Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios | Image: Laura Messersmith

I was so jazzed when one of my favorite bloggers, Yossy Arefi of Apt 2B Baking Co. published a cookbook this past spring, and yeah I totally went to a signing at Union Square Farmer’s Market just to have my copy autographed. Her inventive flavor combinations, unfussy baking style, and gorgeous photography never fail to inspire me in the kitchen. I’ve been slowly working my way through Sweeter Off the Vine, a book that focuses on seasonal fruit-focused recipes, and couldn’t wait to make the Pavlova with Rhubarb.

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios | Image: Laura Messersmith

I’m a bit late to the party since rhubarb season is coming to an end, but if you have a few stalks left that need a great opportunity to shine or a have been stockpiling it like I have then this is for you. A showstopper that does take a few steps, but is so worth it when the sweet crisp meringue, cool smooth whipped cream, and tart rhubarb hit your palate. I liked the twist of making them individual portions a little crunch from toasted pistachios – and who can resist that pale green color against the fuchsia pink.

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios | Image: Laura Messersmith

Mini Pavlovas with Rhubarb and Pistachios (yield 12 servings)

Meringue Ingredients:
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
kosher salt

Topping Ingredients:
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios, chopped

Meringue Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups of sugar with the cornstarch. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment or (large mixing bowl with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed until firm, 1-2 minutes. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar mixture a little at a time.

The mixture will start off looking foamy and frothy, then turn white and look closer to soft whipped cream, eventually resembling melted marshmallow fluff. Continue to beat on high until the meringue is solid white and forms shiny, firm peaks, about 12-15 minutes. The true test? Turn off the mixer and once the whisk has stopped spinning, remove the whisk from the meringue – both the meringue in the bowl and the meringue on the should form matching points like snowy mountain tops.

Once the meringue is ready sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and the vinegar on top and fold in gently with a rubber spatula to combine.

With a pencil, draw 6 circles approximately 4 inches in diameter (think the size of a water glass) on each of the parchment-lined sheets and turn over. You’ll still be able to see the guides, but you won’t get pencil markings on your meringue!

Spoon the meringue onto the baking parchment into the delineated circles, and spread and smooth to fill. Use the back of the spoon to make an indentation in the center and form a shallow bowl – that’s where the whipped cream and fruit will go later.

Put the sheet pans into the oven, immediately turn it down to 300 degrees F, and bake for 30 minutes rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time. Turn the oven off and leave them in for another 30 minutes with the oven door closed. The remove the sheets from the oven and slide the parchment paper and meringues over to wire racks to cool. Once fully cooled, meringues can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Topping Instructions:
For the rhubarb topping, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine rhubarb, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Bake until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes, spooning juices over halfway through.

Carefully transfer rhubarb pieces (they will be quite soft) to a bowl and reserve juices. Let cool completely.

Just before serving, beat together heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until soft peaks form.

Place meringues on a plated and fill each one with whipped cream. Top the whipped cream with the poached rhubarb, and garnish with pistachios. Spoon rhubarb juices over the pavlova, and serve immediately.

Inspired by and written with reference to Yossy Arefi’s Rhubarb Pavlovas in Sweeter Off the Vine (pg. 27), pistachio component from Martha Stewart’s Pavlova with Rhubarb and Pistachios, and assistance with miniaturization from Nigella Lawson’s Mini Pavlovas with Berries. Thank you, Ladies.

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mini Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a stand mixer (but a handheld would work just as well), medium mixing bowl, spatula, two rimmed baking sheets, chef’s knife, a medium cutting board, glass baking dish, tongs, measuring cups and spoons.

New York Black + White Cookies

New York Black and White Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

New York Black and White Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

New York can lay claim to a number of iconic foods, thin crust pizza, cheesecake, bagels, and the black + white cookie. They’re found in most bodegas, grocery stores, and delis – anywhere with a bakery case, and like many things in New York, the black + white cookie requires some explanation to be fully understood and appreciated.

First, the texture is soft and fluffy like cake, not crisp or crunchy, and that’s on purpose. In my research travels I learned that this unique quality probably springs from thrifty bakers making use of leftover cake batter and turning it into an alternate product to reduce waste.

Second, there’s lots of debate over the frosting consistency, but typically it’s firm and smooth, not quite fondant and certainly thicker than icing. The type of dense, almost fudgy frosting that holds its shape once it has set and stays put even after a bite. When I see swirls or frosting that looks smoosh-able I avoid.

Third, black + whites are always frosted on the flat side. That’s right once baked, the cookies are turned bottom side up leaving the slightly curved dome underneath like the hull of a boat.

I rediscovered these cookies after a long hiatus when we moved to the city a few years ago – Upstate when I was a kid we called them “half-moon cookies” but here in the city they go by the more straightforward “black + white” – and it’s been true love ever since (both city and cookie.)

New York Black and White Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

New York Black and White Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Three-Bite NYC Black + White Cookies (yield: 2 dozen cookies)

Cookie Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Vanilla Icing Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 teaspoons water
1/8 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Icing Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the room temperature butter and sugar until creamy with a hand mixer. Add in the vanilla extract and egg and mix until well combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add a third of the flour mixture at a time alternating with the buttermilk. Mix on low speed until just combined. The batter will be thick, fluffy, and pale yellow.

Use a cookie scoop or pastry bag to portion the cookies spacing them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Note on Portion: The cookies spread a bit and puff up. A 1 tablespoon portion of batter will yield a cookie about 1.5 inches in diameter.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees F. for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed gently and the cookies are a light golden brown around the edges. Cool completely before icing.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the vanilla icing by whisking the confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, water, vanilla, and salt together until very smooth. Do the same in a separate bowl for the chocolate icing, whisking together the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, corn syrup, water, vanilla extract, salt.

The icing should be thin enough that it is easily spreadable, but not runny. If it seems dry, add water 1/2 teaspoon at a time; if it’s too thin, add confectioner’s sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.

Flip the cooled cookies so their flat sides are up. Use an offset spatula or piping bag to spread vanilla icing on half of the cookies, allow the icing set for a few minutes, then spread chocolate icing on the other half.

Store the cookies in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper at room temperature for up to two days.

Re-written and lightly adapted from Yossy Arefi’s Mini Black & White Cookies via Food52.

New York Black and White Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

New York Black and White Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, for a frosted cookie they’re relatively low-maintenance. I used a medium mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, electric hand mixer, two rimmed baking sheets, measuring cups and spoons as well as a rubber spatula, cookie scoop, offset spatula, and wire whisk.

The Verdict:
I made these for a friend and was delighted to learn that they’re her favorite cookie and were served at her wedding. They received G’s stamp of approval, which is high praise. This particular recipe is my ideal, made from simple, easily sourced ingredients. Deep, dark bittersweet chocolate married to sweet vanilla frosting on top of a cloud-like cake. Sublime and an excellent recipe to keep for the days when a black + white might not be a trip to the corner away.

New York Black and White Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

New York Black and White Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls

Challah Cinnamon Rolls  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls | Image: Laura Messersmith

One of the (many) benefits of marriage is experiencing familiar holidays through a different lens, trying on traditions that have been built over years, and at times contributing my own twist. Mike’s family has a long-standing tradition of marking special occasions with sticky buns acquired from a local, family-owned farm stand and bakery.

After I saw this recipe for No Knead Challah Cinnamon Rolls on the wonderful site Apt 2B Baking Co. written by the very talented Yossy Arefi (who else is super excited for her cookbook to be released in the spring!?) I started to wonder if I could replicate our usual breakfast treat, but one formed by my own hands. And what better time to make something special than for Christmas morning when a little extra effort is worth it?

Challah Cinnamon Rolls   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls | Image: Laura Messersmith

I made challah during my bread baking class last winter and with a successful try at Deb Perelman’s Better Chocolate Babka earlier this fall I was feeling confident in my abilities. The simplicity of the ingredients – nearly everything listed is probably in your refrigerator or pantry right now – and the no-knead (aka no stand mixer) process means that this recipe truly requires very little other than the ability to measure, mix, and fold a little dough. There are zero fancy techniques or unusual pieces of equipment required. Perfect for cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen and a great starter recipe for the inexperienced bread baker.

But, I’m burying the lede: these cinnamon rolls are DELICIOUS and I can’t think of a more heavenly way to start the day, especially while they’re still warm out of the oven. I know Christmas is over, but the New Year is coming and with these cinnamon rolls 2016 would be off to a pretty spectacular start...

Challah Cinnamon Rolls   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls | Image: Laura Messersmith

No-Knead Challah Cinnamon Rolls (yield: 12 cinnamon rolls)

Dough Ingredients:
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk at room temperature
1 egg white for egg wash
3/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey

Filling Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
pinch salt
Non-stick spray, for prepping the baking dish

Glaze Ingredients:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
2-3 teaspoons whole milk, as needed

Mid-Day or Afternoon Before: Mixing & Folding the Dough
In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour and sea salt. In a separate smaller bowl whisk together the eggs, honey, and olive oil. Set both aside while you proof the yeast. Place the warm water and active dry yeast in a measuring cup and stir together gently. Allow the yeast and water to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes until you see a foamy layer form on the top of the water, then the yeast is ready.

Stir both the yeast and honey mixtures into the flour with a rubber spatula until a wet, sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Now begins the folding process, which you will perform five times at 30 minute intervals. Folding develops the gluten in the bread and gives it structure which allows it to trap air and rise when baked.

To fold the dough, peel back the plastic wrap and take hold of an edge folding it into the center and pressing down lightly with your fingers. Turn the bowl and repeat folding small pieces of the dough into the center for eight turns and folds total. It will look like a messy origami star. Then flip the dough so that the folds and seams are on the bottom. Cover the bowl tightly with the plastic, and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Repeat the all-around folding, flipping, covering, and resting four more times. Setting a timer in between and writing the steps on the plastic wrap, checking off each one as you go, will help keep the process moving and make sure you don’t miss a step or wait too long between folds.

The dough is sticky and doesn’t hold its shape especially well in the first stages, but trust that it will become firmer and more elastic allowing you to make proper folds in the later turns. By the final fold, the dough will be stretchy and you’ll see some small air bubbles.

After the fifth and final fold, reseal the plastic and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. Between 16-24 hours is ideal, any longer risks over-proofing the dough and will lead to flat, dense rolls. The over night resting time allows the yeast to slowly develop flavor in the dough and the volume will nearly double in size.

Early the Next Morning: Forming & Filling
Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a light layer of non-stick spray.

Stir the sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into an 18 x 12 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Leave a 1/2 inch border along one of the longer sides of the dough (this will be the outside seal of the roll) and brush the melted butter over the rest of the surface all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter.

Brush the 1/2 inch border left bare with a small amount of egg wash from the reserved egg white. Then roll the dough up into a tight log starting from the opposite long side toward the egg wash border. When the log is formed, lightly press the egg washed edge down and turn the log so that the seam is resting on the board.

Use a sharp knife to slice the log into 12 pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide and arrange them in the baking dish cut sides up spacing them evenly in the dish so that each has room to rise and spread.

Cover the baking dish with a dry kitchen towel and let the rolls rise at room temperature until puffy and almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Mid-Morning: Baking & Glazing
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls until golden and cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling, whisk the confectioner’s sugar, sour cream, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the milk one teaspoon at a time until the glaze reaches your desired consistency, you’re looking for thick but pourable.

Drizzle the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy immediately.

Very lightly adapted from Apt 2B Baking Co.’s No Knead Challah Cinnamon Rolls by Yossy Arefi, which is adapted from Jessica Fechtor’s Five Fold Challah recipe in her book Stir.

Challah Cinnamon Rolls   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100% which is amazing. I used a large mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, and a rubber spatula to mix the dough. To bake and glaze I used a rolling pin, small bowl, pastry brush, bench scraper (or chef’s knife), 9 x 13 inch baking dish, and small spoon. Plastic wrap, a permanent marker, and a clean kitchen towel round out your kit. Use a ruler too if you want to be precise with your rolling and cutting.

The Verdict:
When I took the cinnamon rolls out of the oven all thoughts of food photography flew out of my head, and frankly I’m lucky there were any left by the time we were finished with breakfast. I had to abscond with the one cinnamon bun in these photos to snap some quick photos or risk having no evidence except a few crumbs and traces of glaze in the baking dish, which would have been an accurate statement about their deliciousness. The dough bakes up to a gentle crunch on the outside while maintaining that fluffy stretch inside; the cinnamon is warm but not too spicy, and the glaze, kept in check by its sour cream base, sweetens the whole concoction. Incredible.

Challah Cinnamon Rolls   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Challah Cinnamon Rolls | Image: Laura Messersmith