and give the pan a few swift taps against the counter. Wet a butter
knife and use it to slice down the center of the loaf cake (this ensures an even crack right down the middle
of the cake). Top with remaining streusel, lightly pressing it into the batter.

Chocolate Marble Cake

Bake until the crust is deeply browned, the loaf rises and splits, and the cake feels firm and set when you
gently press the top, 65 to 75 minutes. (This is a very moist cake and it is better to overbake rather than
underbake. If the crust is looking very dark partway through, set a wire rack just above the loaf pan and
place a rimmed baking sheet on it to provide a shield.)

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides to
loosen. Tip the cake into your hand, then place on a wire rack to fully cool before slicing.