mini speculoos pumpkin tarts with candied pepitas

I love all things seasonal, and therefore I love all things pumpkin! I will admit, however, that pumpkin pie can be a bit mundane at times.  I love to spruce it up by adding more textures and flavors, both in the crust as well as toppings. Speculoos (aka Biscoff) cookies make for a much more exciting crust than traditional dough in my opinion- I’m obsessed with their spicy flavor! I also prefer a high crust to filling ratio, so it’s not like you’re just eating a bowl of custard. Candied ginger adds a nice zingy complement to the creamy pumpkin filling, and candied pepitas top these babies off with the perfect crunch! By making them in individual tart shells (mine are technically crème brûlée dishes), everyone gets their own mini pie, and you don’t have to worry about the crust crumbling when trying to remove it from the dish. Just grab a spoon and dig in! I got to bake these with one of my fave bloggers, Camille Styles, when she was in town from my home state of Texas. We had such a blast and now I’m super pumped for all things holiday! If you’re still looking for the perfect Thanksgiving dessert, these tarts would be the perfect addition to your dinner table! Be sure to check out the feature on her blog as well! Enjoy :)

Mini Speculoos Pumpkin Tarts with Candied Pepitas:

Crust:

  • 12 oz. Speculoos or Biscoff cookies

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1/2 tsp salt   

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted  

Pie: 

  • 1 can pumpkin puree

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1/4 cup cane sugar

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for topping

  • 1/2 cup candied ginger, for topping

  • whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°. Process cookies in food processor until fully crumbled. Add coconut oil and pulse until well combined, then spread the mixture evenly among the tart shells, making sure to push some up the sides as well. It should be nice and thick! Place tarts shells on a baking sheet, then bake for about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine pumpkin, both sugars, spices, and salt, and cook for about 5 minutes until thick and smooth. Remove from heat, and add coconut milk and eggs, whisking until fully incorporated. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared tart shells. Bake at 350° for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack. Top with candied pepitas and ginger, and serve with whipped cream. Enjoy immediately or chilled.

*To make this dairy-free, sub coconut oil for the butter in the crust, and serve with whipped coconut cream.

All photos by Kristen Kilpatrick for Camille Styles. Check out the feature and recipe on her site as well!

 * This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, it won’t cost you a penny more, but I’ll earn a small commission. This allows me to continue to generate content for you, and helps keep the site up and running. Thanks for your support! 


mh zh

Mh Zh had been on my list of places to try in LA since before we ever came here, and it's pretty obvious why. It checks off all the boxes of what I want in a dining experience- Middle Eastern flavors, great bread, wood-fired veggies, lamb, & fish, and outdoor seating! All ideal things in my book. The only thing missing is a great bottle of wine to pair with such delicious food! (They used to be BYOB & are currently working on their liquor license). The space itself is quite small and doesn't take reservations, so we hadn't ventured over for dinner until recently, and wow, I'm so glad we finally did! The whole experience is very "Silver Lake"- with brown paper table cloths, silverware in a jar, and menus casually written on paper bags, all happening right on a cute little corner of Sunset Blvd. But trust me, the food couldn't be further from that boring, cookie-cutter fare you'll find elsewhere.

If you're feeling super hungry or with a group, I highly recommend you "fire menu", which is essentially ordering everything on the limited menu, and makes for a great smorgasburg of shared plates. My husband and I ordered a la carte, and still managed to try a wonderful assortment of dishes, many straight out of their Josper oven. Anything served with Bub & Grandma's bread, which is stocked at many popular restaurants in LA, is always a highlight, so we dove right into it with bowls of tehina and ful . Mh Zh's ful is a white bean stew of sorts, and comes laced with schug, a super flavorful Israeli hot sauce packed with green herbs and garlic. Yum. The grilled beets seemed so simple, but the depth of flavor involved was truly remarkable, and we both consider them some of the best we've ever eaten! The nightly special was lamb chops, which we love and naturally felt obligated to order. They were so juicy, and paired nicely with a creamy, herby chimichurri sauce, and the whole branzino was cooked to perfection in the Josper oven! I already cannot wait to go back, and considering how close I live, there's no excuse!


tartine manufactory

San Francisco is such a great food city, but one that I really haven’t gotten the chance to explore all that much. A few months ago when I was spending a night there before heading out to wine country, I made it a top priority to make dinner reservations at Tartine Manufactory. You’ve probably heard of Tartine Bakery before, or at least drooled over their tasty looking baked goods on Instagram, but did you know they also have a chic restaurant in a bright, industrial space in the Mission District? I’d been following them for a while, and practically every dish I see is calling my name. The menu draws from local, seasonal California ingredients, and of course offers some killer pasta and bread. There’s a huge bakery in the restaurant, and I can only imagine how many fresh loaves of sourdough they’re churning out each day (check out all those proofing baskets stacked up below!). It’s worth having a glass of wine at the bar and just watching the entire process unfold. Serious bakers are practically my idols! PS- if you’re looking to get into baking yourself, I highly suggest you start out with the critically acclaimed Tartine Bread book. It’s full of foolproof classics that are sure to satisfy your cravings.

Getting back to our meal, it did not disappoint in the least. We tried a bunch of dishes (as evidenced by scrolling through the slideshow above), and while it would be easy to say the bread was the highlight of the meal, that really wouldn’t do the rest of the food justice. The lamb meatballs were delicately spiced and served with a deliciously creamy, yet earthy fava bean purée. One of my faves was the marinated artichoke with fennel and pistachio- such a unique dish, and a total flavor explosion. The slightly sweet, caramelized fennel paired perfectly with the hearty pistachio spread. Yum! Most people would agree that once you’ve tried homemade pasta it’s hard to go back, and Tartine’s pasta will really do you in. Classically simple, non-fussy, and perfectly al dente! Of course my favorite part of any meal is dessert, so I naturally (greedily?) chose the one that serves 2-4 people! Although it was not my first time devouring the PB&J ice cream pie, it was just as decadently tasty as I remembered. Seriously, the peanut caramel and peanut cookie crust take this treat to another level entirely. Don’t forget to stop by the ice cream counter on your way out for a cone to-go, and definitely take a freshly baked loaf of bread for to enjoy at home! Good news for those in Los Angeles- you don’t have to drive eight hours to enjoy all that Tartine has to offer- a Southern Cali outpost is opening soon!

 * This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, it won’t cost you a penny more, but I’ll earn a small commission. This allows me to continue to generate content for you, and helps keep the site up and running. Thanks for your support! 


dez

about to feast :)

shawarma burger, mezes (carrot, beet, cauliflower), pita bread

One restaurant opening I was pretty bummed to miss while in LA was Dez, a fast-casual Middle Eastern spot in Nolita. Specializing in vegetable mezes, chef-crafted salads, bowls, and pita sandwiches, plus a a seasonal soft serve as well as housemade baked goods, this place is basically my ideal restaurant. Not to mention it was opened by one of my fave people to follow on Instagram, and fellow Brooklynite, @EdenEats (go follow her if you don't already- trust). No surprise then, that I put Dez at the top of my priority list on a recent trip to New York. I brought along my favorite eating partner, my husband Derek, and we had the perfect Middle Eastern lunch feast in the dez. I'm a huge fan of their bright and colorful mezes, vegetable-focused small plates best enjoyed with their freshly baked pita. The heavenly mix of flavors and textures did not disappoint- from the fire roasted cauliflower with crispy capers and currant chimichurri, to the honey and harissa roasted carrots with dukkah, I don't think I could pick a favorite if I tried! Derek throughly enjoyed his shawarma burger, complete with its giant shard of crispy eggplant sticking out the top! We were somehow too full for dessert (who even am I?), but I def need to get back to try their soft serve and baked goods soon. And brunch too? Sign me up!

mezes // beet (roasted cardamom beets, beet hummus, pine nuts, mint, jalapeno, lemon, olive oil) / cauliflower (fire roasted cauliflower, crispy capers, herbs, preserved lemon, currant chimichurri) / carrot (harissa & honey roasted carrots, labaneh, dukkah, olive oil)

pita // nigella & sesame seed / za'atar & olive oil


trois familia

When you're tired of the same 'ol thing, and really craving something outside the box, I highly suggest you head to Trois Familia. This French-Mexican fusion spot comes from Chef Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo, and is part of the highly acclaimed Trois Mec/Petit Trois family, so you know going in that it's got a lot to live up to. Just browsing through the photos above will show you how colorful and creative the dishes are, and I can attest that everything is just as flavorful and decadent as it looks. Some items on the menu may sound a little out there- beet tartare tostada? Parisian gnocchi? hashbrown chilaquiles?- and I wouldn't fault you for questioning if they'll work. Chef Ludo does what he does best, however, and blends the flavors and techniques of Mexican and French cuisines seamlessly. Each dish offers the comforts of what you'd expect, plus a surprising flair to make it something entirely different. The beet (not beef!) tartare tostada was a personal fave- the crunchy tostada was complemented perfectly from the fresh lime and avocado crema. Also, how much does it look like real beef tartare?! The mussels Marinière were packed full of garlic, white wine, and herbs, and the grilled bread was perfect for soaking up every last drop of sauce. Don't miss their signature tres leches birthday cake for dessert! 


classic birthday cake

Happy Birthday! A classic birthday cake is one of those recipes any good baker should have up his or her sleeve, to whip up whenever an occasion so presents itself. Over the spring and summer months, it seems like there are hundreds of birthdays being celebrated amongst my family and friends, and this cake is a tried and true winner. While this one in particular is a vanilla cake with raspberry filling and a Swiss meringue buttercream, you can customize it in various ways based on your heart's desire: make a chocolate frosting, switch up the filling, add nuts- you get the idea! I highly recommend checking out my wedding cake post for more specific details and instructions on baking, assembling, and decorating the perfect (or close enough!) layer cake! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake with Raspberry Compote Filling & Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

Cake:

  • 4 cups cake flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Buttercream:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed & softened
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the parchment as well. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the base of a stand mixer fit with whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, beating well and scraping down the bowl to ensure they are fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, then mix in buttermilk until just combined. Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point. Add flour mixture until just incorporated, careful not to over-mix. Pour batter evenly among cake pans, and bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then completely on a cooling rack. 

To prepare raspberry compote, cook raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a small saucepan until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until the compote is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (this can be made a week ahead of time). Makes 1 cup.

While cakes are baking, make the buttercream. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a bowl over a double boiler until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into the stand mixer (make sure it's clean & dry!) fit with paddle attachment and whip until it turns white glossy. Add the vanilla, then the butter and continue to whip until buttercream comes together. This may take a good 10-15 minutes, so don't worry if things look curdled or soupy at the start!

Once cakes have cooled, you may level and assemble them, adding filling between the two layers. Spread buttercream evenly around the outside, creating a pattern if desired, and finish with toppings if you choose! You may also make this a 3-layer cake by baking in 6" round cake pans, just make sure you adjust baking time accordingly. Check out my wedding cake post for more assembly and cake decorating instructions. Enjoy!

*Adapted from Best Birthday Cake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream by Smitten Kitchen.