Banana Caramel Pudding with Meringue Topping | Pork Cracklins

This isn’t really a banana pudding – it’s a silky caramel pudding, with layers of sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers. I could eat the pudding by itself, honestly.

I let my caramel get pretty dark, so the flavor came through really well. I’m not so sure about the Nilla Wafers. They didn’t add much to the mix if you ask me… but I’d like to try this with Biscoff at some point.

I made one small dish of pudding with the meringue (which will start to weep fairly quickly), but packed the rest of it into a plastic storage container for a long weekend in Bend, OR with my dad. It traveled really well, and would make a nice picnic or camping dish (sans meringue).

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

  • Banana Caramel Pudding with Meringue Topping (Baked Elements, p. 206)
Lemon Pecorino Pepper Icebox Cookies | Pork Cracklins

These are weird little cookies. Almost savory, but not quite. Cheese and black pepper pull them more towards the flavor of a cracker, but then lemon and a coating of sanding sugar brings them back in the dessert realm.

I keep thinking I want to pair them with a glass of port.

Larry didn’t like them at first, but then said they’ve grown on him. I agree. They’re not so good that I want to gobble up every last one, but they satisfy a certain something.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Easy Candy Bar Tart | Pork Cracklins

The title of this recipe is no lie. It’s about as easy as it gets for a homemade tart. Despite the simplicity, it’s absolutely delicious.

I should clarify – the tart is easy, but not quick, because there is a lot of time needed to chill between steps. But the hands-on time is minimal, and I whipped this together while preparing the rest of the food for a trip to Yosemite.

The other thing I like about this tart is that it can be tweaked to suit your tastes. Cookie crust, nut and caramel filling, chocolate on top. This version has chocolate cookies for the crust and walnuts in the filling, but I could see using gingersnaps, macadamia nuts and a coconut caramel for a tropical take on it. Or swap out the chocolate cookies for Biscoff.

The tart traveled with us to Yosemite, tightly wrapped and snuggled in a cooler. There were eight of us on the trip, and we had it for dessert our first night there. It was the perfect end to the day, decadent and sweet, but not too fancy. We were stuffed from dinner, so the slices were small (it’s rich, anyway), and leftovers were eaten out of hand by some of our group at breakfast.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Banana Whoopie Pies | Pork Cracklins

I baked the shells (cakes? cookies?) for these whoopie pies one night after work when I was utterly exhausted and shouldn’t have been baking at all – that’s when mistakes happen.

My first two trays came out flat and anemic looking – underbaked but still delicious. My second two trays were almost completely charred (instead of setting the oven timer for 5 minutes, I set the temperature to 500 degrees – good one!).

The flat, anemic cookies are moist and the cinnamon and banana come through loud and clear. The few overbaked cookies that I salvaged look nicer – more rise, but the flavors are lost.

I bumped up the salt in the buttercream because I’m a fan of salty sweets. Despite the troubles, these are pretty darn good.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Bourbon, Vanilla, and Chocolate Milk Shakes | Pork Cracklins

We’ve stepped up our Baked Sunday Mornings schedule for the next few months, in anticipation of the release of the newest book in the Baked Series, Baked Occasions.

All of the Baked cookbooks are really good, but I think Occasions will be their best yet. I’ve had the opportunity to test out some of the recipes, plus I spent a week in New York on the shoot with Matt and Nato, so I go to try just about everything in the book. It’s going to be spectacular.

With the weekly schedule, I was happy to have something relatively simple to make – vanilla ice cream with a bit of chocolate syrup, doctored up with a bit of Bourbon and Bourbon-soaked vanilla bean.

With only two of us in the house, I cut the recipe back to a shareable one milkshake, just the perfect amount for an after-dinner treat. I used my Bourbon of choice – Black Maple Hill, a small-batch Bourbon that’s incredibly aromatic. I could have done without the chocolate syrup on top. Mine seized up and was generally problematic.

I’m glad I only made one shake. It would have been dangerous to have any more around, because I could have easily sucked down at least one more.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Pork Cracklins

I almost didn’t even bring these cookies in to work – they weren’t quite up to snuff. I thought they’d be great – chocolate cookies, toasted pecans, caramel. I love turtles, so there was a lot of promise.

The cookies are finicky – they will easily overbake, and even though I pulled mine out a minute early and they looked fine, they were still a little on the dry side. And rolling each one in egg white and then chopped pecans was labor-intensive, too.

The caramel isn’t your typical cooked sugar – it’s got sweetened condensed milk in it and uses brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. I cooked it too long, worrying more about getting a nice amber color rather than the texture. It set up like cement, instead of staying kind of gooey.

That said, I still shared them with my colleagues, and a lot of people said they liked them. They weren’t bad… just not great.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze | Pork Cracklins

I was relieved to return to a simple Bundt cake for Baked Sunday Mornings this week. Bundt cakes are the best – simple, unpretentious, pretty. This one is citrus-kissed, with a deep crater of poppyseed filling running down the middle. There are a LOT of poppy seeds in there.

I think my favorite part of this cake is the glaze – it’s got a brown butter base, and it just makes the cake (which I think I slightly overbaked). It’s nutty and buttery and I wanted to eat it with a spoon.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

  • Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Brown Butter Glaze (Baked Elements, p. 156)
Bananas Cake | Pork Cracklins

I’m generally a fan of the Baked layer cakes. They’re generally foolproof and delicious, and I’m a big fan of the buttercream. This one is a monster – three layers of banana cake, with a sweet peanut butter filling, chocolate ganache buttercream, and a chocolate glaze. Talk about gilding the lily.

This isn’t one of those cakes that can be made after work, with just a couple of bowls and an hour in the kitchen. I make the cake layers first – not overly complicated, nice and tender because the recipe calls for cake flour instead of all-purpose. I decided to make three small cakes instead of one hulking cake. I’ve found that an 8-inch three-layer cake translates perfectly to three 4-inch layer cakes. I use small springform pans that work really well.

The next night I made the filling, the buttercream and the glaze, and assembled the cakes. Even though I like the portability and smaller slices that I get with mini-cakes, it triples the assembly work. And with this cake, there are a lot of pauses that need to be taken for things to set up in the refrigerator.

I had problems with the chocolate ganache buttercream – I’m not the only one in our Baked Sunday Mornings group that ended up with buttercream that was more like… well, ganache. I had to keep chilling the frosting, then mixing it again, then chilling, until it was the right consistency. At this point, it was getting late, but I was committed.

The rest of the process was time consuming but laborious. Layers filled with peanut butter and buttercream, crumb coat, final frosting, and then the final chocolate glaze. Whew.

My three little cakes turned out very cute, and two of them went to work with me. I was traveling that same day, so I just left them in the break room with a note, but I got several emails from co-workers who gave the cake a hearty thumbs-up. It’s good, but peanut butter isn’t my thing. I’d have been happy with just the plain banana cake.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Lemon & Black Pepper Quiche | Pork Cracklins

I had mixed feelings about this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment. On one hand, a quiche is essentially a one-crust pie. There’s cheese and custard involved, too. But I don’t know, I’m always disappointed with the end result.

This quiche starts like any other, with a standard pie dough (single crust). The Baked pie dough is one of my favorites – buttery, flaky, and extraordinarily easy to make and to work with.

This is a savory quiche, which I suppose describes all quiches. But this one seems less breakfast-y to me, with the lemon and heavy dose of pungent black pepper, so we had it for dinner. It baked up beautifully and smelled great. I think the most difficult part of making it was waiting for it to cool enough to cut.

I made this on a Friday night after work – Assana and Dan were coming over for what they thought were just cocktails, but since I had the quiche in the oven and a green salad ready to go, they stayed for a bite to eat. It’s my favorite kind of dinner party – cocktails, simple food served up right from the pan in the kitchen, and eaten while sitting on the couch.

I think I liked the quiche better than Larry did. The mozzarella gets oozy and stringy, and the filling is just the right amount of rich with half and half and creme fraiche. I definitely prefer a vegetarian quiche, which is probably why I actually enjoyed this one.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Barrel-Aged Vieux Carre | Pork Cracklins

I finally (after longing for one for quite some time) bought myself a small oak barrel – 1-liter small to be exact. It’s super adorable and a perfect size for experimenting. And it’s inexpensive enough to make me not too worried about ruining it.

I first experimented with cocktails to figure out what I was going to put in it. My go-to drink is an Old Fashioned, but I wanted to give myself more options.

The primary requirement for barrel aging a cocktail is that it needs to be spirit-forward and can’t contain any citrus juice (which will degrade in the barrel). The other consideration is that whatever goes into the barrel will flavor future cocktails that get aged in the barrel, so I didn’t want to try anything too crazy.

I had zeroed in an a Vieux Carre because it’s smooth and contains rye, one of my favorite spirits. The downside is that it also contains benedictine, one of my least favorite spirits. Still, it’s a pretty good drink. The next drink I tried is called Between the Sheets – brandy, rum and cointreau, with Lactart (lactic acid) standing in for the lemon juice. I didn’t love it, although I think it might age well. The last candidate was a Ciudad Vieja, another rum and brandy cocktail – but I wasn’t blown away. Although I’m curious if a cocktail I find just acceptable would be greatly improved with time in the barrel.

Besides an Old Fashioned, I also considered a Manhattan or El Presidente, all fine drinks that deserve consideration for my next barrel aging experiment.

I mixed up a big batch of the Vieux Carre – enough for 13 cocktails, to be exact. I had prepared the barrel a couple of days prior by filling it with water so the wood expanded and I wouldn’t have booze leaking out of it. One of the local bartenders suggested I season the barrel ahead of time with Cognac as well. Good idea, but I was too anxious to get started.

Into the barrel went the concoction, and then I tasted a bit of the drink every day for just over a week. It smoothed out considerably, and became infused with oak and vanilla. Once it was aged to my liking, I bottled it up, and now I can enjoy an aged Vieux Carre any night of the week.