Peeta's Cheesy Buns: Hunger Games

"From the bag I pull two fresh buns with a layer of cheese baked into the top. We always seem to have a supply of these since Peeta found out they were my favorite."
-Catching Fire

I am a big fan of Peeta Mellark. Aside from being one of the most badass bakers in fiction, the boy with the bread understands that the way to a woman's heart is through her stomach. So for the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I made some of the cheese-covered buns Peeta baked for Katniss in Catching Fire. It's called the Hunger Games after all; food is at the heart of the series. 
Since we've had quite a bit of snow, I couldn't resist snapping the photos outside, where the woods remind me so much of District 12 in winter. These buns were over-night affairs, but that made them easier because I just made the dough at night, stuck it in the fridge, and baked them right away the next morning. Freshly made bread is probably one of the best smells in existence; add cheese and the house will smell unbelievable. I used cheddar cheese (I had some leftover from my cheddar-crust apple pie) but you can use whatever you have or prefer since the bun-base is very neutral, and may the buns be ever in your flavor!


1/4 cup water, lukewarm
1 package, or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup hot water
1 egg
3 cups of flour
3 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated


1. Mix the 1/4 cup warm water with a package of yeast and let sit for 5 minutes, until bubbles begin to form.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the butter, sugar and salt in the hot water until completely dissolved. Wait for it to become luke warm, then mix in yeast. 

3. Beat in the 1 egg into the water mixture.

4. In a large bowl, stir the water mixture and flour. Mix until completely combined, and a soft dough forms.

5. Drop into a well floured surface, and knead gently for 5 minutes. The dough should be very soft and elastic. 

6. Place in a well-greased bowl, and cover. Let rise in the fridge for 2-12 hours.

7. After the rising, punch the dough down. Divide into 15-20 small rolls. 

8. To shape the buns: 
- Beat the ball of dough down with the heel of your palm to form a small rectangle, then fold it on itself and turn 90 degrees, beat it down once more and fold it over again, going against the original fold. 
- Cup your fingers into a small "cage" around the dough, and roll it several times in a tight circle against the counter. This will make a ball, while sealing the folds under the dough. The trick is to create tension along the top and sides of the bun, so it forms a crust while baking.

9. Rest the formed buns 1-2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and allow to rest 30-40 minutes until double in size.

10. Preheat the over to 425 F. 

11. Sprinkle the buns liberally with the cheeses. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. You might need to flip the tray half-way for an even bake. Cool on a baking tray as quick as you can, and enjoy!

Happy baking!


Almond, Raspberry, and White Chocolate Ice Cream: Romeo and Juliet

"These violent delights have violent ends
and in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume"

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet. I couldn't resist making something Valentiney, and at the risk of being totally cliche, I knew I wanted something inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Literature has provided thousands of stories of love and compassion, and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with romance. But on this day for celebrating eros, R&J kind of got it in the bag. What sums up Valentine's Day better than impulsive decisions and terrible communication? So to celebrate their beautiful, fleeting romance, I made this almond and coconut ice cream, with raspberries, white chocolate, and almonds. It's gone too soon in the bowl (like our star-crossed lovers), but in the freezer it'll last forever (like their love).

Happy Valentine's day everyone!

Yields: 4 cups of ice cream
Time to Make: 40 minutes (plus chilling)


1 14-ounce can of coconut cream*
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup almonds, slivered or chopped**
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 pint fresh raspberries

*Similar to coconut milk but more condensed. You can use coconut milk, but use two cans and leave out the almond milk!
** I recommend toasting some for a beautiful topping!


1. In a medium sauce pan, heat the coconut cream, 1 cup of almond milk, sugar, and salt over medium heat, until melted and completely combined.

2. Mix the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into the remaining almond milk until smooth, then add to the hot mixture. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally until the base thickens and clings to the back of a spoon.

3. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool completely with cling-wrap covering the surface.

4. When the base is cool, make in an ice cream maker until smooth (usually about 30 minutes).

5. Stir in the almonds, raspberries, and white chocolate chips. Scoop out into a freezer-safe container, and garnish with almonds, if desired.

6. Takes up to 4 hours to set, but you can dig in immediately for delicious soft-serve!

Happy baking!


Chocolate Dirt Tart: A Hundred Years of Solitude

"...Rebeca woke in the middle of the night and ate handfuls of dirt in the garden with a suicidal drive, weeping with pain and fury, chewing tender earthworms and chipping her teeth on snail shells." 

While not the most pleasant passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's A Hundred Years of Solitude, Rebeca's lonesome gorging always felt so sorrowful and real, that I wanted to bake something with her in mind. I made this tart as a grown-up Cup-of-Dirt, just minus the gummy worms (which actually would be a fantastic add). It can be served chilled, or sloppy and straight from the pan. I love to make homemade pudding, and the addition of espresso worked brilliantly with the almond milk and chocolate. And I knew I had to have the Oreos, which look almost too similar to potting soil when smashed. The herbs are not necessary, but they do add a dramatic touch!


1 package Oreos
5 tablespoons butter
3 cups almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 ounces espresso
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Herbs, for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt the butter and allow to cool.

2. Place 12-15 Oreos in a large ziplock bag, and roll and smash with a rolling pin till finely ground. Mix in with the melted butter.
3. Pour into a 3x 13-inch tart tin, or a 8x 8 inch pie pan, and press evenly into sides.

4. Bake 10-15 minutes, until dry.

Make the filling:
5. Pour 2 1/2 cups of almond milk and sugar into a small saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat, stirring. 

6. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk, then pour into the hot mixture. Continue stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and can coat the back of a spoon. 

7. Take off the heat, and mix in the chocolate, espresso and vanilla extract.
8. Place in a shallow bowl, cover with cling-wrap (touching the surface) and allow to cool completely.

9. Place another 10-12 Oreos into the bag, and smash up into thicker pieces. 

10. Pour the cooled espresso filling into crust, and then cover with remaining Oreos.
11. Garnish with herbs as desired. Allow to set completely in the fridge, about 3-4 hours, or place in the freezer and let thaw before serving.


Happy Baking!


The Proper Pie Company

This weekend I had the pleasure of going out to lunch with my brother and sister-in-law, in Richmond. While in the city, I think I must have passed a hundred delicious, foodie-catering shops and diners that I was itching to enter. But Ty and Ashley had something particular in mind, so we headed to a new favorite of theirs, The Proper Pie Company on Broad Street.

 Already a hopping place, this New Zealand-inspired pie shop is well worth the recognition, and the wait. With a rotating menu, patrons get to choose between a dozen 3-inch thick slices, all tantalizingly sitting behind the counter. Savvy pie-eaters can review the changing varieties online, to see what's being made that day. And since the shop is quite small, it doesn't take long for the line to be out the door.  We were lucky and walked in at a lull, so we were able to sit and enjoy our slices.

They specialize in using unique combinations, so there were pies like peach-blackberry, chocolate chess, and pear-almond. Also, snuggled behind the warming glass were rows of pasties and savory pies. Hello. And if the selection of pies wasn't enough, you can also add a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Yum!

Strawberry rhubarb and whipped cream.
Is pie the new donut/cupcake/fad food? I think I'm ok with that.


Hemingway's Daiquiri: Islands in the Stream

Now while writers are known for being a rather boozy bunch, there are some that truly standout against the rest. Hemingway is definitely one of them. There were really only three things Ernest Hemingway loved; fishing, drinking, and Cuba. I believe Hemingway's famously macho facade was one part self confidence, two parts alcohol. I mean, what's a fella to do in Havana except drink copious amounts of rum and pound out a few novels? So to honor him I made the cocktail he was most fond of slurping, the double frozen daiquiri, which came to be known as the Papa Dobles. It is said that he could knock out a dozen of these doubles a night at the famous Floridita Bar. 
In Hemingway's posthumously published novel Islands in the Stream, the protagonist (also a prodigious drinker) enjoyed his daiquiris with no sugar, as they could be consumed in larger quantities without getting one sick. Say what you will about his writing style, you've got to admire the man's practicality.


Ice, cubed and shaved
2 ounces light rum
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1 ounce maraschino liqueur
Lime wheel or maraschino cherry, for garnish

To Make:

Add cubed ice, rum, juice, and liqueur to a shaker. Shake vigorously for about thirty seconds, or until frosty sides.

Strain into a glass, add shaved ice and garnish.

Pretend you're on a Caribbean island, and enjoy!

(If you really want to be like Hemingway, you should make about twelve of these.)

Happy sipping!


Cheddar-Crust Apple Pie: On the Road

As Sal Paradise clacked his way across the continental US, Kerouac inscribed some pretty cool passages about the food. Which I think is pretty awesome considering On the Road was a manuscript for the entire counterculture generation. Say what you will about beatniks; they definitely appreciated home-cooked meals. Nothing stuck with me quite like Kerouac's description of the apple pie.
"I ate apple pie and ice cream. It got better the deeper I got into Iowa- the pie deeper, the ice cream richer."
And so I thought, what could be more American than cheddar cheese and apple pie? So I put them together, and the result was this pie.
You'd think cheddar would be weird, but it isn't. It so isn't.


Cheddar Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks butter, cold and diced
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon cream (optional)

Apple Filling

4-5 gala or granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour


Make the crust:

1. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. 
2. Add the butter and grated cheese, and cut the butter into the flour until it is finely combined. You can use a pastry cutter, knife, your hands, or the trusty food processor. 
3.Slowly add the water, mixing after every tablespoon. Gently combine the until the dough just comes together. Be careful not to add too much water! Dump onto a lightly floured service, knead once or twice, and divide in half. Wrap in cling-film and set in the fridge. 
4. For best results, they should keep in the fridge for 1 hour- over night.

Make the filling:

5. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Take the dough out of the fridge to thaw slightly.
6. Slice the apple evenly, then toss with lemon juice. Mix in the cinnamon, sugar, and brown sugar until evenly combined.
7.  Roll out the pie dough on parchment paper, to about 1/8 inch thick and 10 inches in diameter. Place straight into a pie tin, with about 1 inch hanging over the edge.
8. Brush the inside of the dough with the egg white. (This will keep the crust crispy on the bottom.)
Load in the filling.
9. Roll out the last of the dough, and place on top. Crimp the sides as you wish, then slice slits in the top for steam ventilation. Mix the cream with egg yolk and brush the top and sides lightly. 
10. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 F, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 60-70 minutes, until golden brown.
11. Let cool almost completely before serving.

Happy baking!


Slutty Brownies: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is the first of a theme I'm going to extend throughout the month of February. All of the recipes will be based on famous novels or poetry. The first one up is Stephen Chbosky's epistolary coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Now these brownie/cookie/Oreo masterpieces are more commonly known as "slutty brownies" but there shall be no slut-shaming here! I made them based off the special brownies Charlie is given at his first high school party, which is also the first time he really connects with Sam and Patrick. Oh the wondrous magic of baked goods! While these half-baked brownies have nothing eh, special tucked away in them, they are definitely something teenagers would think of making.  Gooey brownies, and doughy cookies, it's like they're breaking all the rules of baking. And they're probably one of the few recipes I would insist making from box mixes. There's just something so simple about them, like how you'd bake everything when you were a kid.


1 box of brownie mix* (Ghirardelli's is particularly good.)
1 packet of Oreo cookies (Double-stuffed if you must.)
1 box or sleeve of cookie dough*
*Usually with these you need eggs, oil, and butter to mix in.


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
2. Prepare the cookie dough mix as the box instructs, or roll out the cookie dough. Pat the dough into a greased 8x8 inch pan, with at least 2 inch high sides, until it covers the bottom evenly.
3. Place the Oreos in rows over the cookie dough, trying to get them as close together as possible.
4. Make the brownie mix as the box instructs, until it's a smooth batter. Gently pour the batter over the Oreo layer. Push the batter to the edges, gently.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the desired gooey-ness. Let them sit for a few moments, to set. They should be slightly under-baked.  Slice or scoop, and enjoy while they're warm!

Happy baking!

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