Lime Tart

Mike loves Key lime pie, but Key limes – smaller and more tart than Persian limes – are hard to come by in Pittsburgh. A few months back, I perused some recipes online, hoping to find that you can easily substitute Persian for Key limes in pies. You can, of course. But there are a host of people on the internet who are here to tell you with near fanatical devotion that it simply won’t be the same.

Maybe they’re proud Floridians, I don’t know. But nearly every lime pie post I read had an incredibly enthusiastic Key lime loyalist assuring readers that Key limes are more tart! Key limes are so much better! And don’t think of using bottled Key lime juice because it’s absolutely not the same! I was surprised to find this level of devotion to a citrus fruit…and that’s saying a lot given my undying love of lemons. In any case, my Persian limes worked very well in this tart, which Mike proclaimed as delicious. Next time, I’ll pre-bake the tart shell for longer to put more color on the pastry and ensure it’s done on the bottom.


For the pastry

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • About 3-4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • zest from 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 Persian limes)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt, then add butter and shortening. Cut butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse, pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over mixture and toss with a fork; repeat with remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together; you don’t want to use more than 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water total or your mixture will be too soggy. Gather dough into a ball and knead it gently to bring it together.

Roll pastry out between two pieces of parchment paper, then peel off the top sheet. Carefully flip the dough over into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and position the pastry into the tart pan, then peel off the parchment. Gently press the pastry into the sides; I use a small bit of extra pastry for this to prevent it from tearing as it’s pressed into the fluted nooks.

At this point, you can trim the excess pastry if you like, but I chose to let my shell bake with the excess pastry hanging over the sides and trim it after it had baked to prevent shrinkage like they do on the Great British Baking Show. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork. Line the shell with a double thickness of aluminum foil and bake for 8 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes, until golden (mine was a bit pale, so next time I’ll bake it for another 10 minutes or so to start with). Remove from an oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely; if you’ve left your excess pastry on, you can trim it as soon as you take it out of the oven.

Lower your oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into cooled shell and bake for 15-20 minutes, until set. Cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then cover and chill for 2-3 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings.


Whenever people tell me they’ve never seen Star Wars, I’m shocked. This iconic cultural phenomenon was a staple in my childhood, and I simply can’t imagine living a life without knowledge of its details. I assume nearly everyone is aware of it from pop culture, but if you haven’t actually seen it, you really are missing out.

Tomorrow is May 4th, also known as Star Wars Day, and to celebrate I’ve baked some wookie cookies. While I don’t think they look much like Chewbacca and I already have plenty of ideas about how to improve them for next time, the cookies themselves are delicious. The gingerbread recipe comes from Sally’s Baking Addiction, though I chose to go with dark brown sugar in my dough, and the decoration is a combination of chocolate chips, royal icing, and a very thick glaze icing. Stay tuned for more wookie recipes in the future, and may the force be with you.


For the cookies

  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Miniature chocolate chips, for eyes

For the royal icing

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 tablespoons water
  • Black food coloring

For the white icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Water


To make the dough, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, dark brown sugar, and molasses on medium speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat on high speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. With the mixer running on low, slowly beat in the flour mixture. Dough will be very thick and sticky. Divide into two portions and flatten into discs; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap one disc of dough and place it on a floured surface; this dough is very sticky, so you need plenty of flour for your work surface, rolling pin, and hands. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut using a gingerbread man cutter. Place cookies on baking sheets and use a fork to make the impressions for the fur, then add miniature chocolate chips for eyes.

Bake for 10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the royal icing, combine meringue powder, powdered sugar, and water in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip at medium, then high speed, for 7-10 minutes until the mixture is glossy. Add black food coloring to your desired shade.

Fit a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on noses (I also did some black mouths, but didn’t like those as much), then swap out your tip for a flat or fluted tip and pipe on the sashes.

To make the white icing, combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a thick icing that you can still pipe. Place in a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on mouths, then add the white decorations to the sashes.

Allow icing to harden before storing between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container; store cookies for up to 2-3 days. Makes about 40 cookies.

Old-Fashioned Donuts

While I’ve rarely met a baked good I didn’t like, I have a particular fondness for donuts. Our local supermarket, Giant Eagle, actually makes very good donuts; my particular favorites are the maple iced ring and the jelly filled varieties. But at home, without the desire to work with yeast and hot oil, I choose to bake my donuts, rather than fry them.

The internet is full of good recipes for baked donuts, and this one comes from Baked By an Introvert, though I cut down the recipe to make just six. Using a combination of whole wheat and white flour, as well as nutmeg, these treats have a wonderful flavor and very soft crumb. Baked donuts are best eaten right after they’re made, but they can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for a day or so and still taste delicious.


For the donuts

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 6-well donut pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, vegetable oil, and sugar, then whisk in egg and vanilla bean paste (or extract). Stir in the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternate batches, starting and ending with the flour. Batter will be thick. Spoon into a piping bag and fill donut wells about 2/3 full.

Bake for 7 – 9 minutes, until the donuts spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes while you make the glaze.

Stir together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Remove donuts from pan and dip in glaze, covering the top. Place on a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper to catch the drips and allow the glaze to drip down the sides.

Serve immediately; store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.

Makes 6.

S’more Bars

As a child, I was kind of afraid of the woods. Blame it on the fairy tales, maybe? But as an adult, I cannot get enough of nature. While Swallow Falls State Park is my favorite place on Earth, the coronavirus pandemic has prevented us from crossing state lines into Maryland. We’re lucky to live near North Park in Pittsburgh, and also to have our own backyard, complete with a fire pit.

I recently caught the scent of a backyard fire on the breeze, and this made me think of s’mores, which then made me wonder how I could bake something s’more-like for Mike and his coworkers. The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion includes a recipe called “Build-a-Bars” that can be adapted to whatever flavor profile you like, and it seemed a good option for a s’more bar. You could make a pastry crust for these, but I chose to go with a graham cracker crust for extra s’more-ness.


For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 13 1/2 sheets of crackers)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For the filling

  • 2 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 4 full-sized Hershey bars, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup broken graham crackers

For the topping

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, flour, and brown sugar and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

In a medium bowl, stir together miniature marshmallows, Hershey bar pieces, and graham cracker pieces; set aside while you make the topping.

For the topping, beat cream cheese, sugar, and salt until blended. Add egg and beat well to combine completely, scraping your bowl as necessary, until no lumps remain. Add evaporated milk and beat to combine completely.

Pour the filling evenly over the crust, then pour topping evenly over filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges bubble a bit and the center is set. Cool on a wire rack completely before cutting; cut into 24 bars.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2-3 days.

Coffee Cake Donuts

I’m on a mission to recreate Entenmann’s crumb-topped donuts. Someday, I’ll find a recipe that mimics them as well as any home baker can. But this morning, I tried out a coffee cake-style donut that I found over at Baker By Nature. I suspect that cutting the butter into my topping wasn’t the way to go; it wasn’t very crumb-like, so next time I’ll just rub the butter in with my fingers to distribute it a bit better and yield larger crumbs.

I adapted the original recipe by adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter, and also adding nutmeg to the crumb topping. I omitted the drizzle icing, but you could certainly add a drizzle if you like. The end result was less flavorful that I’d hoped for, so if I make these again I’ll add more spices to the batter. That’s the beauty of baking – you learn something every time and can always adapt.


For the topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

For the donuts

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 6-well donut pan.

Make the topping by combining the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg; rub in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Refrigerate while making the donut batter.

For the batter, whisk together flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, melted butter, and egg; add to dry mixture and fold to combine. Batter will be very thick; be careful not to over-mix it.

Place batter in a piping bag and pipe into donut wells, distributing batter evenly. Top with crumb mixture.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 3 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack and let cool another 2-3 minutes before serving. If you like, you can make a drizzle icing for the tops as well.

Homemade baked donuts are best eaten the day they’re made, but can be stored for about a day at a cool room temperature in an airtight container.

Makes 6.

Hazelnut Brownies

You’ve had Nutella, right? Was your life ever the same afterward? No, it was not. Because you’ve probably put that delicious chocolate hazelnut spread on everything from pretzels to graham crackers to toast. And why wouldn’t you? It’s delicious. I miss it very much in migraine life.

While these aren’t Nutella brownies, they are a wonderful combination of chocolate and hazelnut. I adapted King Arthur Flour’s “On the Fence” brownie recipe, which yields a somewhat cakey, somewhat fudgy treat, by adding a tablespoon of hazelnut liqueur and some chopped toasted hazelnuts to the batter, then topping the baked treats with a hazelnut buttercream and more toasted hazelnuts.


For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
  • Chopped toasted hazelnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin.

In a large microwave-save bowl, melt butter. Stir in sugar and microwave for another 45-60 seconds, until the mixture is just hot. Stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, vanilla extract, and hazelnut liqueur. Stir in flour, then chopped hazelnuts. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and allow the mixture to incorporate fully; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and hazelnut liqueur and beat until combined.

Frost brownies and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts. Cut into two-inch squares; store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Orange Blossoms

Last week I bought some Cara Cara oranges for Mike’s favorite orange almond cake, a sweeter, seedless variety of the navel orange. I’d really wanted Valencia oranges but couldn’t find them, and figured the Cara Cara would make a good substitute. The leftover oranges (well, their juice and zest) went into these orange blossom cookies, a wonderful recipe from King Arthur Flour.

You’ve likely had cookies like this before, perhaps from the cookie table at a Pittsburgh-area wedding. They’re soft and cakey, with just enough icing on top to enhance the flavor. I chose to bake smaller cookies than the recipe originally called for and used a one-inch cookie scoop, and also increased my icing quantity just a bit to make sure I had enough to cover them all. The end result is absolutely delicious, and one that could be easily adapted for other citrus flavors, like lemon or lime.


For the cookies

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest from 2 oranges*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
  • 2 cups flour

For the icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • zest from 1 orange*
  • 4-5 tablespoons orange juice

*Cara Cara oranges are smaller than regular navel oranges; you can get about 1 tablespoon of zest from each one. If you’re using regular navel oranges in this recipe, you’ll have a bit more zest than you need. Zest yields a stronger flavor, so you can adjust how much you use based on your own tastes. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, then orange juice and zest, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and fiori di Sicilia. The dough will look clumpy and kind of curdled, but that’s okay – add the flour and beat to combine, and the dough will smooth out. The end result will be kind of fluffy dough.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet about halfway through baking, until the edges are just golden. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 1-2 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely.

Once cookies are cool, make the icing: beat butter, powdered sugar, and orange zest on low, then medium speed, for 1-2 minutes. Add orange juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach a spreadable consistency. Frost cookies and allow them to set before serving. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Sparkling Easter Sugar Cookies

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor coronavirus will keep a baker from sending her favorite Maryland girls treats for Easter. These sparkling cut-out cookies, made simply from sugar cookie dough and colored sugar, are on their way to Mo and Margo as I write this along with a few other Easter favorites.

Colored sugar is a great alternative for sugar cookie decoration, especially when you’ll be sending such cookies through the mail. In addition to the pink and purple eggs in the photo at left, I also made some yellow and blue eggs, along with these adorable ducklings. You’ll need some miniature chocolate chips and very thick powdered sugar icing for the beaks, or you could use royal icing for the beaks if you prefer. Because I needed such a tiny amount, I just mixed a tablespoon of powdered sugar with enough water – about a drop at a time – to get the consistency I wanted.


  • 1 batch sugar cut-outs made with 2 extra teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Pink, purple, yellow, and blue decorating sugar
  • Miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • Water
  • Orange food coloring


Prepare cookie dough and allow to chill for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut with egg and duckling cutters. Place cookies onto prepared sheets and decorate with colored sugar; for the ducklings, I placed a miniature chocolate chip for the eye after covering the cookie with yellow sugar.

Bake for 9-10 minutes, until edges are very light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks for about 3 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely.

When cookies are cool, combine powdered sugar with enough water – about 1 drop at a time – and orange food coloring to make a very thick icing. Use a small spatula to frost the duckling beaks and allow to set completely before storing. Store cookies in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.

My batch made about 24 eggs and 9 ducklings, so just shy of three dozen cookies.

Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Mike is now working from 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., meaning that he gets up ridiculously early. Last night, after he went to bed (at about 8 p.m., not that I blame him) I baked him these cinnamon sugar donuts to take to work. I left them next to our stove, along with his travel mug, a bag of extra bold Earl Gray tea, and a kettle full of water waiting to be boiled. I figure since he’s leaving before the crack of dawn, I can help make his mornings a bit easier.

Truth be told, baked donuts are much better eaten immediately, but I doubt the early morning crew at Pittsburgh’s VA hospital cared about that. Adapted from a recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction, these treats are quite tasty, and I can imagine making them in the future with different spice combinations. I chose to make about three dozen mini donuts and three regular-sized donuts, but you could do all regular or all mini depending on what you choose.


  • 2 cups flour (use the spoon and sweep method for this)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • About 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar, for topping*

*Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray donut pans with baking spray.

Place cinnamon sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large glass measuring cup, combine eggs, brown sugar, milk, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir together until just moistened and no dry streaks remain; be careful not to over-mix. Your batter should be lumpy and kind of fluffy.

Transfer batter to a large piping bag and pipe batter into the donut wells, filling about 2/3 full. Bake full-sized donuts for 9-10 minutes and mini donuts for 7-8 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 1-2 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool for another minute. Toss in cinnamon sugar while still warm; this will coat the tops of the donuts. Alternatively, you can dip the donuts into melted butter, then coat them in the cinnamon sugar, but I skipped this step since I didn’t want them to be too gooey by the morning.

Baked donuts are best served immediately, but they can be kept for about a day in an airtight container at room temperature. The cinnamon sugar will start to soften the donuts, but they’re still delicious.

Makes about 4 dozen mini donuts or 16-18 full-sized donuts.

Bourbon Pecan Brownie Bites

I could literally bake every day. Granted, flour is a bit scarcer right now as we’re Baking in the Time of Coronavirus, but fortunately these bourbon pecan brownies, which I adapted slightly from the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book, only uses 3/4 cup of flour.

Truth be told, I have a few extra bags of flour tucked away in my cupboards at any given time and no, I am not one of those people buying out all the flour at my local grocery store as if I’m going to have to make homemade bread for the rest of my life. But it’s been interesting to think about recipes that use less flour, or just different types of flour, as I’ve seen empty shelves at the grocery store, and I’m taking it as a challenge to become a more creative baker. We’ll see how it goes.


For the brownies

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 1/3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

For the frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled just slightly
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

*You could substitute semisweet chocolate chips for this, and that’s how the original recipe is written, but I only had chunks for some reason and decided this would be a great way to use them up.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil, extending the foil over the sides, and spray lightly with baking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and water; cook over medium heat until the mixture just boils. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chunks until melted. Allow to cool for just a moment before stirring in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in flour mixture until completely combined. Stir in pecans.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack; brush top of brownies with bourbon. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar all at once and continue to beat until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add bourbon and vanilla and beat for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.

Spread frosting on cooled brownies, then drizzle on melted chocolate. Sprinkle with pecans.

Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares for bite-sized treats (or larger for regular-sized brownies). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 25.