Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

I’ve always said: “Happiness is a warm, fluffy, buttermilk biscuit!”

Actually, that’s a lie – I’ve never said that before. But, I have felt that sentiment deep down in my heart for a very long time, and NOW I’m saying it… and I mean it! Seriously, a buttermilk biscuit is a beautiful, wonderful thing, especially when it’s fresh from the oven and slathered in butter. Part of the beauty of a buttermilk biscuit is that you can dress it up in millions of ways. Add cheese! Pop it on top of a chicken pot pie! Slice it in half and use it to sandwich a delicious piece of fried chicken!

(Stop drooling on your keyboard. It’s unsightly.)

ANYWAYS. When I was brainstorming some menu ideas for a wedding shower I was helping to throw, I knew I wanted to make a biscuit sandwich of some sort. A biscuit sandwich fulfills many of the requirements for food at a brunch: it’s dainty, it’s cute, it’s carb-y to soak up all the mimosas in your stomach. I wanted to add a couple other elements, too – something Italian (I met the bride while working in her dad’s Italian bakery nearly 20 years ago), something cheesy (please tell me I don’t need to explain the need for cheese?), and something to give it a real savory/spicy edge. Mission accomplished!

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)
makes about 16 petite sandwiches, with jam left over

For the jam:
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1 cup brown sugar
2 T water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (white, if you have it)
a healthy pinch of kosher salt

For the biscuits:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
generous 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t coarsely ground black pepper
8 T butter, super cold, and cut into cubes
2 oz gruyere cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk

For the sandwiches:
16 thin slices of prosciutto

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

1.) Start by getting your jam going on the stovetop. Add all the jam ingredients to a small sauce pan, stir well to combine, and set over medium heat. Let the mixture come up to a boil; turn the heat back just a bit (you don’t want it to be a hard boil, but you want more action than a simmer), and let the mixture cook down until it’s nice and thick. Keep an eye on it, and stir often, and it should take about 45 minutes.

2.) While the jam cooks, make your biscuit dough (and preheat your oven to 425°). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and black pepper. Using a pastry blender (or two knives, or your hands), cut the butter into the flour mixture, until there are still some bits of butter the size of small peas. (More thorough biscuit-dough-making directions are here.)

3.) Add the grated cheese to your flour/butter mixture, and use a fork to toss it all together until the cheese is evenly distributed. Then, drizzle the buttermilk around the bowl, and use the fork to lightly mix everything, until a shaggy dough starts to form.

4.) Lightly flour your countertop, and dump the dough out on to it. Working quickly, press the dough together into a lump, and then shape it into a square that’s about 3/4″ thick. Remember, the goal is to handle the dough as little as possible, so it doesn’t get overworked and it stays COLD!

5.) Cut the dough into 16 neat squares. (You can also cut traditional round biscuits out of the dough – I just find the rolling of scraps to be cumbersome, and the constant handling of those extra pieces can result in a tough biscuit. So, I go with squares.) Place the biscuits on to a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits have risen nicely, and are a light golden brown on top.

6.) While your biscuits bake, finish up your jam. Dependent on what kind of texture you want, you can do a few things: leave it as is (for a super-chunky jam); mash up the strawberries with a potato masher (for a finer, but still chunky, jam); or blend the jam with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender, for a much smoother jam). Let the jam cool completely.

7.) When your biscuits are done baking, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

8.) Time to assemble the sandwiches! Gently slices the biscuits in half, and then spread jam on both sides of the biscuit. Layer on a piece of prosciutto, a small bunch of arugula, and then the top half of the biscuit. Serve at room temperature.

These sandwiches really have a lot of flavor going on – but it all ends up working really nicely together. The biscuits are nice and savory from the gruyere, and a little spicy, from the pepper. The prosciutto is smoky and salty, and pepperiness of the arugula complements the biscuit, and the strawberry balsamic jam adds just enough sweetness to round it all out. They’re rich and delicious, but small enough not to be too filling and heavy.

A couple items of note:

1.) You’ll have lots of jam left over. Use it on EVERYTHING – your morning toast, a slice of toasted baguette slathered in goat cheese, drizzled into your yogurt, eaten directly off a spoon. It will last for several weeks in the fridge.

2.) If you’re making these sandwiches for a party, make the biscuits ahead and freeze them. Once the biscuits are cut, lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop the baking sheet into the freezer. After 3 or 4 hours, when the outsides are completely firm, toss them all into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them. Bake from frozen, but allow about 25 minutes for them to bake. (This is also a good idea if you just want to keep biscuits on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks – you can bake as many or as few at a time as you like.)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

If you’re still feeling apprehensive about attempting homemade biscuits, just DO IT. It takes a little practice and finesse, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be so glad you tried it. You can do it!

A world of buttery, flaky, deliciousness awaits you,


Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Just to remind me that I am getting really, really old, one of my nephews had the nerve to go and graduate from high school last weekend. As if it’s not bad enough that I continue to grow gray hairs with the proficiency of someone three times my age, my nephew had to go and turn into an adult overnight! Please excuse me while I polish my bifocals.

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For me, family celebrations = cooking and/or baking. For my nephew’s graduation, I made oatmeal heath bar cookies (his favorite), devil’s food chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream (by request), and lemon cupcakes, just to switch things up a bit. These cupcakes might be my new favorite! I love the brightness of the lemon in desserts… it adds a freshness that cuts through the sweetness of all the sugar.

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24

2 sticks butter, at room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 8 lemons
1 c milk (2% or whole is best)
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt

For the frosting:
3 eight ounce blocks of cream cheese, at room temp
12 T salted butter, at room temp (but not warm)
2-4 cups powdered sugar

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until they’re very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Of course, you can use a hand mixer for this!)

2.) Add each egg one at a time, mixing until well-combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, and mix well.

3.) Combine the milk and lemon juice in a measuring cup, and whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

4.) Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, and mix until just combined. Then add half the liquid, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the liquid, and the rest of the flour – mixing until just combined after each addition.

5.) Line your muffin tins with cupcake liners. Fill the cups about 2/3 full (I like to use a 4T cookie scoop for ease and consistency). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. The cupcakes should NOT brown at all.

6.) While the cupcakes bake, make your frosting. Combine the cream cheese, butter, and two cups of the powdered sugar in the stand mixer, and beat until the frosting is very smooth, 2-3 minutes. Taste the frosting, and add more powdered sugar if needed. I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be more tangy than sweet, but adjust to your taste.

7.) Once the cupcakes have completely cooled (at least one hour), pipe the frosting on however you like! (If you are not going to decoratively pipe the frosting, you can cut the frosting recipe in half.)

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

You can make the cupcakes a day ahead (place them on a platter, and cover it with tinfoil), but the frosting should be made the day you plan to serve them.

Like I said, these are definitely a new favorite. The cake is light and moist, the frosting is rich and tangy, and they deliver a serious punch of lemon! If you wanted to get super fancy, you could pipe some lemon curd into the center of the cakes… But these are pretty perfect as they are, if you ask me.

BRB, gotta go yank some more grey hairs,

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

If you are in need of a super quick, easy, and delicious summer dessert, I’ve got you covered. This crumble takes just a couple minutes to throw together, and can be easily changed up to accommodate whatever you do or don’t have on hand. Best of all, it’s just as easy to make for 20 people, as it is to make for 4!

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar
serves 8

1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
two 6 oz containers of blackberries
two 6 oz containers of raspberries
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 T balsamic vinegar
generous pinch of kosher salt

For the crumble:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1 cup sugar
10 T cold butter, cut into cubes
generous pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

1.) Preheat the oven to 375°. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, and kosher salt for the crumble. Add the butter cubes, and work the butter into the flour mixture (either with a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands) until the mixture resembles wet sand. Pop the crumble mixture into the fridge to chill for a few minutes.

2.) Add all the berries to a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt, and use a rubber spatula to very gently fold everything together (you don’t want to break the berries up too much!), until all the berries are evenly coated in the sauce.

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

3.) Spoon the berry mixture into eight ramekins (I used a 9oz size) – or spoon it all into a baking dish. Spread the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the berries, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crumble top is nicely browned.

4.) Allow the crumbles to sit for about 10 minutes, then top with vanilla ice cream, and serve!

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

I know, I know… it sounds a little weird to put vinegar into a dessert, but you’re just gonna need to trust me on this one. Once the balsamic combines with the brown sugar and cooks down, it is deliciously sweet – with just a touch of acidic edge, to balance all the sweet fruit and the sugar in the crumble topping. You can thank me later.

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

We all agree that a warm fruit crumble without ice cream is a sin, right?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve ever been to a Potbelly Sandwich shop, then I would sincerely hope you have tried one of their (enormous, delightful) oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. For starters, they are the size of my head. Second, the people at Potbelly work some kind of voodoo magic whereby these cookies are always fresh-from-the-oven warm, so the chocolate chips are juuuuust a little melty and gooey. Third, they are soft and chewy on the inside, but the outside crust has just a touch of browned crispiness that makes for the perfect textural contrast – kind of like a creme brulee, where that ultra-thin sugar crust just perfectly offsets the creamy custard interior. Basically, they’re the perfect cookie.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Next time I’m complaining that my pants are too tight? Please remind me of this moment, where I spent several hundred words waxing poetic about the virtues of a 500-calorie cookie that is likely hefty enough to be used for some bicep curls.)

ANYWAYS. I like to challenge myself to recreate dishes I’ve eaten at restaurants, or baked goods/desserts that I’ve had, and these cookies seemed like a perfect project (on yet another Saturday where copious amounts of snow were deterring me from leaving the house). I sort of expected that it would take me a couple tries to get them exactly right – the texture of the oatmeal, the amount of oatmeal, the amount of chocolate chips, the crispy exterior combined with the gooey interior. But, the baking gods smiled down upon me, and I nailed it on the first try. I celebrated my success by eating my body weight in cookies for dinner.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick cooking oats*
6 oz large milk chocolate chips**

*This step is crucial to achieving the proper texture for these cookies: measure out your two cups of oats, and then briefly grind them up in a food processor (or a blender, if necessary). I did about ten, one-second pulses – which broke the oats up enough to give them a finer texture, but kept them chunky enough to remain identifiable.

**Again, if you truly want to replicate the Potbelly cookies, you’re going to need to be specific about the chocolate chips you use. They should be milk chocolate, and they should be BIG chips (not chunks). I found that the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips were perfect – great size, taste, and texture. If you could care less about these being like the Potbelly ones? Go nuts and use dark chocolate, mini chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, whatever!

1.) Start by creaming together the butter and sugars until well-combined, about 90 seconds. Add in the vanilla and eggs, and beat until fully incorporated.

2.) Combine your baking soda, kosher salt, and flour, then add it to the dough in two additions, beating until just incorporated each time. Add the lightly ground oats and chocolate chips, and again, mix until those ingredients are just evenly distributed and incorporated.

3.) Line a baking sheet or platter with parchment paper or foil. Roll the dough into large balls (larger than a golf ball, about 2″ in diameter); then, gently flatten the ball between your palms (it should still be slightly more than an inch thick). Arrange the dough rounds on the baking sheet, adding another sheet of parchment/foil to create a second layer if necessary.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

4.) When all the dough is ready, tightly wrap the baking sheet or platter with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for an hour. (If you wanted to make the dough a little farther ahead, I’d place the tray in the fridge first, and then just put it into the freezer for the last 30 minutes.)

5.) When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°. Once the oven has come to temp, remove the dough from the freezer, and place it directly on to a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, and then put the sheet straight into the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown, the center no longer looks wet (the center of the cookies should still look very moist and even a little raw, but not wet).

6.) Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then move them to cooling racks for another 5 minutes or so.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think it goes without saying that you’re going to want to plan on eating one of these cookies immediately, right? There is little in life better than a warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookie, and these cookies are pretty much as good as it gets. Even better? Once they’ve fully cooled, 8-10 seconds in the microwave takes them right back to that freshly-baked warmth and texture. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days – not that they’ll last that long.

I can’t wait for this arctic winter to end so I can sandwich some vanilla ice cream between two of these bad boys, and call it dinner,