Black Bottom Coconut Cream Pie


Yesterday (March 14th) was one of the best holidays of the year (IMO): Pi day!!!  I remember first celebrating this holiday in high school in my pre-algebra class.  In honor of this momentous holiday, we held a pie making contest.  At this point in my life, my love for food and baking was only just beginning and my culinary adventures were mostly limited to easy things like chocolate chip cookies, pizza, scrambled eggs, and brownies.  I remember searching through one of my mom’s Pillsbury cookbooks and settled on a chocolate cherry pie with a traditional pie crust and a filling that essentially combined instant chocolate pudding and cherry pie filling.  It was quite amateur at best, but somehow I won, mostly because people couldn’t quite figure out what was in it and were curious to find out more.  My baking and pie making skills have come quite a long way since then… I would shudder at the thought of using a canned filling now!

This year, Pi day happened to fall the day after a huge snow storm.  Nothing gets me more in the mood for baking than inclement weather!  Luckily I was able to leave work a little early because I had an ambitious pie in mind: coconut cream pie!  Since returning from Thailand, I’ve been on a coconut kick and had some coconut milk and cream on hand.  I also had some milk, cream, and cream cheese leftover from the last batch of ice cream I made so I didn’t need to brave the blizzard to buy ingredients.  I then decided to add a chocolate (black) bottom layer to it because chocolate makes everything better. All of this culminated together in this newest creation: Black Bottom Coconut Cream Pie.  What is beautiful about this pie is that it layers rich chocolate, with a sweet coconut pudding, and a light, salty, but only slightly sweet, whipped topping.  It is neither too coconutty (this was tested on a coconut hater) nor too sweet.  It really is the perfect harmonious blend of sweet and salty with chocolate and coconut.  Hope you all had a delicious Pi Day!

Small confession: This crust recipe is actually supposed to make 2 pie crusts but I messed up, in a good way, and just made one.  The crust is one of my favorite parts so in my mind, more crust is better! If you want a thinner crust (or less butter in a slice of pie), then just use half of the pie dough and reduce the baking time.


Black Bottom Coconut Cream Pie


Crust (From Epicurious):

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Coconut Pudding (adapted from Epicurious):

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1.5 cups whole milk
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tsp salt


Chocolate layer:

4 oz chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 Tbs butter

Coconut Whipped Topping:

1/2 cup whipping cream
the top creamy/firm part from a 14 oz can of coconut cream (it is best to chill the can for a few hours and then just scoop out the top creamy part and leave behind the coconut water and reserve for another use)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Coconut Topping:

Dang toasted coconut chips or toasted shredded coconut (enough to cover pie)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream


It may seem weird to be posting about ice cream when there is an impending snow storm but a) I’m from Massachusetts and we loooooove ice cream no matter the temperature (we are one of the top 10 ice cream consuming states) and b) this ice cream is soooo good and tastes just like Thai Iced Tea!

Last month I went on an amazing vacation to Tokyo, Thailand, and Vietnam.  It was a whirlwind trip, visiting 5 cities in 2 weeks!  We visited museums and temples, went island hopping off the coast of Thailand, hiked, took cooking classes and of course ate A LOT of delicious food.  In Thailand, food is super cheap (aka $3 for a large lunch) and amazingly tasty with many fresh herbs and spices.


One of my favorite things about Thailand was that everywhere you turned there were vendors selling fresh fruit, coconut water, and Thai iced tea- each for less than a dollar!  I probably had at least 1 coconut and 1 Thai iced tea everyday!  Predictably, upon returning home I’ve been going through Thai iced tea withdrawal.  After a few weeks of this I decided to take matters into my own hands and came up with the brilliant idea to make an ice cream with Thai iced tea (well not that brilliant since others have done so before me…).  I found Thai iced tea mix online and set out to experiment with it this past weekend.  As I’ve posted before, I love Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (coincidentally, I will be moving to Columbus, Ohio in a few months where they are based!) and all of my ice cream creations are based on their recipes.  I used their basic algorithm but infused the milk mixture with Thai iced tea and then substituted all the sugar and some of the cream for a can of sweetened condensed milk.  The result is a perfectly creamy, frozen version of Thai iced tea that transports me back to the colorful and vibrant streets of Chiang Mai.


Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream

1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk
1 Tbs and 1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Thai iced tea mix


In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese and salt, set aside.

In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.

In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sweetened condensed milk, and thai iced tea mix.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes and then let steep for 10 minutes.  Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve lined with one layer of cheesecloth (you can do it without cheesecloth but you’ll get some flecks of tea in it).  Reheat to a simmer and then stir in milk-cornstarch slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Whisk milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Pour mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled, about 30 min.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place into a storage container and freeze at least 1 hour before eating.




Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns (from Smitten Kitchen)

The other weekend on a whim, I decided to tackle a baking project that had been on my list for a while: these chocolate tahini challah rolls by Smitten Kitchen.  I have been gravitating more towards tahini in desserts so these caught my eye.  Last year I made these tahini molten cakes for dessert after a Middle Eastern themed dinner and they were delicious.  For those unfamiliar with tahini, it is a sesame paste that is akin to a natural peanut butter but with a nuttier taste to it.  It is often used in Middle Eastern cooking (aka hummus) but has been trending in a lot of desserts lately (see the My Name is Yeh blog).

I figured anything with chocolate, tahini and challah couldn’t go wrong!  This recipe was pretty simple but does require some advanced planning and time (mostly inactive time waiting for the dough to rise).  They are best served warm, in my opinion.  Enjoy!


Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns

    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral oil, or melted butter
    • 2/3 cup (150 ml) milk or water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed
    • 3 3/4 (490 grams) cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
    • 1 packet (7 grams or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
    • Butter or nonstick spray for baking pan
    • 4 ounces (115 grams) dark (semi- or bittersweet) chocolate (or approximately 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
    • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
    • Scant 1/2 cup (25 grams) powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup (20 grams) cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup tahini (30 grams), well-stirred
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • Sesame seeds
  • 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
Make dough: Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, oil and milk or water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl. Add flour, yeast and salt and combine with dough hook until it comes together, then let machine knead it for 5 to 7 minutes. Oil a large bowl and let dough rise in it at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until slightly shy of doubled.You may need 30 to 45 minutes longer if your ingredients were cold. You can speed this process along by turning your oven on to 150 degrees F and turning it off and then placing bowl the dough inside. Keep an eye on it because it will rise more quickly.

Butter a 9×13-inch or equivalent size baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.

Make filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and tahini; mixture should be a spreadable consistency.

Assemble buns: On a very well-floured counter, roll out dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide (side facing you) and as far away from you (i.e. length) as it comfortably goes, usually 12 to 15 inches. Dollop chocolate mixture over and spread it smooth. Roll dough in a tight spiral.

Cut log very gently — it’s going to be a soft mess, use a sharp serrated knife, sewing thread works well here too — into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch segments. Arrange cut side up in prepared pan. Beat egg in small bowl. Brush tops of buns and tops of sides with egg and cover with plastic wrap. You can either fefrigerate overnight, along with leftover egg wash or leave it at room temperature to proof for another 60 to 90 minutes, until puffed a bit.

Bake buns: If in fridge, remove buns from fridge and let warm up for 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops tops of sides with egg with egg wash again (I forgot and skipped the sides, which is why they are pale in the photos) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, until bronzed all over and buns have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Let cool slightly before serving.

To glaze (optional): If using glaze, whisk ingredients until smooth. You can drizzle this over the buns or serve it alongside with a spoon. If drizzling over, it’s best to let the buns almost fully cool before putting it on or it may melt off.


Sesame Cashew Bars

img_0763It seems I unexpectedly took a sabbatical from blogging…  Don’t worry, I’ve still been cooking/baking (although less than normal…)!  Life just got a bit hectic to fit photographing and blogging into the mix!


The past 6 months have been a bit of a whirlwind with work, fellowship interviews all over the country, a month-long elective in NYC, new photography jobs, a quick trip to Iceland and everyday life.  I’ve managed to do some cooking and baking here and there…and obviously a lot of eating!

I’ve actually been meaning to post about these Sesame Cashew Bars from Sofra for a few months.  Have you ever purchased a cookbook just for one recipe?  These bars are that recipe!  It was love at first taste for me…salty, roasted cashews paired with smooth, silky caramel and buttery shortbread all together in one scrumptious bite.  I bought them one day while strolling through the Boston Public Market and meandering through the produce at Sienna Farms (run by the team behind Sofra and Oleana).  They called out to me inside their glistening cellophane packaging.  One bite was all it took and I was hooked.  I tried to save the rest of the bars by freezing them but it was a futile attempt.  Last summer I tried to recreate them by making these caramel cashew bars; they were very good but not as good as the Sofra version.

Lucky for me (and my friends), Sofra recently published a cookbook, Soframiz, featuring 100 recipes from Sofra…including these sesame cashew bars!!! I immediately bought the cookbook and made my first batch…and soon a second.   They were just as heavenly as I remembered!  They are relatively easy to make with only a handful of ingredients- just remember they need to be made the day before you are going to eat them so they can cool.


Sesame Cashew Bars (From Soframiz)

For The Crust:
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ⅔ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For The Filling:

  • 3½ cups salted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Line a 13 by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil, making sure it extends over the sides (or else caramel seeps in between the foil and pan and makes it hard to get out…you might want to double layer). Very lightly spray or butter the foil. (see note below)
  2. Make The Crust: Combine the flour, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the butter forms pieces the size of small pebbles, 20-30 seconds. Pour the crust crumbs into the prepared pan and press down to form an even layer. Cover and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the crust until golden, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Make The Filling: While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Combine the cashews, sesame seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and honey, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and begins to turn to caramel, forming large bubbles and thickening, or reaches 240ºF on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and vanilla. Add cashew mixture to the pot. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cashew mixture into the caramel until well combined.
  6. Pour the filling on top of the baked crust in an even layer. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the caramel bubbles along the sides of the pan only and the center is still liquid, 26 to 28 minutes. The filling will appear unbaked. It is very important not to over-bake. The filling will set up as it cools.
  7. Set aside to cool completely and then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Lift the foil out of the pan to remove the bars in one large block. Cut into thirty-six 1½-inch squares.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  They taste best when allowed to come to room temperature for 30 min to an hour.

A Tale of Two (Baked) Donuts: Matcha Green Tea and Nutella

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Linda who I befriended this summer at a wonderful food photography workshop here in Boston.  We have both been eagerly practicing our food styling and photographing since the workshop (i.e. we are major food dorks!) and decided to join forces to whip up, style, and photograph some beautiful baked donuts.  After perusing some recipes online, we decided to bake these matcha green tea donuts and baked nutella donuts.  Linda bought most of the ingredients (I brought the sprinkles!) and we convened at her lovely house on an overcast Sunday afternoon (perfect for photographing!).  She had just visited Mryth ceramics in Allston, MA so we had some gorgeous bowls and plates for styling.  I also brought along a few pieces from Ogusky Ceramics (@botonpotter) to round out the setup.

First up were the matcha green tea donuts.  We had a little extra help from Linda’s dog, Elsie, to make these 🙂 Who knew dogs loved green tea donut batter?


I have to admit that we were a bit skeptical of the green tea donuts at first. They were a bit hard to get out of the pan and about half were deemed “unphoto worthy” after removal.


After we ruined a few more donuts trialling different glaze dipping strategies, we finally found a method that was both delicious and aesthetically pleasing.  We recommend dipping the side that was not face down agains the pan while baking, otherwise the glaze sticks into all the nooks and crannies of the baked donut and doesn’t look great.

The final product was insanely delicious and quite pretty..if you like teenage mutant ninja turtle green 🙂

Next we moved on to the Nutella baked donuts.  We were in a bit of a rush to finish these because it was the first day after daylight saving time and we realized sunset was fast approaching!  These baked up perfectly round and were much easier to remove from the pan.  We went a little overboard decorating them with sprinkles and then ran upstairs to take advantage of the little remaining sunlight.  Luckily we were able to get a few shots in before it grew dark.


While these donuts were the cuter of the pair, our favorite was the matcha green tea donuts.  Linda is already working on tweaking the matcha donut recipe!


One other exciting thing that came from our donut making endeavor was that I got my first repost by Food52!!!!


Find the donut recipes here:

Matcha Green Tea Donuts
Baked Nutella Donuts

Have any of you tried baked donuts?  What did you think? Any favorites?



Lemon Raspberry Mascarpone Tart


It just started getting colder outside.  Fall is coming!  So I figured I should post this summer tart before it gets any colder!

I made this tart about 1 month ago for a dinner party.  I admit I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was making the crust (I blame too many hours at the hospital) and accidentally used 2 sticks of butter…instead of 6 Tbs!!!  I had a mini panic attack and then decided to just add another cup of flour and persevere on.  And I have to say, it was pretty delicious (and buttery!).  When life hands you lemons…turn it into a super buttery raspberry lemon mascarpone tart!


For the Mascarpone Lemon Curd (from Joanne Chang in Fine Cooking)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz mascarpone cream , softened

For the crust (adapted from Martha Stewart):
2 sticks (16 Tbs) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 pints raspberries
Whipped cream (optional)


For the mascarpone lemon curd:

In a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, heat the lemon juice and butter over medium-high heat until just under a boil. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk and then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Gradually whisk the hot lemon juice mixture into the sugar and eggs.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan frequently, until the curd thickens and coats the spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Draw your finger along the back of the spoon; when the curd is done, it should hold the trail.

Remove the curd from the heat and strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface of the curd, and chill for 1 to 2 hours before using. Mix 1 cup lemon curd with the mascarpone cheese until thoroughly blended.

For the crust:

Stir together butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in yolks. Add flour and salt, and stir until mixture is dry and crumbly. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake, rotating halfway through, just until crust turns golden around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool in tart pan on a wire rack, 1 hour.


Pour mascarpone lemon curd into chilled crust.  Top with fresh raspberries.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.