Bread Pudding with Vanilla Cream Sauce

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Bread pudding is one of those things you don’t have to be exact with. As long as you throw together some reasonable amounts of milk, sugar, eggs, bread, and whatever flavorings suit you, chances are you have yourself a decent bread pudding. And this drives me up the wall.

Loosey-goosey ratios mean that there’s a huge variance from recipe to recipe–such a large variance that someone like me, who likes to review several different recipes to find a pattern or middle ground, is left at a loss because ratios in the recipes are so drastically different from one another and I don’t know who to trust. I want that perfect texture–something soft and silky on the bottom layer, with a slight bite to the top layer. And I can’t trust that any recipe I choose will guarantee that–I’ve seen the homogenous, soggy sponges of bread puddings made with too much liquid and I don’t want any part of it.

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Simple One-Bowl Vanilla Cake

This is a midnight cake.

I made this late one night, after a day of trying and failing to make treacle tart. Days when baking fails you are always disappointing–not just because a recipe didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, but because at the end of the day you’re left without dessert. And that just won’t do.

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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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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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Sweet (Northern) Cornbread

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I am not from the South. As a result, the only cornbread I’ve had is closer to cake than actual, southern cornbread. Actually, I’ve had southern cornbread; I just try to push the memories of bitter, crumbly cornbread out of my mind because it’s not the cornbread I know and love.

I’ve tried a few recipes, and I’ve found I most like those that call for equal amounts of flour and cornmeal. And, of course, the ones that call for lots of sugar. My bag of cornmeal tried to convince me that 1 tablespoon of sugar would be sufficient. Even more insultingly, it added in parentheses that the tablespoon of sugar was “optional.” How dare you, Bob’s Red Mill. Sugar is never optional. I laughed in Bob’s face as I added a heaping half-cup of sugar to the batter. Shauna 1, Bob 0.

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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It took me a while to find this recipe–which is kind of sad, considering it came out when I was five years old. But since the age of seven when I first began baking these cookies, I always used the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. It never occurred to me to try another until the New York Times article came out in 2008. Reading such a detailed breakdown of the chocolate chip cookie was an eye-opener. I tried its suggestion of refrigerating the dough for 36 hours, but I don’t have the patience for that. The article did, however, teach me to (a) sprinkle sea salt over the cookies before baking, and (b) switch to a better quality chocolate chip going forward (Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips has been my go-to chocolate chip ever since). The recipe was good, but what I really wanted was a chewy chocolate chip cookie–and so began a five-year process of trying out different chocolate chip cookie recipes.

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My Favorite Biscuits

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I first encountered this biscuit recipe in the fall of 2009. It was my sophomore year of college and after a year of living in the dorms, I finally had a kitchen. It wasn’t mine, as I did still technically live in the dorms, but I now had a boyfriend who had an apartment, which meant… I had access to a kitchen. And I had a lot of baking to catch up on.

So one Friday evening found me browsing allrecipes.com for biscuit recipes. I wrote down one that looked alright (read: uncomplicated) on a tiny pink Post-It and set about baking. The first bite I took of those biscuits was nothing short of magical. Before this, the only biscuits I had baked were from a scone recipe from one of my mother’s Australian cookbooks. It required three tablespoons of butter.

This recipe required eight.

The biscuits it produced were soft, buttery, and perfect. Due to the four teaspoons of baking powder, they baked tall, and they had a natural split line in the middle, giving them the ability to split perfectly in two, no knife necessary.

And so I remained loyal to this recipe. Occasionally I tried others–biscuits made with melted butter, with cream, with buttermilk–but nothing was quite so buttery and fluffy as this recipe. I’d return to that tiny pink Post-It every time… as evidenced by the way it’s aged over the years in comparison to my other recipe Post-Its.
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