Better Than Butterfinger

Gather ’round and don’t be scared now. Conventional candy bars do have many frightful ingredients, reading like a chemistry experiment gone terribly wrong. Tempting with bewitching spells cast from sugar and corn syrup, even the strongest hero have occasionally fallen for their evil tricks. It’s time we beat those monsters back once and for all.

Butterfingers were original unleashed upon the world almost one hundred years ago and continue haunting hapless shoppers at checkout stands to this day. Escape from that dangerous trap because back in the safety of your home, we can make a real treat together.

Resoundingly crunchy, crisp throughout, and packed with deeply toasted nutty flavor, this recipe is more than just a resurrection of a past favorite, but a complete revival and revamp. Cloaked in devilishly dark chocolate, these rich, intense flavors would utterly slay the old phantom.

Originally featured in my now defunct eBook Wicked Treats, it seemed a same to let this gem meet such an timely end. If there’s only one treat you plan on making for Halloween, make it this one!

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Melon Drama

If it’s named for a melon and looks like a melon, then obviously, it should taste like… Not a melon.

Such is the curious case of melon pan. Captivating the imaginations and cravings of Japanese bakers since the early 1900’s, right around the time that Western influences made bread the trendy starch of those in the know, it gave traditional rice flour a run for its money. Simple, sweet buns wrapped in a buttery cookie exterior, the name has more to do with its deeply grooved, crackled exterior than flavor. Said to evoke the appearance of the delicate skin of a muskmelon, covering the fruit like natural lace, it’s one of many theories, though it strikes me as the most plausible explanation.

Some are round, others are more like ovoid footballs. Most are plain, but some are filled with cream or jam. A few intrepid bakers try to make sense of the misnomer by adding artificial melon flavoring to the dough itself. For years, that was my impulse as well, but I could never fully connect the dots. Melon extract is not exactly the most common ingredient in the pantry, and even as a special order, few genuinely tasteful options exist.

What I’m proposing instead might seem like a stretch, but it’s the most sensible extension of the concept I’ve devised yet. The melon family, cucurbitaceae, is a classification that includes a diverse array of plants both sweet and savory, starting of course with melons like cantaloupe and honey dew, but also squashes such as pumpkins. That connection was the catalyst I needed to finally make a melon pan I could better justify.

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Take it Easy

Rosh Hashanah without an apple cake would be like Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie; an unforgivable travesty. Combining the most essential edible harbinger of a sweet new year, you’re practically asking for another 365 days of misfortune if you should overlook this staple. As we turn the page on the year 5781, let’s not leave anything to chance.

Dense with tender fruit and a moist crumb, it’s a homey, humble dessert that’s as soothing to make as it is to eat. Anyone who can wield a spatula will pull out a perfect ring of dark brown cake, aromatic spices infusing the whole kitchen with their sweet bouquet. Fool-proof and crowd-pleasing, this formula has withstood the test of time, rising to the occasion to feed parties big and small. Such a generous cake is an excellent guest itself, perfect to make ahead or keep for days after the event.

Such an easy-going treat would be welcome for any celebration, but is also just as well suited for an everyday simple indulgence.

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Trifling Matters

Shattered beyond repair, my once grand glass trifle dish lay in ruin. Wordlessly closing the cardboard shipping box that had become its tomb, I placed it by the door, ready for the next trip to the dumpster. No tears were shed, no outpouring of emotion could be summoned. It was a devastating loss, without a doubt, but I was already numb from uncovering the very same scene in each of the over 40 packages I shipped to save moving expenses. Of all the pieces I would mourn, the trifle was at the bottom of that list. Who really needed a vessel that would feed a crowd in the middle of a pandemic, after all?

Glorious layered affairs that are the stuff of royalty, grand parties, and celebratory gatherings throughout the centuries, there is no such thing as a small trifle. It transforms into a parfait or a verrine when scaled down; no less delicious, but a far cry from its original grandeur. Even the most humble of ingredients can become sublime in such a magnificent presentation.

This one stacks as a summery strawberry shortcake fit for a crowd. Soft cubes of freshly baked vanilla cake soak in jam like sweet sponges, layered with fresh berries, buttery custard, and clouds of whipped coconut cream. Though simple in concept, it makes a big impression as one generous, family-style indulgence.

Time heals all wounds. No, it’s not possible to put those irreparably fractured shards back together, but there is hope for a new start. A new life, a new community, and a new trifle dish; some how, they all seem linked in my mind. It’s just a trifle, but being able to share it freely with a full home of new friends feels incredibly significant.

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