variations of the snickerdoodle

After my last post about snickerdoodles (, I decided to check out some of the variations of the cookie I found online.

First up, a Cocoa Snickerdoodle from the Food Network®:

image  A recipe similar to the the classic snickerdoodle recipe from Williams Sonoma®, there is cocoa powder added into the batter.  It’s the same consistency as a regular snickerdoodle but with a chocolate taste.  The cinnamon sugar can makes it like a mexican hot chocolate without the heat.  (

And how about this Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich by Tiffani Thiessen:

image  I love Tiffani – from “Saved By the Bell” to “White Collar”, I think she’s a great actress.  So, I couldn’t wait to check this recipe out to see how she is as a chef!  The snickerdoodle recipe is pretty similar to the Williams Sonoma® one but with a larger brown to granulated sugar ratio.  Instead of the recommended ice cream, I used Häagen-Dazs®’ Dulce De Leche because the pint could be easily cut into three 3 perfect rounds to fit 3 ice cream sandwiches.  This was decadent enough for me and so I opted out of the salted pecans recommended to coat the sides.  (

The last variation that caught my eye was the Apple Cider Snickerdoodle:

image  This got 2 reviews of 5 stars online but I was not impressed.  The recipe calls you to reduce apple cider and crush up apple chips to mix within.  The batter was super sticky and soft, even after chilling in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  This made it super messy to roll into the cinnamon sugar.  After about a dozen cookies, I opted to make them without the sugar coating:

image  These tasted very cake-like and chewy (especially with the apple chips baked within).  So, I made another batch as cake bars:

image  This was great.  And even better some ice cream on the side!  (

Interesting concept to make variations on this classic, but I still like the classic version the best.

chiffon cakes

Having leftover ground almonds in the pantry from my weekly confections of financier (, I decided to make a Chocolate Chip-Almond Chiffon Cake using the July 26th recipe in Williams Sonoma® Dessert of the Day:


Chiffon cakes use oil instead of butter, so it is important to use canola or sunflower oil for a more neutral taste in the cake.  I used vegetable oil once and it just didn’t taste quite right.  Chiffon cake is also set apart by egg whites beat with cream of tartar being mixed in at the end to add lightness to the batter and help it rise.  For this cake, the base batter was too heavy.  With the almonds and the mini chocolate chips, as thorough as I tried to mix the peaked egg whites into the batter, it just didn’t seem to make things fluffier.  In the end, though, the batter baked quite nicely.  For the most part, it was moist but the end parts of it was quite crumbly.  This was likely due to the egg whites either not being enough in quantity or mixed in enough, so the crumble came from it being too dry.

What if there aren’t any chunky fillings in the batter?  Like with this Lemon Chiffon Cake by Martha Stewart:


This is much lighter and softer than a pound cake but not as airy as an angel food cake.  It uses roughly the same egg to batter ratio as the Williams Sonoma one but it doesn’t have the heavy filling to balance out.  That is why I think the above recipe could have used an extra egg or two.

This is Martha Stewart’s Banana Chiffon cake:


It’s got more egg in the batter and I think that is what really helped to balance the extra weight from the mashed banana in the batter.  This didn’t crumble like the chocolate chip one after it baked.  It was not as light as the lemon chiffon cake but it was just as moist and delicious.

To round things out, I finished off this weeks’ confection with this Kahlua Chocolate Chiffon Cake from Food Network®:


The cake looks marbled from the intertwining of the base batter and the parts that mixed with the peak egg whites.  This had a very light chocolate flavor from 3 Tbsp of cocoa powder enhanced with 2 Tbsp of Kahlua.  The cake was so moist and flavorful that I opted to not make the port wine and raspberry sauce the recipe called.  It’s a great snacking or dessert cake all on its own.

These cakes kept well for several days longer after baking than other bundt cakes or cupcakes.  This is most likely due to the oil in the batter keeping it moist at room temperature (which butter cannot).  So, it seems like a lot to eat at first but they lasted – great treats this week!

who’s snickerdoodle reigns supreme?

This week’s confection is a battle between recipes for the perfect snickerdoodle:

image  A cookie that is flavored and rises with cream of tartar in the batter, most people know it as “the cookie coated in cinnamon sugar”.  Looking around, there are so many recipes to choose from to follow.  So, it got me thinking – which recipe reigns supreme?  For my challenge, I went to my four trusted baking sources – Williams Sonoma®, Martha Stewart, Cook’s Illustrated®, and the Food Network®.  Here are my thoughts:

Williams Sonoma’s features this version of the snickerdoodle as their July 15 recipe in their book, Dessert of the Day:

image  This recipe uses baking soda and egg with the cream of tartar to help it rise.  Butter is the main source of fat.  This is delicious – airy, chewy, and just the right amount of sweetness in the cookie to balance with the cinnamon sugar on the outside.  The batter was not that sticky, making it very easy to pull out 2 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar.

Martha Stewart has this snickerdoodle in her Cookies book:

image  This recipe uses baking powder instead of soda, but it is otherwise a similar recipe to Williams Sonoma®.  The batter was stickier and softer than the Williams Sonoma® one, making it messier when pulling out balls of dough to roll in sugar.  Because the batter is so much softer, the cookies really lost their shape when baked too closely together and baked out wider than the Williams Sonoma® one.  And this was even after chilling the dough in the refrigerator first!

Cooks’ Illustrated® has this snickerdoodle:

image This recipe uses baking soda too but half as much as Williams Sonoma® does. There is teaching paragraph before the recipe starts that recommends you to not use baking powder because the baking soda works better with the cream of tartar to help the cookie rise.  It also uses a combination of shortening and butter in the batter.  The batter was as firm as the Williams Sonoma® one but kept its shape better while baking.  This cookie was a little less chewy than the other two.

Honestly, all three of these snickerdoodles tasted pretty similar.  Looking at each of the cookies individually, you can notice a difference – the Williams Sonoma one baked into a perfectly round cookie, the Cook’s Illustrated® one didn’t bake as flat as the other two, and the Martha Stewart one baked the most thin and didn’t really hold its shape.

As I was looking for other recipes to try out, I noticed Trisha Yearwood’s recipes on the Food Network® website is essentially the same as the Cook’s Illustrated one.  Here are is her link:

Chef Gale Grand via the Food Network® has this snickerdoodle recipe:

image  This cookie has cinnamon added directly into the cookie batter.  The recipe uses both baking powder and baking soda to work with the cream of tartar.  There is corn syrup with sugar to sweeten the batter and only butter for fat.  This cookie is like a huge explosion of cinnamon in your mouth!  The cookie is more crispy than chewy, and airier than the rest.

So, which recipe reigns supreme?  I say the Williams Sonoma® one – it is straight forward and bakes into a beautiful cookie.  But in all honesty, they are all so similar that when I served them mixed together in a tub to my office, no one realized that I had used 4 different recipes!

lime goods

This week, I made these gorgeous lime curd bars with coconut crust:


A recipe from Williams-Sonoma® Dessert of the Day for July 29, this is a delicious bar.  The lime curd is thickened with corn starch and eggs, sweetened only with granulated sugar.  The crust is a shortbread with coconut mixed into the batter.  Together, it is a great tropical dessert!

Keeping with the lime theme, and since I bought a 15 oz bottle of lime juice from Safeway®, I made this key lime cake:


This is a recipe by Trisha Yearwood via the Food Network®.

This was not that great.  It uses vegetable oil instead of butter;  unfortunately, the oil flavor completely overwhelmed the cake and left an oily residue on your fingers after each bite.  The batter is flavored by lime gelatin, which also helped to add moisture to the cake.  The white specs you see on the cake are pieces of powdered sugar that didn’t completely dissolve in the lime juice for the glaze (that was my bad).  The glaze was soaked into the cake for extra lime flavor, but I thought that just made things too sweet.  A cream cheese frosting was recommended in the recipe but I wanted to keep things more simple and opted out.  I don’t have time to head out to the Caribbean anytime soon, but these lime good will do for now!


Crazy for Financiers

Recently at Crispian Bakery (, I grabbed this bag of marbled financiers:

image  These were so delicious, I had to pace myself from not eating them all in one setting!  Financiers are French almond cakes and as I ate the last one from Crispian Bakery, I knew I had to figure out how to make them.

So, I searched online and my cookbook library for recipes and settled on these:

image  And here are my thoughts!

From Martha Stewart’s Cookies, these Raspberry Honey Financiers were delicious:

image  The recipe calls for you to melt butter over the stove top and melt honey into it as it browns.  The brown butter/honey mixture with the ground almonds in the batter made for a nutty sweet goodness.  The honey flavor was there but not overpowering and the raspberry on top added just the right amount of tart freshness.  It’s got a combination of granulated and powdered sugar, so not that carmel-y inside.

Inspired by this recipe, I tried out Martha Stewart’s Almond Orange Financier from her website:

image  This is baked in a 4×13 inch tart pan.  The butter is melted (but not browned) and uses only confectioner’s sugar for sweetness.  I used orange essence instead of orange zest and thought it turned out great.  Soft and more cake-like than the raspberry honey ones, I really liked this one.  (

From the Food Network®, I made their Blackberry Financiers:

image  It only got one review online and a terrible one – only 1 star!  But, I found that so ridiculous because its texture was the most like the Crispian Bakery ones!  You need to brown butter in this recipe and use powder sugar for sweetness.  This recipe uses almond flour (which I found at Trader Joe’s®) instead of ground almonds, giving it a more cake like quality and texture.  The recipe called for 1 tsp of applesauce – but who has 1 tsp of applesauce!  So, I used apple butter instead.  🙂  I also used blackberry jam instead of blackberries, which I thought went perfectly with the cake.  (

From a fellow blogger, I tried this recipe from

image  This recipe uses almond flour and powdered sugar with baking powder in the batter, making it soft and fluffy.  This was just like a cake – not much almond flavor or texture and the fresh strawberry sunk to the bottom as it baked.  I would not call this a financier.  (

From Food and Wine Magazine, my trusted friend, their Cinnamon Financier with Figs:

image  These were very special. The recipe uses ground almonds and confectioner sugar, with butter that is only melted and not browned.  Instead of making a fig sauce, I reconstituted some dried figs in Port and the added a 1/2 tablespoon of Port to the batter instead of the Calvados (apple brandy) the recipe called for.  I thought it turned out great!  I loved the cinnamon in the batter and how the spice complemented the sweet notes of the Port.  Yummy!  (

Also from Food and Wine, Brown Butter Pistachio Financiers:

image  Created by Kristen Kish (one of my favorite Top Chef winners), this was a dense cake with it’s almond flavor coming from almond extract and nutty texture from the ground pistachio.  (  The extract was a little overpowering but, ironically, it brought out the pistachio flavor too.  This recipe browns butter and uses brown sugar for sweetening.  Not only did this financier turn out denser than the recipes above but also compared to the Pistachio Financier recipe from Saveur Magazine.  Check out these batters:

image  Right is Food and Wine and left is Saveur.

And the Saveur cakes cake out softer too:

image   This uses browned butter with granulated and brown sugar for sweetening, and the texture is from a combination of ground almonds and pistachios.  There is baking powder in this one too, which I think is what made the cake lighter than the Food and Wine one.  (

What a great week, guys!  Love financiers and had so much fun testing these recipes and eating them!


My favorite summertime dessert is the Strawberry Shortcake.  When I get the chance, I stand in line for this yummy treat at Bakesale Betty in Oakland:

IMG_5469  But time is short around here and it is a rare treat to be able to do this.  (for more, check out  So, I was so excited to try these recipes from Williams Sonoma®’s Dessert of the Day!

From June 8, their strawberry shortcake!

image  This was delicious.  I loved how the slightly salty taste of the cake balanced well against the sweet cream and fruit.  I opted to keep the fruit fresh and not cook it in sugar first, to keep things lighter on a hot day.

From July 7, their cornmeal shortcakes with blueberries and cream:

image  These shortcakes have double the amount of butter than the ones above.  Because of that, it’s much yummier.  The cornmeal offered a sweeter note to the cake and really balanced well with the berries and cream.  I also opted to keep the fruit fresh so that the dish is lighter and better on a hot day.

Baking with Raspberry Preserves

This week, I made two bars from the month of July section in Williams-Sonoma’s® Dessert of the Day.  From July 2, we have their chocolate-raspberry brownies:

image  I loved this – the sweet and tart of the raspberry preserves mixed into the chocolate brownie was really yummy.  The only problem was that the preserves sunk to the bottom of the pan as the brownie baked, burning the bottom because of its high sugar content.  Other than that, the brownie itself stayed moist and soft!  One recipe is for a 9 inch square tray but tripling the recipe is enough for one 12 x 17 inch pan.

For July 22, we have their raspberry-hazelnut linzer bars:

image  If you remember my post,, I have tried my share of linzer recipes.  But this one was awesome.  In previous recipes, cookie cutters were necessary to keep the top layer clean and neat.  In this recipe, you just place “globs” of dough over the top before you put the tray in the oven.  As the bars bake, the globs on top will meld together into a unique design with windows of raspberry preserves poking through.  The hazelnut cookie part is airier than ones I’ve made before and together made a nice bar to eat.  One recipe is for a 9×13 pan but doubling the recipe was enough for a 12×17 pan.  Nice one to add to my repetoire!

Toffee treats!

It was one of my staff member’s birthday this week and every year, she requests a cheesecake to celebrate.  This year, I made her a Toffee Caramel Cheesecake:

image  I based the cake on a recipe I found on

In every other recipe I have used for cheesecake, the crust is always baked first before adding the filling.  This one does not – instead, it chills the crust (graham cracker crust, sugar, and butter) in the refrigerator as the filling is prepared.  I actually thought this worked out really well – it kept the crust fresh and flaky and not over baked and hard.  I then took a bag of miniature sized Heath® Toffee Bars and smashed them gently in the food processor (it was out anyways to make the graham cracker crumbs for the crust).  I mixed them into the cheesecake mixture and laced it with caramel syrup.  I opted to lace the caramel into the batter instead of putting in on top of the cake to make it less messy to eat and that was a success!  This baked together into the best cheesecake I have ever made!

To keep in my theme of toffee, I bought a couple bags of Heath® Toffee baking bits and make a couple of batches of cookies from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook by Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel.

image  On the left, I have the “chocolate drop cookies and heath bars, vanilla chips, and pecans”.  Instead of vanilla chips, I used white chocolate chips.  I also omitted the milk suggested in the recipe because I didn’t have any at home and didn’t want to buy a whole carton to only use 3 tablespoons.  The cookie came out really well – loved the combination of flavors and textures.  On the right, I have the “toffee pecan drop cookies”.  The recipe is similar to the chocolate ones with pretty much the same ratios of ingredients.  This, however, baked into a chewier cookie that melted in your mouth – a favorite all around!

All in all, a happy birthday celebrated with toffee!


The plums were ripe and beautiful at the market last week:

image  So I bought a bunch!

With half of them, I made the deep dish plum pie meant for June 7 from Williams-Sonoma® Dessert of the Day:

image  Unfortunately, the plums were more tart than sweet but the crust from the book was fantastic and easy to make.

With the other half, I made the plum buckle meant for July 4 from Williams-Sonoma® Dessert of the Day:

image  The recipe suggested a 9 inch round pan or an 8 inch square pan.  I wanted to use a springform so that I could more easily serve it out of the dish and all I had was an 8 and 10 inch.  I opted to  use the 8 inch pan when I mixed up the cake batter and saw how little it was.

image  Unfortunately, that made the cake too dense and the topping did not bake all the way through.  Can you see the raw dough in the center?  Not so yummy.  The plums were also too sour for the buckle but the cake was quite yummy.  🙂