Apple Cinnamon Crumble Pie

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I am a crumble convert.

I’m used to making double-crusted pies, which involve a warm fruit filling sandwiched between two buttery crusts. Crust is my favorite part of pie, so it just makes sense.

But streusel topping is my favorite part of fruit crumbles and crisps. (Not to be confused with buckles, grunts, slumps, and other fruit desserts that sound unattractive.)

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Pecan Pie

Pecan pie feels like the epitome of Thanksgiving. Not that it’s the epitome of my Thanksgivings, as I’ve only ever had it on Thanksgiving once–last year, in fact–but there’s something about it that seems so quintessentially Thanksgiving. The pecans, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla all bring rich, warm flavors to the pie–flavors that, when combined with the eggs, butter and corn syrup, result in a dark, nutty pie, the perfect indulgence to cap off an evening of overeating.

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Basic Cheesecake (in a Pie Pan)

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Cheesecake can be such a production. Springform pan, two pounds of cream cheese, water bath, accompanying toppings and/or sauces. If you want to make a tall, impressive cheesecake that serves sixteen, that’s great (and please invite me over). But I only ever want to make a simple cheesecake–something my two-person household is capable of finishing in a reasonable amount of time. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert and I won’t go through a rigmarole every time I want to make it. So I reject the idea that cheesecake must be baked in a springform pan.

There are a lot of delicious cheesecake recipes, and this one certainly isn’t remarkable compared to many of those. This isn’t the cheesecake you make when you want to feed a crowd or impress people with presentation. But if you want cheesecake and nothing more, this is an excellent recipe to use. It’s simple and straightforward, and I’ve made it so often that I have the recipe memorized. This is baked in a nine-inch pie tin and serves (“serves”) eight in manageable, pie-sized wedges. It’s smooth and creamy like all cheesecake should be, and the tablespoon of vanilla ensures that there’s plenty of flavor to complement the cream cheese tang.

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Strawberry and (Half) Coconut Milk Pops

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It may be September, but it’s still summer. My birthday falls on the first day of fall (puns), and knowing this I’m always a little sad when people disregard the summer in September. Pumpkin spice lattes may be all around us, but fall doesn’t begin until three weeks into September, and I prefer to give summer the respect it deserves. (Which, honestly, isn’t much, as summer is my least favorite season–all the more reason for me to wait until it really ends before I celebrate its demise.)

Enter this summery ice pop. Fruity and coconutty with a splash of vanilla, this popsicle is perfect for a warm summer day and can be easily adjusted depending on your coconut milk preferences. I like coconut milk, but I don’t like when it takes the place of all dairy in a dairy-based recipe. In times when I’m desperate for ice cream but find myself without cream, I’ve followed ice cream recipes that use coconut milk as the sole source of dairy, and I can never get past the extreme coconut-milky taste that permeates the entire dessert. Coconut milk is a wonderful thing, but I suppose I prefer its presence to be a bit more subtle.

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Key Lime Pie

There’s nothing like squeezing dozens of key limes to make you extremely acquainted with your open wounds. It’s like a roll call for injuries. You’re suddenly very much aware of what you thought was just a small scratch, and any and all paper cuts take the chance to remind you that they still exist. And key limes are tiny, so you’ve got a long way to go. Let’s get started.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies / Russian Tea Cakes

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I like to believe these cookies are the ones Frog and Toad can’t stop eating in that children’s book Frog and Toad Together.

The Frog and Toad series, for the uninitiated, is a series of books, each one containing several short stories about Frog and Toad’s adventures. And their adventures are relatable. It’s none of this Curious George business, with a monkey flying away in a hot air balloon or working in a chocolate factory. Frog and Toad are too low-key for those shenanigans. Instead, the stories are about things so everyday that they’re almost dull. Toad loses a button from his jacket. Frog writes a letter to Toad so he has a reason to check the mail. Toad plants flowers and waits for them to grow. These are some chill amphibians.

In my favorite story (naturally, as food was involved), Frog and Toad can’t stop eating cookies.

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Watermelon Sherbet

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Not to be dramatic, but this is kind of the culmination of my life’s work.

A few years ago my mother found the Friendly’s Wattamelon Roll (obnoxious misspelling and all) at a Super Walmart. This was a big deal. We hadn’t seen the likes of this elusive roll since we lived in New York in the early 90’s. The fact that even I have a fuzzy memory of this roll–I, the youngest of the family, who was three when we made the move from New York to California–is a testament to how deep this dessert runs in our family history.

While eating the newly discovered roll, I wondered why I never came across watermelon-flavored sherbet. Why was Friendly’s the lone pioneer?

That set me on a quest to one day recreate the watermelon sherbet in this roll.

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Zesty Olive Oil Cake

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I suggest going the Ina Garten route for this one.

You know, the whole meme about her preference for quality ingredients, that if you can’t get it flown in on a private jet fueled by children’s tears, “storebought is fine”?

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In this case, storebought, run-of-the-mill olive oil was fine. The cake ended up tasting delicious. But maybe, had I gone with some olive oil I didn’t get from Trader Joe’s at the bargain price of $6.99 for a liter, I might have been able to taste the subtle notes of olive oil. I could taste it in the batter–in fact, I felt like I was eating a dessert salad dressing and feared I’d added too much–but like alcohol it seemed to have baked out during its time in the oven, leaving me with a moist, lemony cake. I like to think the quality of olive oil used was the reason I couldn’t taste it in the cake–I admittedly have a fairly unrefined palate, but I do remember standing at an olive oil booth at a farmer’s market one Saturday, dipping cubes of bread into shallow dishes of olive oil and actually being able to taste the differences, some smooth, some peppery, all distinct from one another. I bought a bottle of olive oil that day, though I’ve since used it all (I’d go back for more but I have a standing appointment with my pillow on Saturday mornings. And afternoons).

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Earl Grey Pistachio Pops

My best friend and I have a running argument about what these sorts of desserts should be called. The term “Popsicle” makes her cringe, so she has always referred to them as “frozen juice pops.” I, however, always embraced “Popsicle,” brand name though it may be. Wikipedia indicates that “ice pop” is the technical term, but I can’t promise anything. Years of brand-name conditioning are hard to beat.

My friend Tammy suggested we make these pistachio pops the next time I came over. This isn’t usually something one can make in under an hour, but I had a secret weapon: an instant popsicle maker.

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Blackberry Pie with a Braided Crust

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I don’t decorate.

Part of it relates to my utter lack of artistic ability, and part of it stems from my philosophy that food is there to taste good, not look pretty. Many people are capable of doing both, but I’d rather focus on the thing I can actually do. What really perplexes me is when presentation seems to take precedence over taste, which I imagine is how fondant came into being.

But if I’m baking something for someone else, I feel a need to at least try. In this case, I got a little ambitious.

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