Walnut-Pecan Maple Bars

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The two best pies I’ve ever had are my sister’s infamous pecan pie and San Francisco’s now-shuttered Mission Pie’s walnut pie. Sadly, I’m a little baking-challenged and my attempts to make pie always leave something to be desired, but these easy bars deliver all the satisfaction of pie without the fuss. A little bit walnut, a little bit pecan, these maple bars are the best of both worlds.

If you don’t have a square baking pan, you can substitute a 9-inch cake pan instead. Also, good luck getting these to last more than a day.

Walnut-pecan maple bars

Ingredients:

Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter 9x9x2-inch metal cake pan. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and egg yolk in bowl to blend. Add flour and salt; beat until moist clumps form. Gather dough together. Press dough over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool.

2. Make the filling: Combine maple syrup, brown sugar, whipping cream, and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat; mix in vanilla and nuts.

3. Pour filling into crust. Bake bars until filling is bubbling in center, about 15 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack (filling will become firm). Chill 1-2 hours. Cut into 16 bars.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

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This is hands-down the best cake I’ve ever baked. Super tender and super chocolatey without being too sweet, I can’t stop myself with just one slice — and I’m not even a cake person!

Adapted from a Bi-Rite Market recipe, this easy-to-bake cake stays fresh for days. Not that it’ll last that long before you eat it up.

Chocolate sour cream bundt cake

Ingredients:

Cake:
1 cup (8 ounces) butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water and put over medium heat. Cook, stirring, just until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Put the flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Add half of the melted butter mixture and whisk until completely blended (it will be very thick). Add the remaining butter mixture and whisk. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each to blend completely before adding the next. Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cook in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a rack. Let cool completely before making the glaze.

5. To make the glaze: Put the chopped chocolate and agave nectar in a medium bowl and set aside. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir until the cream is hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Drizzle over the cake.

Crepes with Caramelized Bananas, Whiskey, and Walnuts

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These sweet and sticky bananas are begging to be piled atop fresh crepes for a decadent weekend brunch. Fortified with whiskey and walnuts, this dish is a pinch to make, especially if you cook the crepes ahead of time.

Crepes with caramelized bananas, whiskey, and walnuts

Ingredients:

One quantity crepes from this crepe recipe (minus the dark chocolate sauce)
2 tablespoons avocado or other neutral oil
5 bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whiskey (bourbon works well here)
1/2 cup walnuts

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bananas, cut side down, and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top. Cook bananas until heated through and sugar is melted, about 5 minutes. Add whiskey and flip bananas over. Add the walnuts and cook until the bananas are caramelized and the whiskey has reduced to a syrup. Serve over crepes.

Toasted Caramel Flan

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This is both the most delicious and the ugliest flan I’ve ever made. The texture is unbeatable: think the silkiest flan you’ve ever tasted, and then some. I didn’t do a good job unmolding the flan, hence the awful photo. But the recipe is too good to not share. You probably already have these ingredients at home, so why not make it now? Enjoy.

Toasted caramel flan

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place a kitchen towel on a work surface and set a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate on towel to protect from the heat. Place sugar in a medium heavy stainless steel saucepan. Cook over medium until sugar becomes fragrant and begins to melt around edges of pan, about 6 minutes. Gently swirl pan to incorporate melted sugar. Continue swirling pan until all of the sugar is completely melted and has darkened to the color of dark brown sugar, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour melted sugar into prepared pie plate, coating the bottom evenly. Let stand until cool, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, fill a large, deep roasting pan with hot water to a depth of about 1 inch (enough so it will not overflow when flan dish is added). Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla bean seeds, and whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to pie plate.

3. Set pie plate in the roasting pan and carefully place in the oven. Bake until edges are set and center retains a slight wiggle, about 50 minutes. Remove pie plate from water bath. Cool completely on towel, about 2 hours. Run a knife around edge of flan to loosen. When pan is rotated, flan should float in caramel. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface; chill at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

5. Set pie plate in a shallow dish of hot water to soften caramel, about 2 minutes. Invert flan onto a large rimmed platter and serve.

Persian Gulf-Style Date and Coconut Balls

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We eat a lot of energy bars in our household. You know the kind: grain-free and heavy on the dates and nuts.

These Persian Gulf-style date and coconut balls are just like those protein bars you’d find at Whole Foods, but more ancient and more delicious. And they’re a breeze to make. Serve these with tea for dessert or have them for breakfast. They pack well too, making them perfect for the road.

Persian Gulf-style date and coconut bars

Ingredients:

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut, ground to a coarse powder in a spice or nut grinder
2 tablespoons ground pistachios
1 tablespoon neutral oil
2 cups dates, pitted and sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons tahini
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon orange blossom water

1. In a shallow bowl, mix the ground coconut and pistachios and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-low heat. Add the dates and saute for 4 minutes until they are soft. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, tahini, almonds, and walnuts and saute for 2 minutes.

3. Let the date mixture cool, then transfer to a food processor and pulse until you have a grainy paste.

4. Use a spoon to pick up a 1 tablespoon portion of the paste. Moisten the palms of your hands with the orange blossom water and shape into a bite-sized ball. Repeat with the remaining paste and orange blossom water.

5. Roll the date balls in the coconut mixture until they are lightly coated. Serve at room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.