Browned Butter Lime Madeleines

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I went food shopping in a tired daze this week and came back to my apartment with limes instead of cucumbers. I recall standing in front of the meyer lemons and limes, thinking, “Aha! I really need to hydrate myself more. I’ll get some cucumber and have cucumber water like in fancy restaurants. I’ll just grab these limes here.”

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The next day I pulled out a pitcher to make myself some cucumber water. All I saw in the fridge were limes. And I paused. Limes do not equal cucumbers. I guess that’s what you get for grocery shopping sleepily.

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Happily, this story does not end with me sad and confused at my kitchen table drinking plain old water. It ends with me contentedly eating some untraditional madeleines (with a side of plain old water).

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Limes are a perfect addition to my favorite easy cake-slash-cookie recipe. And when I glanced at my madeleine recipe and remembered it called for melted butter, I thought to myself (in a considerably more logical fashion than I had been thinking to myself in the grocery store), “Why not brown this butter instead of merely melting it and see what happens?”

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What happens, friends, is good. It’s very good. It is so good that even my resident furry sous chefs tried to get in on the action.

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These are just as delicious in tiny miniature madeleine form as they are in relatively giant normal-sized madeleine form. The lightness of the lime, not nearly as harsh a citrus flavor as lemons, my usual summer stand-by, give the sweetness of the madeleines a little punch. The browned butter is a quiet, subtle backdrop.

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So in the end, I have 22 madeleines and no cucumber water. Which gets me thinking, I wonder what cucumber madeleines would be like? (Would that even be possible?) I’ll be sure to report the next time I go to the grocery store with limes on my shopping list and return with cucumbers. Continue reading

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Lemon Chive Biscuits

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I love these biscuits and this recipe so much that I can speak of them in nothing other than a string of words haphazardly following photos. That’s just how it’s going to be because I want to go back to eating them as soon as possible. Ready? OK.

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Summer. Lemon. Citrus.

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Chives. Bright. Crisp.

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Tangy! Secret ingredient: Yogurt. Full fat glorious Greek yogurt.

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Hot from the oven. Spread with butter. Devour. Repeat. Again and again and again.

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Lavender Walnut Scones

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It is summer. The best part of summer: breezy, sunny, warm enough for a T-shirt and cool enough to leave the windows open instead of cranking the AC.

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It is difficult to bake in the summertime. You have to be strategic about your choices if you’re going to commit to turning on the oven. Simple citrus and herbs will usually do it. But, I discovered today, so will florals. Specifically lavender.

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And also honey. When in Chicago for my job last week, I discovered Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, a sliver of a grocery store just a few blocks away from the Art Institute, where the only products sold are those made within 250 miles of the city. I found the most gorgeous-looking set of three honeys from Bron’s Bees and had to indulge.

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And since the set included lavender honey, I knew I needed to try the lavender walnut scones I’d been dreaming about since they were posted on Joy the Baker. Even though my last experience venturing away from my tried-and-true scone recipe was admittedly unsatisfying, I couldn’t resist a recipe with toasted walnuts, crushed lavender, and so much baking powder I just had a feeling those things would stay tall and fluffy instead of disappointingly flopping over.

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My suspicions were right. These scones are awesome. They are absolutely huge, flaky and buttery with plenty of give, and the buttermilk is exactly right, adding a much more interesting and unusual background to the floral lavender than heavy cream would. The toasted walnuts are just a heavy enough flavor to balance out the lightness of buttermilk and lavender.

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And the glaze. Oh, it is heavenly. Especially with that Illinois lavender honey. Without the glaze, these scones are not sweet–they’re almost savory in a flowery kind of way–and although some folks might like them like that, I definitely prefer my sweets, well, sweet. On its own this glaze would be way too much, but sinking into the light scone, it is the perfect pairing.

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Cut these scones huge, generously douse them with that glaze, and make yourself a cup of earl grey. Iced earl grey, of course. It’s still summer, after all–let’s not rush in winter with hot tea just yet.

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Malted Blondies

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When you’ve just had what might have been the best week of your life, what in the world could you possibly bake?

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Something that has only unusually wonderful things in it. Deep brown sugar. Chocolate chips. Sinkingly crunchy walnuts.

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And of course: things that are malted. Malt powder, of course. But also malted milk balls, freshly made no less, from City Market in Milwaukee.

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And to get more specific, a mix of milk chocolate and “ultimate” malted milk balls. What is ultimate? Just look at that picture. That’s what they are. That. Right there. I know: wow.

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By the way, did you notice that backdrop this time around? It’s a beautiful hand-printed tea towel by my friend Kim Weiss! The bird goes pretty well with malted blondies, no?

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As I snack on these, I’m becoming somewhat disturbed by the fact that I don’t really need a lot of excuses to bake myself something decadent. A rough day could mean ridiculous cookies, just as an amazing week could mean these crazy malted blondie bars. I probably shouldn’t bother analyzing this and instead just keep baking, justified reasons or not. Continue reading

Mint Basil Whoopie Pies

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Is it OK to post my baking flops on this blog? It is, right? Keeps things real… shows you my experiments… As long as I’m clear I don’t really recommend baking these quite yet (unless you want to play with the recipe–then by all means, go at it and share your results!).

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I mean… These whoopie pies. The idea was there. It’s worth fiddling around with again sometime. And the end result is still completely edible. They just aren’t quite where I wanted them to be, in the end. I wanted them minty and bright and a little herb-y. And they aren’t like that. They’re just very, very sweet. With a kind of eyebrow-raising earthiness in the background.

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Part of the problem might have been that I didn’t really have a lot of mint in my building’s herb garden. I stripped those poor mint plants free of their most of their leaves, feeling a little guilty, but there still wasn’t enough. And I just couldn’t bring myself to use peppermint extract. (Nor could I bring my lazy self to go buy some mint at the store on a Saturday morning.)

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So the flavor wasn’t nearly as minty as I’d wanted–even though I under-did it on the basil, the basil overpowered the mint and left it just very herb-y and earthy. Not necessarily a bad thing (see: Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies), but without something tart or strong to counteract the basil, it’s not as exciting a flavor.

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The next flop is that these guys didn’t poof up! I detailed some ideas for fixing this in the notes of the recipe below, but they were not nearly as cakey and moist and wonderful as the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies I based my experimental recipe on.

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The taste of the cookies isn’t bad, per se–very sweet and laden with brown sugar. But they just don’t live up to the mint basil whoopie pies in my imagination.

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It also probably didn’t help that I made a super-sweet American buttercream (haphazardly colored bright green, because at this point, why not) to go along with it. Maybe if it was a lemon buttercream or a more tart cream cheese frosting, they would’ve been better together.

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Still. They aren’t atrocious. In fact, they’re not even that bad at all. But just wait until I get them past the point of confusingly sweet and earthy, and into superstar fresh mint wow!, and then, then they’ll be worth baking.

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